Are You Going to Chicago for the Midwest Regional?

amnesty st. louisEvery year, Amnesty International has both a national conference (known as the Annual General Meeting) and a regional conference. This year’s Midwest Regional Conference is at Northern Illinois University in Chicago on Nov. 9 and 10. Our chapter is going, and we’d love for you to join us and hundreds of other activists from the region to learn more about what Amnesty International is doing, and what more we can do for human rights. This year’s conference theme is, “Same Mission, New Technology.”

If you want to attend the conference, make sure to register online. Of course, you can just show up and register there, but it’s always better to register online. It costs $25 to attend, $15 for students and seniors.

Below is the schedule of events for the Midwest Regional Conference, as well as additional information regarding travel and accommodations. We hope to see you there!

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2012

4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Registration and Member Services

5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Ideas Fair

5:00pm-6:15pm

Midwest Regional Conference Welcome & Opening Reception
o NEIU President (Invited)
o Ed LeMaster, Former Prisoner of Conscience

6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Workshop
Amplify Your Activism – Training & Skill Building Session
Program and Campaign Roundtable – Michelle Ringuette

8:00 p.m. – 9:15 p.m.

Resolutions and Dessert
o Tom Benner, Midwest Resolutions Representative, AIUSA

8:00 p.m. – 9:15 p.m.

Human Rights Festival – An evening of fellowship with musicians, poets, a film screening, a photo booth and ice cream social

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2012

8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Registration and Member Services

8:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Ideas Fair

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Townhall & Breakfast with Regional Planning Group (RPG) –Nick Kissel

9:00 a.m. – 10:50 a.m.

Opening Plenary – Same Mission, New Technology
o Kyra Stoddart, Online marketing Manager, AIUSA
o Emma Ruby-Sachs, Campaign Director at AVAAZ.org
o Joe Baker, vice President of Causes and Advocacy at Care2
o Jackie Zammuto, Program Assistant for WITNESS

11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Workshop Session I

Social Media (runs until 1:30 p.m.)
• Kyra Stoddart, Online Marketing Manager for AIUSA
• Chris Eaton,

Writing for Rights Write-a-thon and Event Planning
• NEIU Student Group

Fundraising: Inviting People to Join the Largest Human Rights Organization in the World – US!
• Nick Kissel, Chair RPG
• David Stamps, North African Coordination Group Chair

Womens’ Rights in South Asia, special focus on Pakistan, Afghanistan & Sri Lanka
• Alice Dahle, AIUSA Women’sHuman Rights Co-Group
• Jim McDonald, AIUSA South Asia Co-Group, Sri Lanka Country Specialist
• Ellen Bennett, AIUSA South Asia Co-Group, Pakistan Country Specialist

Abolition of the Death Penalty: Learning from the Illinois Victory and Beyond
• Jeremy Schroeder, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Networking Luncheon

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

National Board of Directors Strategic Plan Session – Rafia Zakaria

2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Workshop Session II
Now or Never!: Effective Rapid Response
• Michelle Ringuette, Chief of Campaigns AIUSA

MENA Update and Strategic Action
• Beth Ann Toupin, Iraq & BahrainCountry Specialist
• Elise Auerbach, IranCountry Specialist

Human Rights and the LGBT Community
• Nancy Matthews, NEIU Professor
• Erin Hamilton, Student Group Coordinator AIUSA
• Dr. Shelly Bannister, Moderator
Building Bridges- Outreach and Publicity Techniques
• Mohamad Badreddine, Student Group Leader AI U of M Dearborn

Effective Public Speaking: Speaking for Activists
• Hamzah Latif – former SG Coordinator U of M Dearborn

4:10 p.m. – 7:10 p.m.

Resolution Plenary – Tom Benner, Regional Representative National Resolution Committee

7:15 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Closing Ceremony
Charge to the Members – Michelle Ringuette,
Chief of Campaigns AIUSA
Final Awards Presentation

 

If you’ll need some help with travel and accommodations, below is some information about that. We understand the list of hotels originally secured has sold out for the weekend; therefore we have secured a limited number of rooms at another hotel with the rate of $99.00 + tax.  If you are still in need of a room see the information below.  The deadline to reserve a room is November 2, 2012. 

