Inalienable Human Rights, Human Rights Victories, and Other News

human rights newsHappy Halloween! The human rights world, unfortunately, is full of tricks and treats. We make breakthroughs and suffer setbacks. Activists have made great progress on many issues this year, but there is plenty more work to be done. Below are the latest human rights news and articles from the past month, covering both our successes and our failures.

UN Commission: ‘Gross Human Rights Violations’ Take Place in North Korea – Voice of America – It’s almost common knowledge that North Korea has human rights violations, but the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea reveals that the problem is much more extensive and horrific than we imagined. One of these issues are the political prison camps. Not only are there four fully-functional prisons, but there is evidence that one has been scaled back and that another has been closed. No one knows what happened to the prisoners who populated those prisons. This is just one of the many human rights abuses documented in the country.

30 Inalienable Human Rights that No One Can Take Away – International Political Forum – United Nations Day was last week, but the work of the UN continues beyond this one day and it’s message carries beyond the day of its founding. The 65th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights is coming up, and this awesome video by Armenian artist Ani Boghossian highlights the 30 articles in the declaration and what they mean. It’s a beautifully artistic perspective on human rights.

Solitary Confinement’s Invisible Scars – The Guardian – Amnesty International USA just finished working on the case of Herman Wallace, who spent 41 years in solitary confinement and only became a free man two-and-a-half days before his death from liver cancer. In Wallace’s case, solitary confinement was cruel and unusual punishment because there wasn’t any justified reason for the lengthy sentence to solitude. This article argues that solitary confinement itself is torture and an egregious violation of human rights.

5 Human Rights Victories in Iran You Helped Make Possible – Amnesty International Blog – If there’s ever any doubt that our activism works, that our letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience make any difference, then these five human rights victories in Iran show otherwise. It takes a lot of hard work and persistence to make these changes, and although a change in leadership helps a great deal, it’s not the only thing necessary toward progress and toward the realization of inalienable human rights. The things needed most are lots of people contributing their voices.

Human Rights Groups Criticize U.S Drone Program – Huffington Post – It’s about time that the American people know the U.S drone program and drone strikes aren’t as lawful as the governments claims them to be. There is too much evidence that shows that civilians have been killed in these strikes, with no reparations for the victim’s families or further investigation to prevent them from happening. Although the administration says that it takes steps to prevent civilian casualties from happening in the first place, there’s no way to know what these steps are or if all of them are taken in every single planned drone strike. These drone strikes also aren’t strongly supported by the countries in which they take place, as the public is also led to believe.

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Why You Should Join Amnesty International’s Urgent Action Network

write for rightsYes, Amnesty International is much more than writing letters. But, letter writing is an effective way to make a difference regarding human rights, and it isn’t as time-consuming as attending meetings, hosting events, and other forms of activism. If letter writing is the way that you want to stop human rights abuses and to raise awareness for these issues, then you need to join Amnesty’s updated Urgent Action Network today. Here’s why you should join the Urgent Action Network and write for rights today:

Write Letters on the Issues You Care About

One of the best updates in the Urgent Action Network is that when you sign up, you can customize the actions that you want to receive. If you only want to write to certain regions, or on specific issues, then you can sign up and ensure that you only receive actions for those regions or issues. However, you can’t specify more than that. For example, you can opt-in for urgent actions on torture and from the Middle East, but you can’t just receive actions on torture from the Middle East.

But, you can specify how many actions you want to receive each month. You can choose to receive every applicable urgent action, or you can choose to receive one, two, four, eight, or 12 in your inbox each month. If you want something as specific as torture in the Middle East, then opting for a smaller number can increase your chances.

The Hard Work is Done For You

The great thing about letter writing as a form of activism is that Amnesty International does most of the heavy lifting for you. Each action comes with a set of appeal points that you can include in your letter. This way, you don’t have to waste time thinking about what to write or what arguments to present. That’s already done for you and all you have to do is rewrite those appeal points into your own words.

Each action also comes with multiple targets including names, email addresses, phone numbers, postal addresses, and other important contact information, so you don’t have to do the research to figure out where to send your letter. These targets have already been chosen because they have the most influence to change the circumstances of your issues and/or prisoner of conscience, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not your letter will have any impact. You can send one letter to one person, or you can write multiple letters to several people. It’s also okay if you write one letter, and then send copies of that letter to the other targets. All you need to do is change the names in the letter before you put it in an envelope.

You Can Take the Time to Understand the Issue

One aspect of activism that many people are concerned about is that they don’t know the whole picture. They often have to go on what the petitioner is telling them, or what they hear at an event, or what they read about the other day. Without knowing the whole picture, some may be hesitant take action, unsure if that action is the best thing to do. That’s understandable, and that’s one of nice things about the Urgent Action Network. Not only does each action come with additional information about the broader issue (i.e. a brief history of the issue in the country, or of Amnesty’s stance on the issue, or that person’s case etc.), but each action has a one-month window for writing your letter. So, if you want to take some time to do more research on your own, then you have that time. You don’t have to rely on the action as your only source of information.

Related Links:

Sample Prisoner of Conscience Letter

Why Amnesty International is More than Writing Letters

The 3 Pillars of Letter Writing Meeting Success

Amnesty’s New Executive Director, and Other Human Rights News

human rights newsSeptember has quickly come and gone, and a lot has happened in the past month. Here are the latest and greatest human rights news articles from the past month.

Bringing Human Rights Home: A Message from Amnesty USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins – Human Rights Now – “We have to view human rights abuses as a call to action to do everything in our power to improve the world,” as Hawkins said. Amnesty International has a new leader, and so far, things seem hopeful. We, as Americans part of Amnesty International, are in a unique place to connect human rights abuses in our country with abuses around the world. We are in a unique place to use our voices and to fight injustice in ways that others can’t.

Where There’s No Emergency Phone Number, Kenya Tweets for Help – Global Voices – This is a neat article on how social media facilitates human rights advocacy. It’s also a nice reminder on how we can take things, like calling 911, for granted. In Kenya, since there isn’t such a number, people can tweet the Kenyan Red Cross with information about an incident. The Kenyan Red Cross gathers additional information, such as location, and then sends security forces or first responders to the scene. Because the recent shooting in Nairobi, the Twitter account now reaches over 50 million people around the world.

Does the US Meet Its Own International Human Rights Standards? – MSNBC – The U.S Human Rights Network says it’s doesn’t, and has filed a joint submission to the United Nations to ask the Obama administration to meet it’s own international human rights standards. The filing particularly details concerns regarding racial profiling, gun violence, and stop-and-frisk policies, although it includes information on a series of issues, and that these concerning laws violate international treaties such as the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

Snowden Among Nominees for a European Human Rights Prize – The New York Times – Edward Snowden, along with Malala Yousafzai,  Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, Erdem Gunduz, and others, has been nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Previous winners of this prize include Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi. The winner will be announced later on this month, and is meant to honor to individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery is the only other American, and the only organization, nominated this year.