Amnesty to step up UK activity

KIRSTEN DOWNER

Amnesty International UK could campaign for the release of individuals detained under the UK's new Anti-terrorism Bill as a result of sweeping changes to the way the organisation is run.

The organisation is making significant changes to its campaign methods and broadening its remit in an attempt to counteract the global clout of multinational corporations and a "disturbing pattern

of discrimination and racism across the globe.

"We want to make ourselves more flexible, relevant and faster,

said Amnesty UK's head of communications Richard Bunting.

Following a meeting of Amnesty International members last summer, the organisation plans to develop wider campaigns around social, economic and cultural issues with a human rights element. It will do more direct lobbying of corporations, and is likely to forge alliances with environmental groups and refugee organisations on issues such as land displacement and discrimination.

Amnesty has also relaxed its policy of preventing national offices from campaigning around specific cases in that country. This was prohibited in the past because it endangered staff and threatened the organisation's impartiality.

Amnesty International Ireland has already run a successful in-country anti-racism campaign off the back of this change, and in the future the UK office could follow suit, said Bunting.

"Eight or nine people are currently detained under the UK's anti-terrorist legislation. Under the policies of the past, Amnesty UK could not get involved, but that could shift now,

he said.

Amnesty International plans to identify six or seven key trends underpinning human rights violations and to concentrate global campaigns around them.

"They will include the death penalty and torture,

said Bunting. "There are themes and trends behind human rights violations. The ill-treatment of asylum seekers in Australia, for instance, is part of a much wider pattern of crackdown,

he added.

The organisation's annual report, released last week, detailed a disturbing rise in human rights violations and racism around the world as a result of the 11 September attacks last year.

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