To celebrate International Human Rights Day On Saturday, John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington and Shadow Chancellor took part in Amnesty International’s largest annual letter writing campaign at a reception in Speakers’ House in Westminster Palace.
Amnesty’s Write for Rights encourages people around the world to send personal messages of support to people behind bars, or whose lives are in serious danger.
Year after year Amnesty sees successes from its global letter-writing campaign. Last year thousands of people across the world wrote messages of support for Albert Woodfox – the longest-serving isolated prisoner. Albert had spent a staggering 43 years in solitary confinement. In February this year, after thousands of letters of support Albert was freed.
This year one of the people Amnesty is campaigning for is British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Nazanin was arrested at Tehran's airport and has been sentenced to five years in prison on unspecified 'national-security-related charges'. Amnesty is calling for Nazanin's immediate and unconditional release.
Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe attended Amnesty’s human rights reception, where he appealed to MPs and Amnesty supporters to continue to support and campaign for his wife.
Former Al Jazeera foreign correspondent Sue Turton, who had been charged and tried in absentia in Egypt, after being falsely accused with eight of her colleagues of aiding and abetting the Muslim Brotherhood, also attended and spoke at the reception.
Sue Turton said:
“Locking up a journalist who is asking too many questions can scare others into self-censorship clearing the way for further abuses to be committed with impunity.
“There has never been a greater need for balanced, well-researched journalism….but those of us who go into conflict and war zones need to know someone has our backs.”
John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, said:
“As a Member of Parliament, I know all too well the power of the pen, and the impact that can be achieved when many voices rally around one call. I am hoping that my message, and those of others sent during Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign, will send a clear message to governments that the world is watching and human rights must be respected.”