NDAA Amendments Hitting Senate Floor Now

Amendments from the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act are hitting the Senate floor RIGHT NOW. Please call your Senators, and urge others to do the same. Here’s a sample script (or email):

I urge Senator__________to vote AGAINST any detention provisions in the NDAA that would keep Guantanamo open or continue indefinite detention and unfair trials for any person, whether citizen or not.

In particular, I urge you to support removal of the following sections of the 2012 NDAA in the 2013 NDAA: 1021, 1022, 1027 and 1028.

I also urge you to vote against the following amendments offered to the 2013 NDAA:

  • SA. 3018: Feinstein Amendment on Detention
  • SA. 2976: Inhofe Amendment on Detention
  • SA. 2998: Ayotte Amendment on Detainee Transfers
  • SA. 2999: Ayotte Amendment on Long-Term Detention Outside U.S.
  • SA. 3004: Ayotte Amendment on Notifying Congress about al-Qaeda members
  • SA. 3010: Sessions Amendment on Using Naval Vessels for Captured Individuals
  • SA. 3011- 1013: Sessions Amendments on Gitmo

Thank you for your urgent attention and action in this matter.

Attend the Last Letter Writing Meeting of the Year!

holiday coffeeIf you haven’t attended a letter writing meeting this whole year, then tomorrow is your absolute last chance for 2012! We will be having our final letter writing meeting at Hartford Coffee Company at the corner of Hartford and Roger. The holiday season doesn’t mean that we are taking a vacation from our human rights work, as there are still plenty of people to help and plenty of issues to address.

This meeting will also be the last letter writing meeting of the year, as the December meeting typically takes place too close to Christmas. Even though it’s not the last event of the year (we have two more coming up in December, including our annual Write-a-Thon), we certainly would love you to stop by.  Hope to see you here, especially if you can’t join us for our later events.

November Human Rights News Roundup

human rights newsBefore will get our fill of cranberry sauce and pecan pie, let’s get our fill of the month’s latest human rights news. As we give thanks with our friends and family, let us not forget that there are many in the US and abroad who cannot spend the holiday with their friends and family because of human rights violations. Human rights must never take a break, even as we do. There’s a lot to be thankful for this season.

Obama Offers Praise, Pressure on Historic Myanmar Trip – Reuters – Although some human rights activists say his trip is too soon because Myanmar has yet to free all its political prisoners, Obama says his visit isn’t to endorse the current government, but to push the country in a direction of progress and to show that further reform is a good decision. Obama also met with Aung San Suu Kyi, a human rights leader that many within our chapter and other chapters around the United States helped to free from house arrest.

Over a Billion Women Lack Safe Sanitation – Voice of America – Monday was World Toilet Day, and this modern convenience that we take for granted (and maybe don’t clean often enough) is something that a lot of women don’t have and suffer because they don’t have it. Seven out of ten women in Africa have no access to a safe toilet, and often have to wait until dark to go to the bathroom so they can find a safe place to do it. One in five women have been threatened or intimidated when going to the toilet.

President Obama: Keep Your Promise to Close Guantanamo – Amnesty International Blog – Closing Guantanamo Bay would end a lot of human rights violations, such as torture, indefinite detention, unfair trials, and unlawful drone killings. Fifty-five detainees have been cleared for release, yet have not been transferred out of Guantanamo. We want President Obama to recommit to his promise to close Guantanamo.

8 Insane Arguments Business Owners Used To Oppose Basic Human Rights, Social Safety Net  – Huffington Post – There are many labor laws that we ought to be thankful for: eight-hour work days, no slavery, no child labor, minimum wage etc. all of which were opposed by big business when legislatures were in the progress of establishing these laws. We all know this same thing is happening with Obamacare, and like with all these other laws, everything will work out.

