Amnesty in 2015: A message from Kate Allen

2015 has been a year of incredible triumphs. From campaigning successfully for the release of the last UK resident in Guantanamo Bay,Shaker Aamer and the three imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, to the devastating intent to abolish the Human Rights Act, the disgraceful treatment of refugees fleeing conflict, and applying pressure to the UK government around the illegal trade in torture equipment.

Here are just some of the ways Amnesty made a difference in 2015:

Prisoners freed

Three Al Jazeera journalists freed in Egypt; Shaker Aamer home after more than 13 years; and charges dropped against Mexican torture victimClaudia Medina.   Moses Akatugba was granted a pardon in Nigeria;Filep Karma finally left jail in Papua after 10 years; two sisters in India‘sentenced’ to rape have been given protection. Dr Tun Aung and other Burmese activists are now free after years in jail for their work; and in America death row prisoner Reggie Clemons has had his conviction overturned.

Campaign to stop torture

In September thousands spoke out against the London Arms Fair, calling on the UK government to stop torture equipment being illegally sold, and they listened – agreeing to support proposals to strengthen controls.
Then in October another success: members of the European Parliament voted with a massive majority to close the loopholes in the EU laws thatprohibit the trade in torture equipment.

Defending human rights at home

Tens of thousands took a stand to save the Human Rights Act and the government realised they can’t bin it without a fight. Politicians and the media are talking about it like never before. We also won a historic victory against the UK government, forcing them to reveal they spied on us.

Refugees rescued

Outraged by the refugee crisis we forced the Prime Minister into changing his mind – twice! He agreed to reinstate search and rescue in the Mediterranean, with UK participation that has saved 1000s. And later, he agreed to accept 20,000 more Syrian refugees by 2020.

Corporates held to account

This year we also successfully lobbied for the inclusion of a ground-breaking provision in the UK Modern Slavery Act which forces companies to say what they have done to prevent slavery in their business. Plus Niger Delta fishing communities had a long-awaited victory when Shell finally paid out £55 million over oil spills that have blighted their livelihoods for the last six years.

Defending LGBTI rights

After years of campaigning there was an historic referendum in the Republic of Ireland in May, where 62% of voters were in favour of equal marriage for same-sex couples, and in June we joined with partner organisations in leading an estimated 20,000 people in a march through Belfast to demand Northern Ireland does the same.

Amnesty members are part of a global movement of people united in standing up for truth, justice and fairness. 2016 will bring new challenges but I know that if we continue to stand together we can protect people at risk of injustice and abuse, wherever they are, including in the UK where we will continue to need your support to protect our human rights at home.

Thank you once again for helping make all this happen – and please help us continue to achieve great things. Here’s to 2016!

Warmest wishes,

Kate Allen
Amnesty International UK

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