 

Holiday Inn

5300 W. Touhy Ave

Skokie, IL 60077

847-679-8900

Group Code: AMN

PARKING

There will be parking available on campus at NO CHARGE.  We are awaiting the University to notify us of the specific parking lot, once we receive notice we will provide the information to the members (and on our blog).

SHUTTLE SERVICE

There will be shuttle service provided from the hotel to the University each morning and evening during the conference.

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Amnesty St. Louis Book Club – The New Jim Crow

The New Jim CrowIf you didn’t know already, the Amnesty International St. Louis chapter has its own book club, where we read human rights book on a bi-monthly basis and discuss the topics. Most recently, we read The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights, by Irene Kahn, the first woman, first Asian, and first Muslim to head Amnesty International as Secretary General from 2001-2009.

Our next book, of which we’ll be discussing at our Nov.13 general meeting, is the The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. This book was highly recommended to us at the Denver conference, and since we haven’t read a human rights book in a while, we are revamping the book club with the New Jim Crow. Below is a description:

“Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”

As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community–and all of us–to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

If interested in participating in our book club, please read this book by Nov. 13, and join our discussion. We hope to see you there!

Bahrain: Teachers face further jail time after ‘nightmare’ verdict

Bahrain Teachers Association

Former BTA leaders Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman

The Latest News from Amnesty International

Two former leaders of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) received prison sentences on Sunday when an appeal court upheld a guilty verdict in what Amnesty International called another injustice.

Family members called the ruling a “nightmare”. Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb was sentenced to five years in prison while Jalila al-Salman – who was not present in the courtroom – was handed a six-month sentence. The new ruling reduces their sentences from 10 years’ and three years’ imprisonment, respectively.

Following his arrest after calling for a teachers’ strike early in 2011, Abu Dheeb has already spent some 18 months in prison, while al-Salman spent five and a half months in prison before being released on bail. Amnesty International considers Abu Dheeb to be a prisoner of conscience and will grant the same status to al-Salman if she is returned to jail.

“With this guilty verdict, Bahrain’s justice system has added to a growing list of outrageous injustices. Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally, and Jalila al-Salman must not be put behind bars – these convictions must be quashed as a matter of urgency,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“All these teachers did was to call for a strike in their role as trade union leaders – this is merely exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association and is certainly not a crime.”

Their lawyers have said they will appeal the decision before Bahrain’s Court of Cassation.

Abu Dheeb and al-Salman were initially sentenced before a military court last year for, among other things, using their positions as vice-president and president of the BTA to call for a strike by teachers, halting the educational process, “inciting hatred of the regime” and “attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force”.

Prior to that, they were held in solitary confinement, where they say they were subjected to torture or other ill-treatment and forced to sign “confessions” that they did not even read.

Amnesty International urges the Bahraini authorities to investigate fully the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, make the results public, and hold those responsible to account.

Following Sunday’s verdict, Abu Dheeb’s daughter Maryam Abu Dheeb told Amnesty International: “I was sure this was coming to an end. This is a nightmare.”

Minutes after the verdict, she also posted the following message on social media site Twitter: “Mama’s tears are heartbreaking .. 563 days were hard .. 5 years are a nightmare.”

Amnesty International believes neither or them used or advocated violence and is not aware that any such evidence was presented during their trials.

Monthly Human Rights Letter Writing Meeting Tomorrow

human rights letter writing meetingOn Tuesday, Oct. 23, the St. Louis Amnesty International chapter will be having its monthly human rights letter writing meeting. From 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., we will be at Hartford Coffee Company writing letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the world, while enjoying the presence of other activists and the great food and drink of Hartford (the Vietnamese Iced Coffee is delicious!)