Why Walmart Workers are Striking on Black Friday – ThinkProgress – Have you heard of this happening retail workers and not just Walmart? Walmart workers are striking not just because of the steady “Black Friday creep” that’s been happening over previous years (Black Friday sales are starting at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day at Walmart, Target, and other places), but also because of cut benefits and low wages despite Walmart’s record profits. This is also newsworthy because Walmart has been able to squash unionizing and strikes in the past.

5 Reliable Twitter Users to Follow for the Gaza Conflict – UN Dispatch – If you’ve heard about what’s going on in Gaza, and need some folks to follow to get quality, up-to-date news, then this article is a must read for you. The folks on this list are on the ground in Gaza right now.

Help Us Choose Our Next Book Club Reading

The New Jim CrowThis past Tuesday, we had our discussion of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness. It was an engaging, fruitful, discussions, and if you haven’t read this book yet, it’s a must read for anyone interested in human rights and/or criminal justice.

Now, we need another book to read, one that will be discussed in early 2013. If you have any ideas of a great human rights book that we should read next, then please either leave your suggestion in the comments or email us at amnestystl (at) gmail (dot) com. Keep in mind that the last book we read, the one we read before New Jim Crow, was The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights by Irene Kahn. So, please don’t suggest that book. Other than that, all other books having anything to do with human rights (fiction books will be considered too), are open for reading.

Human Rights Films this Weekend

human rights filmsThis is a bit of late notice, but if you are craving a good human rights film, the Saint Louis International Film Festival at Washington University has a showing of human rights films this weekend. Starting tonight at 6:30 p.m., get your free fill of all sorts of human rights films, covering everything from homelessness to the death penalty, from the Israel/Palestine conflict to theatre in Kenya. Below is a schedule of the films showing this weekend:

Friday November 16th:

6:30 PM: Dignity Harbor: A Home Away from Homeless

8:30PM: The Invisible Men


Saturday November 17th:

12:00PM: The Second Execution of Romell Broom

2:15PM: Homeland: Refugees

4:30PM: Street Journeys

6:15PM: Voyage to Amasia

8:30PM Valmara


Sunday November 18th:

12:00PM: We Women Warriors

2:30PM: The Perfect Victim

5:00PM: Unfit: Ward vs. Ward

7:30PM: Uprising

Save the Date – 3 Upcoming Amnesty International Events

2013 Annual General MeetingJust because the holidays are coming up doesn’t mean that we’re taking a break on our human rights activism. Far from it! We still have a few more events coming up in 2012, with one big one coming up in 2013 (see pic). We’re excited, and we hope you can attend at least one of them!


Saturday December 8, 4-9 p.m.- Mark this date, as this is when we will hold our annual ‘Write-a-Thon” to celebrate Human Rights Day. During the Write-a-Thon, we write letters on specific cases in conjunction with Amnesty International chapters around the country. This is meant as a big push on these particular cases so we can see some progress. We’ve previously held this event at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood, so more details will be sent out once we get the green light from them. If you can, please come to this one to at least write a letter and to enjoy a free beer (last couple years we each got a free beer).

Yearly Holiday Party

In December, we only have one meeting instead of two because our second one if often too close to Christmas. This year, that one meeting is on Dec. 11, where our tradition is to bring desserts for a potluck and to write holiday cards to prisoners of conscience and their families. It’s out last meeting of 2012, so come if you can!

Annual General Meeting

At the Regional Conference in Chicago this past weekend, we received an official announcement on the 2013 AGM (Annual General Meeting). Due to budget constraints, it will be held at American University’s Washington College of Law on March 22-24 in Washington, DC. There aren’t any additional details regarding programming. However, if people can make time on the Friday or Monday connected to the conference this could be an opportunity to meet and lobby our local members of Congress while in DC.

New Jim Crow Discussion Tomorrow

The New Jim CrowDon’t forget that tomorrow, we will be having our monthly business meeting at Hartford Coffee Company from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. If you don’t know, Hartford is located on the corner of Roger Place and Hartford, just south of Tower Grove Park.

