Local MSP Angus MacDonald Writes For Rights

Angus MacDonald MSP

 

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has joined with people from around the globe to put pen to paper in support of  Amnesty International’s new Write for Rights campaign ahead of International Human Rights Day (10th December).

 

Millions of people take all forms of action for Amnesty’s campaigns, from online petitions and other methods of digital communication to public rallies and demonstrations. But in the organisation’s 50th year, Amnesty is asking people to return to the humble hand-written letter which has proved to be such a powerful tool for change.

It is hoped that more people than ever before will write a letter demanding action on one of the ten cases in the Write for Rights campaign. The cases illustrate the diversity of Amnesty’s work; from people facing the death penalty, to people imprisoned for peacefully calling for political change, to communities facing forced eviction and women who are challenging the impunity which allows soldiers in Mexico to avoid justice for rape.

Angus MacDonald, MSP for Falkirk East, said:

“We have witnessed the power which a humble pen has in the defence of human rights and I am proud to be part of Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign.

 As Amnesty has proven, by picking up a pen and writing to someone on the other side of the world, someone you have never met to show your support and solidarity, you can make a real difference.”

 In my chosen case I have written to the President of the Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan, regarding the threat to more than 200,000 people who are at risk of forced eviction in Port Harcourt if the authorities continue with the planned demolitions of all remaining waterfront shanty-town settlements.

 I chose to write to the Nigerian President as I have a family connection to Port Harcourt. My grandfather, Colin Cameron, worked there from 1927 to 1932, first with Scottish Oils and then Shell-Mex, and he regularly spoke to me about his fondness for the local indigenous population.

The Rivers State government claims that demolition of homes on the waterfront is necessary for its urban renewal programme.

 On 12 October 2009, 12 protestors were shot by security forces while taking part in a peaceful demonstration against the demolition of their homes.

Under international human rights law forced evictions are illegal.

Nigeria must respect the right to adequate housing, and consult with affected communities on redevelopment plans.

On 28 August 2009, the demolition of Njemanze settlement in Port Harcourt left thousands of men, women and children homeless”.

Shabnum Mustapha, Programme Director for Amnesty International in Scotland, said:

“The power of a simple hand-written letter is the ability to embarrass, persuade, protect, coerce and force people to alter their behaviour, and ultimately to change the world. When Amnesty began, 50 years ago,  our founding members had no idea whether ordinary people writing letters to Heads of State and other people in power would make any difference. It turns out that it did, and it still does.”

The ten individuals and groups who feature in Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign, include; Chen Guangcheng and Yuan Weijing, two legal activists in China who, together with their 5 year old daughter, are currently under house arrest and have faced a relentless campaign of harassment and persecution, since attempting to bring a lawsuit against local officials accused of rights violations; Jabbar Savalan, a 20 year old history student in Azerbaijan who is serving a prison sentence for anti-government comments he posted on Facebook; 75 year old Hakamada Iwao, believed to be the world’s longest serving death row inmate who has spent the last 43 years awaiting execution in Japan and Inés Ferndández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, two rape survivors in Mexico who have tirelessly campaigned to have the perpetrators of the attacks brought to justice.

Background information

On Saturday 10 December (Human Rights Day) Amnesty International is hoping that an unprecedented number of people across Scotland and around the world, will write to people with the power to stop human rights abuses. Thousands of school pupils across Scotland will be writing letters on behalf of the cases on Friday 9 December.

More information on the plight of the Port Harcourt residents is available here:

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=12170

To find out more about the ten cases, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/write

Text of letter as follows:

 

His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan
President of the Republic of Nigeria
Office of the President
Nigerian Presidential Complex
Aso Rock Presidential Villa
Abuja
Federal Capital Territory
Nigeria

10 December 2011

Your Excellency,

I am writing to express concern that more than 200,000 people in Port Harcourt’s waterfront communities are at risk of forced eviction.

On 28 August 2009, the demolition of Njemanze settlement in Port Harcourt left thousands of men, women and children homeless.

On 12 October 2009, 12 protestors were shot by security forces while taking part in a peaceful demonstration against the demolition of their homes.

The Rivers state government claims that the demolition of homes on the waterfront is necessary to implement an urban renewal programme, but under international law Nigeria must refrain from carrying out forced evictions, respect the right to adequate housing and consult with affected communities on plans for redevelopment.

I have a special interest in the plight of the residents of Port Harcourt as my grandfather worked with Scottish Oils and Shell-Mex in the town between 1927 and 1932, and regularly spoke to me about his fondness for the local people.

I urge you to adopt and implement a national housing policy that will ensure adequate provision of housing to all Nigerians. Until then, please suspend evictions of communities in Nigeria.

Respectfully Yours,

Angus MacDonald

 

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