For those who don’t know, Hartford Coffee Company is located at 3974 Hartford Street, 63116. It is located one block south of Arsenal, on the corner of Hartford and Roger Pl. You don’t have to stay for the whole hour and a half, nor do you have to arrive right at 7 p.m. if you can’t. Even if you’re able to spare just 20 or 30 minutes, we’d love to see you there.

This is also the second to last letter writing meeting of the year (we don’t typically meet in December because of the holidays). In the coming weeks, prepare for posts that cover what we’ve accomplished this year, and what we hope to accomplish in 2013. In the meantime, please attend a letter writing meeting and make a difference!

We Need to Continue Action on VAWA

VAWA

It may not have been in the news in recent weeks, but that doesn’t mean that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is over and done with. In fact, since both houses of Congress passed separate versions of the bill, the next step is a conference committee, where members from both houses must come together to come up with a final version of the bill.

The House passed a version of VAWA that fails women. If this version prevails:

  • Tribal courts will have no power to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of sexual violence against Native American women.
  • Immigrant women will have little legal protection to prevent abusers from using immigration status as a tool of exploitation and control.
  • LGBT persons will continue to face discrimination and denial of social services.

This is why action needs to continue, even though this committee is likely to take place after the election! These provisions include protections for Native American, undocumented immigrants, and gay, lesbian, and transgender victims. Because of this, we need to continue advocating for this issue, and making sure that the final legislation that is passed by Congress includes these provisions.

Below is a statement from Frank Jannuzi, head of Amnesty International’s Washington D.C. office:

“This vote is a devastating blow to legal protections for all women. H.R. 4970, as it currently stands, fails to protect some of the most vulnerable sectors of our society: immigrant women, LGBT individuals, Native American and Alaska Native women who fall victim to domestic violence and sexual assault. The House bill removes existing protections and severely limits access to essential resources provided for under the Senate-approved bill. In fact, in comparison with existing law, the House version represents a retreat for women’s rights.”

“The facts are grim. Murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women, and Native American and Alaskan Native women are two-and-a-half times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the United States. These unfortunate statistics demonstrate the need for a more comprehensive piece of legislation that would guarantee the protection of all women. It is imperative that Congress passes a bill that protects all women.”

Below is the contact information for Missouri’s representatives and senators. Please demand that the final version of this bill protects ALL women, not just ones that the Republicans support!

MISSOURI 1ST DISTRICT

William “Lacy” Clay

2418 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington D.C., 20515

Phone: 202-225-2406

 

MISSOURI 2ND DISTRICT

Todd Akin

117 Cannon House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

Phone: 202-225-2561

 

MISSOURI 3RD DISTRICT

Russ Carnahan

1710 Longworth House Office Building

Washington DC, 20515

Phone: 202-225-2671

 

MISSOURI 9TH DISTRICT

Blaine Luetkemeyer

1740 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: 202-225-2956

 

Senator Claire McCaskill

Hart Senate Office Building, Ste. 506

Washington, D.C. 20510

Phone: 202-224-6154

 

Senator Roy Blunt

260 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Phone: 202-224-5721

October Human Rights News Roundup

human rights newsIt’s been a few months since we’ve done a human rights news roundup, and we can’t forget that there are tons of issues that we need to at least be aware of. Our chapter is also in the middle of a waiting game, as we won’t have any updates from the Reggie Clemons case until January, so we do need some other issues to learn about and to focus on. To help with that, here’s a human rights news roundup, covering some really good human rights issues from the past week or so.

Her ‘Crime’ was Loving Schools – New York Times – This is one of the biggest human rights stories of the past week, so it would be a surprise if you haven’t heard about it yet. Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, was shot in the head while riding the bus to school. She was shot for being an outspoken advocate for girls’ education, and was threatened more than once by the Taliban for her work. Yousafzai has since been transferred to a hospital in the UK, where she is predicted to recover from her wounds. The Taliban have said that if she survives, they would try and kill her again. Amnesty International has an urgent action on this case.