This meeting will be partly devoted our newly re-constituted book club. For the first half hour there will be some announcements, a group survey, and a brief background (designed to include everyone) on the book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights litigator and legal scholar.

After the first 30 minutes, we will dive into a more in-depth discussion of the issues brought up by the book. Everyone will be welcome to stay as long as they like, whether or not they got a chance to read the book. If you’ve only read part of the book, please still attend as I’m sure we’ll still have a fruitful discussion around incarceration in America (I’m currently only on chapter three, so it’s unlikely I’ll finish the book before Tuesday night).

By splitting the meeting, you still have a reason to attend the meeting, even if you haven’t read the book, as we will be discussing more than the human rights issues the book raises. Even if you haven’t read the book, we would still love for you to join the discussion, especially if you have personal experience with the incarceration and criminal justice issues. Any and all perspectives are welcomed.

AIUSA Legislative Priorities for the Remainder of 2012

lobbying Congress I-VAWAWith just several weeks left in 2012 (crazy!) and the 2012 election behind us, Amnesty International and other human rights activists can now focus on other issues. For December and the rest of November, will be focusing on two issues: the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA, which is different from VAWA) and the global arms trade. We will be pushing our senators and representatives to co-sponsor I-VAWA and to advocate for a strong global arms trade treaty that helps prevent the human suffering caused by the poorly regulated flow of arms around the world.

What is I-VAWA?

I-VAWA is the International Violence Against Women Act, which was originally introduced in the 110th Congress and received bipartisan support at the time. Specifically, I-VAWA would:

  • Address violence against women and girls comprehensively, by supporting health, legal, economic, social, and humanitarian assistance sectors and incorporating violence prevention and response best practices into such programs.
  • Alleviate poverty and increase the cost effectiveness of foreign assistance by investing in women. Strengthen security by reducing social tensions.
  • Support survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and prevent violence.
  • Create a five-year strategy to fight violence against women in select countries which have a high incidence of violence against women.

This bill is not to be confused with VAWA, or the Violence Against Women Act. The status of VAWA is that the two versions of the bill must be reconciled into one version by a conference committee. It is unknown, at this time, when/if that conference committee will convene. Therefore, our efforts are better directed at I-VAWA, since we have don’t have any information about this conference committee.

What’s This About the Global Arms Trade?

Did you know that there is a multilateral Arms Trade Treaty that is in motion in the United Nations? Under the right circumstances, this treaty could pass and begin regulating the global trade of weapons. It is currently being negotiated at the UN, so now is the time to take action and to urge the Obama Administration and others in our government to support this global treaty and to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of human rights abusers like Syria and the Sudan.

Did you know that there is more global regulation on the trading of bananas and dinosaur bones than there is on guns and bullets? Did you also know that the global weapons market is worth $55 billion dollars, and that one person dies every minute as a result of armed violence? This is why we need to urge the Obama Administration TODAY to support an Arms Trade Treaty now. The administration is in support of this treaty, but the administration needs to know that U.S citizens are in support of this treaty, so that this treaty is a strong one and one that will be supported by our Congress as well.

The arms trade has always been an issue of focus for Amnesty International, but only now is the issue getting attention as the violence continues in Syria and other countries around the world. With a treaty and regulation finally a serious topic of discussion, let’s not lose this opportunity to stand up for human rights.

How Do I Take Action?

To take action on either of these issues (preferably both), please contact our senators and representatives on these issues. We have a contact information page available to make it easy for you to find Claire McCaskill’s phone number in Washington, or Lacy Clay’s address. These two issues are not only pressing, but are two that we can reasonably work on with a few Missouri lame ducks in Congress.

Sample Prisoner of Conscience Letter

prisoner of conscience letter writingSince letter writing is an effective way to bring attention to prisoners of conscience around the world, we’re providing a sample prisoner of conscience letter to write on behalf of others, if you wish. The sample letter is in regards to an actual case, so if you want, you can use this letter and send it to help this prisoner. Click the links to learn more about the case of Zmitser Dashkevich, of whom this letter is about.

