IoS letters, emails & online postings (18 October 2009)

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Your interview with Irene Khan, the outgoing secretary general of Amnesty International, concluded, "Perhaps the time will come to start a new group, one dedicated solely to prisoners of conscience" ("A prisoner of her own conscience" 11 October).

Just such an organisation – the Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund – was set up by Amnesty International 47 years ago to the day of your article. We provide financial grants to men and women who have been persecuted for their conscientiously-held beliefs, provided they have not used or advocated violence, and help prisoners of conscience in exile in the UK and overseas.

Every grant is a message to the men of violence that they cannot have everything their own way. Last year we distributed nearly 400 grants worth over £200,000 to people from 35 countries.

Sir Henry Brooke

Chairman, Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund, London SE1

Paul Rodgers is wrong to suggest that Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are absent from the Universal Declaration, which gave equal recognition to both civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights. It saw no hierarchy of rights, and neither does Amnesty International. While campaigning with increasing urgency on the human rights violations that keep people poor, Amnesty International is not doing less on civil and political rights. Today it works for both prisoners of conscience and prisoners of prejudice and poverty. Those enduring insecurity on a daily basis, such as the quarter of a million Sri Lankans currently held in detention camps, are also experiencing deprivation – you cannot separate the two. Amnesty's expanded brief is not just relevant, but essential.

Colm O Cuanachain

Amnesty International

London WC1

I was delighted to see you highlight the scandal of disproportionate energy prices and blatant profiting by utility companies ("How do you cut fuel bills...?", 11 October). I wrote to Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, the leaders of the two main opposition parties and my local MP on this subject on 17 September. I have had one reply, a standard letter from the Prime Minister, saying my letter would be forwarded to the relevant department. I wonder if he has received a utility bill which he will struggle to pay, like the estimated 4 million UK households facing fuel poverty?

Stephen Graham

Newbury, Berkshire

Adrian Mourby's article on Latvia ("You can't keep a great city down", 11 October) will have pleased the nationalists of Riga, but there is another side to the story. The beauty of Riga stems from the centuries-old historical buildings created by Poles and Russians, including the Imperial Russian-created Blackheads House. It was not a dusty city under the Soviet Union, but became one after the collapse of it, when independent Latvia was taken over by Latvian nationalists, who focused on being anti-Russian. The Museum of Occupation which so interested Mr Mourby is funded by private anti-Russian donations from a dozen countries, including the UK.

Cameron North


The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn might be feeling the effects of the global economy, but it is in robust health ("Radical theatres in crisis", 11 October). While box-office takings and individual, trust and corporate giving might have suffered during the financial turbulence, the Tricycle is a beneficiary of the Arts Council's Sustain fund which support arts organisations in their mission of making great art available to all. With its help, and that of Paula Rego, Antony Gormley and the Portland Gallery, the Tricycle will continue to produce responsible and challenging theatre.

Jonathan Levy

Chairman, Tricycle Theatre

London NW6

The vast majority of the Ghanaian diaspora is pleased to see Ghanaian dancers, music and language in the Cadbury advertisement ("Cadbury accused of racial stereotyping", 11 October) The Fairtrade premium received from sales means farmers in Ghana will have more to invest in their families and communities.

Eileen Maybin


London EC3

The right may well be "sharper, funnier and more sophisticated" than the left ("A confederacy of toffs", 11 October). But ask them for a lucid analysis of the class contradictions of capitalism and they will not know what hit them.

Ivor Morgan


Who was meant to be impressed by Mrs David Cameron wearing a £65 dress at the Tory conference? Next year she would do well to shop at Primark where she could buy three dresses for £65. I left school at 15, but I know when people are trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

Mary Donaldson

Fakenham, Norfolk

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