Pussy Riot Member Uses Freedom to Resume Protests Against Vladimir Putin – The Guardian – The girls of Pussy Riot have become a priority case for Amnesty International. Pussy Riot was sentenced to several years in prison for singing a protest song in Red Square. Their exact charge is “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” One of the members, Yekaterina Samutsevich, has been released. While Amnesty is continuing action on getting the other two released, Samutsevich has said that she will continue the struggle of the group.

Speaking of the Guardian, they did some great work covering the Reggie Clemons hearings at the end of September. We’ve linked to their articles.

National Coming Out Day: A Straight Perspective – Huffington Post – Friday, Oct. 12 was National Coming Out Day (something that wasn’t mentioned in the VP debate, and one that I hope will be discussed in the next presidential debate). Thought this was a great essay on the topic of gay marriage.

What’s Going On At Guantanamo This Week? Shhh…It’s A Secret – Amnesty International Blog – Did you know that this week, the pre-trial motion hearings are taking place for the military commission case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other alleged co-conspirators in the 9/11 attacks? Probably not, as everything the defendants know, say, or write is “preemptively classified”, whatever that means. A big reason why this is wrong, according to Amnesty, is that if the defendants know of or have experienced any sort of human rights violations, then all that is classified and cannot be discussed. Amnesty also believes that “the blanket policy of presumptive classification is inconsistent with the defendants’ right to a fair trial and seriously undermines the defendants’ ability to challenge the evidence against them.”

Egyptian Rights Group: No End to Police Abuses – Voice of America – Egypt may have been the birthplace of the Arab Spring, but it isn’t in the clear and perfect yet (like any country is perfect). There’s been documentation of rape, wrongful deaths, and torture ever since President Mohammed Morsi came to power. According to the reports, many of the victims were protesters and that President Morsi hasn’t made any institutional changes since becoming president. Part of the rise in crime and abuses is also due to the fact that much of police force fled at the beginning of the Arab Spring.

Sample Death Penalty Urgent Action Letter

death penalty urgent actionAmnesty International unconditionally opposes the death penalty. It is considered cruel and unusual punishment, and is a violation of human rights. We work on behalf of those who are on death row who may be innocent of their crimes, or who did not face a fair trial upon sentencing. We do not try to downplay the seriousness of the crimes committed, nor do we believe that every person sentenced to death is innocent of their crime.

This sample death penalty letter is in concern for 40-year-old Bobby Hines, who is due to be executed in Texas on October 24 for a murder committed when he was 19. The jury that sentenced him to death heard no expert mitigation evidence about the impacts of his severely abusive childhood. Call on the state of Texas to halt this execution. If you want to take action on this case, please click the link and do so online. Otherwise, take this sample death penalty letter as a way to use letter writing to bring awareness to our government and representatives about human rights issues.

I am writing to urge you to take all actions necessary to prevent the execution of Bobby Hines (inmate no. #999025) who is scheduled to be put to death in Texas on October 24. There is no doubt the crime he committed was serious, and caused great suffering, but I am concerned that he is being put to death despite a childhood of abuse, poverty, deprivation and neglect, and despite the fact that his sentencing jury never new about the potential effects of that childhood.

As a child, Mr. Hines experienced repeated violent assaults at the hands of his father, and witnessed both his mother and sister being physically and sexually abused. The trauma of this environment was enhanced by a life in poverty featuring frequent periods of hunger and homelessness, and his development may also have been hampered by low intellectual functioning.

In capital cases, the jury is supposed to hear about these kinds of mitigating factors, but Mr. Hines’ jury heard nothing about how such a horrific upbringing might have affected his actions, including the murder he committed at the age of 19. The sentencing phase of his trial lasted only one day.

I believe that with a more complete picture of Bobby Hines’ childhood and its effects on his actions Texas jurors would not have voted for death in this case. As you are responsible for executive clemency, you are in a unique position to step in and prevent this unjust execution, and I urge you to do so without delay.

Thank you for your consideration of this most serious matter.