Send the Appeal to:

General Prosecutor

Alexander Koniuk

Ul. Internatsionalnaya 22

220030 Minsk


Sample Letter

Dear General Prosecutor,

I am writing in concern for ZMITSER DASHKEVICH, who is being threatened with rape and torture following his transfer to a penal colony in Mazyr. I call on authorities to ensure that he is not tortured or ill-treated by state officials or third parties, reminding them that they have a duty to protect the physical and psychological well-being of those in custody.

I also call on authorities to stop the harassment of ZMITSER DASHKEVICH, reminding them that he is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his peaceful expression of his political views. He should be released immediately and unconditionally, along with all other prisoners of conscience.


Your Name

Prisoners of Conscience We Have Helped Release

Khun Kawiro

Khun Kawiro

Amnesty International is known for petitions and letter writing, and many naysayers will scoff at this work and say that it’s not at all effective. No one is going to read these letters, they say. Why would totalitarian governments listen to normal Americans, they ask. What do these people and these countries have to do with us, they wonder.

If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. These naysayers are simply part of the problem, because they often are quick to complain without offering a better way to help these people. These naysayers are also part of the problem because we know that our solution of writing letters and gathering signatures for petitions has worked. Below is a list of some of the folks that we’ve helped in the past few years, folks who were imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their human rights, such as the freedom of expression.

Khun Kawiro Has Been Released! On July 4 Nonetheless!

Our most recent prisoner of conscience, Khun Kawiro, along with a number of others, has been released from prison in Myanmar! This is thanks in part to the hard work of our chapter, and many other Amnesty members across the U.S who wrote letters and gathered signatures for Kawiro and the others.

There may be folks who doubt the power of letter writing and petitions, especially those that are targeted at dictatorships and military governments like Myanmar. However, if those letters and petitions come with persistence and belief in the human rights work, even if it may take years and years to do so, great things can be accomplished.

Mie Mie and Htay Kywe, Two of Our 88 Generation Students

The release of at least 130 political prisoners in Myanmar last month, including well-known dissidents Htay Kywe, U Khun Htun Oo, Min Ko Naing, and U Gambira is a significant move, Amnesty International said.

The prisoner amnesty is the second this year and the fourth under Myanmar’s post-elections government, bringing the total number of political prisoners released to at least 477. Two of the prisoners released, Htay Kywe and Mie Mie, were special prisoners of conscience assigned to the St. Louis chapter. The chapter is proud to say that our work paid off and that we were part of the solution of getting these prisoners released.

But as more than a thousand political prisoners may remain behind bars, many of whom are prisoners of conscience, the amnesty must continue until all are freed according to Amnesty International. Next, the St. Louis chapter will be focusing its efforts on a young man named Khun Kawiro, another Burmese prisoner who was arrested along with two other activists after peacefully campaigning for a “no” vote on the referendum on the new constitution in 2008. He was tortured and sentenced to 37 years imprisonment. His two colleagues were released on January 13 2012, but the government has so far refused to release Khun Kawrio.

Ma Khin Khin Leh released from prison!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mah Khin Khin Leh was an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience and Amnesty St. Louis group has joined with countless other activists and has been writing for her release for years. This is a huge victory!

Her release followed an announcement by the Myanmar government that it would release 6,313 prisoners, including some 24 political prisoners. The 24 released political prisoners were held in three different prisons: Myintkyina prison, Insein prison and Kale prison. Amnesty welcomes the releases, but notes that many more political prisoners remain jailed in Myanmar. We thank all those who campaigned for Ma Khin Khin Leh’s release, and remind you that Amnesty International continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other prisoners of conscience in Myanmar.

You letters make a difference! Amnesty St. Louis is thrilled to have been a part of this. THANK YOU for all you do as a Human Rights Defender!