Thursday, 10 December 2009

PRESS RELEASE: "PM given letter from hunger-striking..."

Press Release - 10th December 2009 IMMEDIATE

PM given letter from hunger-striking Nobel Peace Prize activist:
Lenny Henry joins MPs and campaigners in London

On the day the Barack Obama picked up his Nobel Peace Prize, last year's Peace Prize nominee, Aminatou Haidar, was on the on the 25th day of a hunger-strike at an airport in Lanzarote

Today a delegation of political and celebrity figures including actor Lenny Henry delivered a hand-signed letter to Gordon Brown from  Aminatou Haidar, who is protesting at her unlawful deportation to Lanzarote after she refused to acknowledge Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. In the letter she asks for the urgent support of the Labour government and the British people and says “my spirit remains strong but I feel my physical strength is fading fast”. Indeed, she is now unable to stand and the doctor who examined her this week listed her symptoms as hypotension, nausea, anaemia, muscular-skeletal atrophy and gastric haemorrhaging.

In her letter she asks that Britain bring pressure to bear on Morocco not just to allow her to return home in accordance with her rights under Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but also to get them to accept a conflict solution that conforms with international law, namely:

  • a referendum on self determination for Western Sahara;
  • the cessation of the arrest and torture of human rights defenders; 
  • the freeing of all prisoners of conscience most notably the seven prominent human rights activists awaiting sentence from a military tribunal in Rabat which could include the death penalty.
Haidar writes:
“I would like to ask you and your government and the people of Britain for your urgent support. Support not just for me but for all the Saharawi people who, for the past 34 years have been forced to live either under an unlawful and brutal occupation in Western Sahara or in desolate refugee camps in the Algerian desert.”

A public letter of support was also be delivered to Mr Brown today, in which signatories -  including MP’s from all three main political parties, MEP’s, ambassadors, trade union leaders, lawyers such as Baroness Kennedy QC and celebrities such as Brian Eno, Terry Jones, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Juliet Stevenson – call on the government to act. The letter states that the hunger strike “is not about the individual right of one person to return to her home but about the collective right denied to the Saharawi people to live freely in their native land” and they pledge to do all they can to support her and the people of Western Sahara.”

Stefan Simanowitz, Chair of the Free Western Sahara Network who carried  the letter from Lanzarote, said today:
“Aminatou Haidar remains resolute but she is being pushed to the brink of death and her condition is now critical. Her doctor talks about hours or days rather than weeks. Sadly, biology knows nothing of politics.”

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, said today:
“It is fitting that today, on International Human Rights Day, we are here outside No.10 Downing Street, to deliver this letter from Aminatou Haidar, an iconic campaigner for the rights and justice of her people. Throughout the world people have been shocked at her treatment at the hands of the Moroccan authorities and even the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has this week emphasised her right to return home. There has already been tremendous support for Ms Haidar among the British public and in Parliament with a delegation going to Lanzarote and a cross-party motion tabled in the  House of Commons. We call on Britain to play a meaningful part bot
h in bringing justice for the people of Western Sahara and in ensuring Ms Haidar’s immediate return to her home.”

Delegates and signatories to the letter include:
Dr. Zola Skweyiya (South African High Commissioner), Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Terry Jones (actor & former Monty Python),Glenda Jackson MP, John Austin MP, David Drew MP, Peter Bottomley MP, John Grogan MP, Katy Clark MP, Paul Flynn MP, Mark Williams MP, Frank Cook MP, Martin Caton MP, Kelvin Hopkins MP, Dave Anderson MP, Lord Nigel Jones MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Jill Evans MEP, Brian Eno (musician, composer, record producer), Mike Leigh (film director), Ken Loach (film director), Juliet Stevenson (actress), Dave Prentis (General Secretary, UNISON), Matt Wrack (General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union), Mick Shaw (President Fire Brigades Union), Gerry Morrisey (General Secretary of BECTU), Paul Laverty (screen writer),  Chrisopher Simpson (actor), John Pickard (actor), John Hilary (Executive Director, War on Want),  Jonathan Heawood, (Director, English PEN), Stefan Simanowitz (Chair, Free Western Sahara Network), Mark Leutchford (President, Western Sahara Campaign UK), Y.Lamine Baali (Polisario Front Chief UK representative), Danielle Smith (Director, Sandblast charity), Giles Foreman (Director, Caravanserai), John Gurr (Western Sahara Resource Watch), Nicola Quilter (actress)

Contact UK press office on 07799650791 or Lanzarote 0034 676634163 or 0034 633208682

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