If students are wondering what they can do to fight for human
rights, an organization called Amnesty
International has the answer.
Amnesty International (AI) was started in 1961 by British lawyer
Peter Beneson. He made a newspaper appeal called "The Forgotten
Prisoners" and immediately received offers of support to
protect human rights internationally. From that year on, Amnesty
International has grown to include over 1 million people in more
than 160 countries and territories. Canada alone has roughly
67000 AI members and over 500 youth and student groups.
According to Amnesty International, the members main
focuses are to "free all prisoners of conscience, ensure
fair and prompt trials for political prisoners, abolish the death
penalty and other degrading treatment of prisoners and extrajudicial
Laryn Oates, a youth AI member from Vancouver, got involved
with Amnesty International when she was 14 because she was disturbed
by some of the horrors she read about the treatment of Afghan
women by the Taleban militia group. She began volunteering in
the AI office two years later, and after a two-year mentorship
and training sessions in Ottawa, she has now become a fieldworker.
Oates comments, "As a member of Amnesty, you are committed
to the protection of human rights". Amnesty members receive
a newsletter, The Activist six times a year, which details cases
of people who have had their human rights violated. These cases
include people who have been imprisoned for reasons such as their
political views, religious or other beliefs, sex, sexual orientation,
ethnic background, race or culture. Members then write letters
to the governments and embassies of the countries that are committing
the violation and sometimes to the prisoners themselves. Members
can also focus on one case only and campaign until the specific
prisoner is released.
Oates also says that it can be very intimidating for embassies
or governments to receive 30 000 letters outlining the injustices
that have occurred. According to Oates, "Amnesty has stopped
approximately one third of human rights violations they work
on simply from letter-writing."
To become involved with Amnesty International, visit their
website at www.amnesty.ca/youth
or call them at 1-800-amnesty.
NOTE from SNN: Amnesty International as well as other organizations
are actively involved in human rights issues. Check out some
other websites and articles dealing with this issue: