Amnesty International is an organisation that defends the rights of the oppressed and acts as a vocal representative to those who have been silenced, in order for them to express themselves. Many people, including those within our own community, have reservations about Amnesty International and the causes it supports. Its aims are simple: educate people on Human Rights, defend those whose rights are being violated. Amnesty is not something to be feared and it deserves more respect than it is currently given.
All too often, after the mention of Amnesty, I have heard fellow students say: ‘what do they actually do?’ This apathy towards such a worthwhile organisation has made me wonder whether perhaps people are just ignorant of the influence Amnesty International has throughout the world. So, in true reporter style, I decided to drop into Berkhamsted School's very own Amnesty Club in order to get a better perspective on what Amnesty are trying to achieve.
The structure of Amnesty is staggeringly simple. All the small individual clubs within schools and communities around the world are given an objective from their relevant national branch of Amnesty, and this in turn is dictated by Amnesty International from its global headquarters. During my visit to Amnesty Club, the whole team was working towards the “Write for Rights” campaign that Amnesty holds on a yearly basis. The campaign aims to help those whose Human Rights have been violated by sending large amounts of appeal letters to the relevant authorities and large amounts of “solidarity letters” to those who are being discriminated against.
So, who does the “Write for Rights” campaign help?
“Write for Rights” helps people all over the world. The cases are not necessarily “big” or “famous”, they are just accounts of ordinary people whose Human Rights have been violated, regardless of whether they have actually committed any crime. Take for example the plea of Yecenia Armenta. In July 2012 Yecenia was arrested in Mexico and charged with orchestrating the murder of her husband. After 15 hours of unspeakable cruelties and torture, she admitted to murdering her husband while still under extreme duress. Amnesty are asking people to write to the Sinaloa Attorney-General in order to ask for her release. They also urge members to contact Yercenia directly and reassure her that those of us in the free world have not forgotten the injustices she has suffered. Similarly, north of the border, in the USA, Amnesty are fighting the case of Albert Woodfox. Arrested and convicted for murder in 1972, he has been in solitary confinement since then. Despite his conviction being overturned three times, he is still in West Feliciana Parish Detention centre. Similarly Amnesty are pleading for his release through the use of appeal and solidarity letters and the impact is yet to be seen.
Past Success Stories
The success stories of Amnesty’s “Write for Rights” campaign are testament to what the organisation can achieve through legal and peaceful means. Every year the “Write for Rights” campaign puts pressure on numerous authorities to release falsely imprisoned individuals and, in 2015, thanks to such a successful campaign, Moses Akatugba, who had been wrongly sentenced to death for a crime he had committed when he was 16, was granted a full pardon by the Nigerian government. Amnesty achieves numerous positive outcomes every year and it is these achievements that can be used to justify just how much good this Human Rights organisation does.
I strongly implore anyone with negative preconceived thoughts on Amnesty to reconsider their position and do some research into the work Amnesty is doing. If you find yourself agreeing with Amnesty’s war against injustices, then get involved in your local group, whether that be at school, or in your local area. The more people that get involved, the greater leverage Amnesty can use against injustices, and this in turn will lead to a better world where expressing oneself is not a crime.
Original image by Lily Frost