UK Column 26 June 2018 update:
7 July, 2018
Amnesty International UK,
Human Rights Action Centre,
Dear Amnesty International,
Open letter: Melanie Shaw
With reference to your office’s telephone conversation last week with former Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Robert Green, I am concerned that he received no assurance that you are willing to take up Melanie’s case with the UK government.
I note an item on your website detailing the persecution of Ola al-Qaradawy, in Egypt, and find myself comparing her treatment with that meted out to Melanie in England.
Ola is condemned to 365 days of solitude. Melanie has already suffered some 600 days of solitary confinement in various UK prisons.
Ola will pass her sentence in a small cell without bed, ventilation or toilet. Melanie has already spent months of incarceration in a small cell, without privacy even when she goes to the toilet.
Ola will be denied visits from friends and family. Melanie has been denied contact with friends and family, including her lay legal advisor and a social worker calling to ensure that she was being treated decently. Worst of all, soon after she became a whistleblower her young son was taken from her and put into foster care. Since then she has rarely been permitted to see him.
Ola will be allowed no pen, no paper, no books. It is difficult to know whether Melanie is allowed these luxuries, as despite the many cards and letters sent to her by friends and supporters scarcely a reply has been received over the past couple of years.
For 365 days Ola will hear the screams of other prisoners. Melanie would sympathise with her situation. She too has been exposed to screams from neighbouring cells during her time in various prisons, where, she states, fellow prisoners have been raped and mistreated. But Melanie has not only been forced to experience such attacks vicariously: she has herself been repeatedly strip-searched, and threatened and assaulted by rogue prison staff decked out in riot gear.
Ola will face 365 days of “limiting her food intake, because she will be limited to a 5-minute use of the toilet daily”. Again, I do not know how much food Melanie is permitted. What I do know is that she has been denied the medication which she needs to keep on an even keel since suffering repeated rape and abuse as a child and adolescent, both at the hands of her parents and foster-parents and while in State “care”, and, in addition, witnessing the rape, torture and murder of other children at Beechwood children’s home in Nottingham. Melanie has a photographic memory, and without this medication she is subject to appalling nightmares, daytime terrors, and unpredictable behaviour. During her first term of imprisonment she was even denied medication for an infected boil on her leg (see photograph attached). The infection became so virulent that when she eventually appeared in court, after months on remand, she could only walk with the aid of crutches.
However brutal Ola’s treatment, she at least enters her ordeal as a woman who has apparently always enjoyed the support of a close and loving family. Melanie, by contrast, endured an early life in which those to whom she would naturally look for love and support not only failed to provide these basic essentials but repeatedly destroyed her trust with physical attacks and violations. I think you will agree that she is every bit as deserving of your support as her Egyptian counterpart.
Perhaps you are unwilling to back Melanie because you do not consider her to be a political prisoner. Those who have followed her case over the past four years are convinced that she is. After succumbing for some years to the petty crime and drug abuse which are the frequent legacy of time a children’s home, she somehow, with the help of a loving relationship and the birth of her second son, pulled her life together, and lived for many years as a useful and well-respected member of her local community. It was only after she plucked up courage to report her experiences at Beechwood to Nottingham Police, and complained when they failed to investigate her allegations thoroughly, that she drew the attention of the authorities. Since then she has received severe sentences for a succession of questionable or trivial offences, and no account has ever been taken of her inherent vulnerability: indeed, the authorities appear to be going out of their way to unbalance her fragile equilibrium, presumably with a view to silencing her well-evidenced allegations of high-level establishment involvement in crimes against children. Members of the government, including Theresa May herself, both during her time as home secretary and as prime minister, have been fully informed of Melanie’s case, and have taken no steps to help her, even when she was kept in solitary confinement for more than eighteen months, in direct contravention of the guidelines of UN Special Rapporteur Juan E Méndez and of the UK’s own prison regulations regarding vulnerable women.
On 31 May this year I sent an open letter (attached) to the present minister for justice, Rory Stewart. It contained the following passage:
You, Mr Stewart, as Minister of State for Justice, must brush aside the data-protection fig leaf and answer the questions I have been asking in relation to Melanie’s in-camera conviction if I, and many others asking those same questions, are to be convinced that we are still living under the rule of law. Unless you give me some credible answers, I can only conclude that;
- no reasonable justification can be offered for Melanie’s prolonged incarceration and inhumane treatment;
- that she is, indeed, a political prisoner; and
- that the Government is hiding behind the Data Protection Act in order to protect interests other than those of law-abiding British subjects.
If I receive no response from you which offers a reasonable challenge to these conclusions, I shall assume that you, personally, admit them to be correct.
The minister did not respond.
In a further open letter on 20 June (also attached), this one to the secretary of state for justice, Lord Chancellor David Gauke, I duly noted: “The justice minister, Rory Stewart, has admitted, by default, that there is no reasonable justification for Melanie’s prolonged incarceration and inhumane treatment; that she is, in fact, a political prisoner; and that government ministers are hiding behind the Data Protection Act for the benefit of interests other than those of law-abiding British subjects.” Mr Gauke, like Mr Stewart, has not questioned the accuracy of these statements. One can only assume that although he is unwilling to tell an untruth he is equally unwilling to tell it like it is. It seems, then, that the UK government is only interested in upholding human rights in cases where it can preach to other nations from a position of fraudulent superiority.
There is widespread indignation against Amnesty among those who are shocked by your apparent indifference to Melanie’s treatment at the hands of the British State. In particular, the question of State funding is repeatedly mentioned. Although you claim complete independence, you admit that you receive regular contributions from the government for “human rights education”. These appear to be sizeable sums and, whatever use you put them to, must surely compromise your impartiality. After all, your employees in the field concerned will be reliant at least to some extent on this bounty, and you may naturally be reluctant to bite the hand which feeds you.
Please prove your lack of bias by looking again at Melanie’s case. As previously stated, she is every bit as deserving of your intervention as Ola.
Gillian Swanson MA (Oxon)
Sent to Amnesty International UK website:
MELANIE SHAW : CHILD ABUSE VICTIM, SURVIVOR, WHISTLE-BLOWER AND NOW POLITICAL PRISONER OF UK GOVERNMENT
Anyone seeking the truth is open and honest. They go where the evidence leads them. They refuse to compromise their ideals and integrity.
History attests to the fact that individuals and organisations whose original mandate was to reveal the truth and expose government wrongdoing, have often been compromised through infiltration by agent provocateurs.
My first question is : is Amnesty International a much reduced and compromised organisation that has lost its “without fear or favour” badge?
As you will know better than me, there are legislative standards for the care of prisoners in this Country set out in documents known as Prison Service Orders. These Orders are very specific and relate to the proper humane treatment of prisoners, both to protect their physical and mental welfare and uphold their dignity in the pursuit of their future rehabilitation back into society. In addition, you will be aware that there are Prison Service Orders which are specific to the particular needs of female prisoners. A perfect example is the set of rules related to female prisoners who exhibit the tendency to self harm.
As I understand it Melanie Shaw is a child abuse victim, survivor and whistle-blower who has exposed the abuse she both saw and received whilst in the “care” of Nottingham’s Beechwood Children’s Home.
With the direct involvement of the Home Office, the Judiciary, Nottinghamshire Police and the Prison Service, Melanie Shaw has been incarcerated without charge for more than 2 years. A large part of this time she was held in solitary confinement that constitutes torture under International Law. She has been denied her basic human rights; something the Government are quick to denounce when the perpetrators are some foreign power. If only the wider British public knew what was being done in their name !!
The evidence is overwhelming, yet Amnesty International appears to be silent on the issue. My real question is : why is Amnesty International silent on this issue that shames the British people and would bring Parliament into disrepute?
It is said that you can find out who controls you by looking at who you are not allowed to criticise. Food for thought. [ends]
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