June 8 2011
Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter:
That this council congratulates Amnesty International on its 50 th anniversary which will be celebrated on 28 May 2011.
(Continued from 18 May 2011.)
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:29): I rise very briefly to commend this motion and follow up the contribution of Hon. Ian Hunter and the Hon. Stephen Wade on this motion. It is, of course, a motion that recognises Amnesty International's 50th birthday, and I flag that the three members, including myself, who have spoken so far hope that we will be able to celebrate that momentous occasion by reinvigorating the parliamentary Amnesty group in this place. On 28 May 1961, British lawyer, Peter Benenson, published an article in the Observer newspaper in response to his outrage that two Portuguese students had been gaoled for seven years for raising a toast to freedom. Half a century later, Amnesty International has more than 3 million supporters across 150 countries.
By the end of 2010, Amnesty International had conducted nearly 3,500 country visits to research human rights abuses and produced more than 17,000 reports and public documents. These, of course, include the annual and much awaited 'Amnesty International report: the state of the world's human rights', which is now published in 25 languages. Amnesty continues to campaign for the promotion and protection of all rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to freedom of expression.
Starting from those days, however, well before the internet and when Amnesty certainly focused very much on civil and political human rights, in the past decade we have seen Amnesty come a very long way in a very short time. I worked at Amnesty International for some years as the regional coordinator for South Australia and the Northern Territory, and I can attest that they filed many reports in the office, very methodically, but also that the scope upon which Amnesty works has broadened in the past few years to include such things as the Hon. Ian Hunter touched on—rights around gender and sexuality, for example
Certainly, I am pleased to see that Amnesty has taken a leading role in moves to end violence against women, including domestic violence and, as such, Amnesty has maintained its relevance for the world today, going from an organisation which was very much about small groups writing letters to prison officials or governments in another country. They have very much brought human rights into the here and now and made it relevant to people's lives as they are lived, and they continue to work on freedom of expression issues.
Just recently, I signed my little yellow card and posted it off, as I am sure many members here did, from the parliamentary magazine we receive from Amnesty, in defence of the journalist Abuzar Al Amin, former deputy editor-in-chief of the Rai Al Shaab newspaper. He was arrested in May 2010 for writing articles that analysed the results of the 2010 election and suggesting that an Iranian weapons factory had been built in Sudan. He has been charged with undermining the constitution and publishing false news. He was sentenced to five years in prison, and he has reportedly been tortured.
Amnesty International sent us that yellow card and magazine because they recognise the important role that parliamentarians can play in defending international human rights standards and highlighting human rights abuses around the world. As I say, I signed the postcard, and I encourage other members to do so as well. I look forward to working with the Hons Ian Hunter and Stephen Wade and any other members who care to join us in reinvigorating the ethos of Amnesty International in this place.
We look forward to working with our local branch of Amnesty International and hearing about the latest issues and themes on human rights and from those speakers we may be able to bring into this place to educate ourselves and, in turn, work to defend human rights around the world. With that, I commend the motion.