Amnesty International was founded 46 years ago by Peter Beneson, and has worked consistently since then in its ceaseless campaign to promote international justice and the most basic of human rights laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. The main focus of its campaign is the system of letter righting, which involves bombarding the respective governments who have ignored human rights legislation with letters, in the hope of changing their mind. Amnesty also sends letters, postcards and e-mails directly to the prisoners of conscience with the hope of getting their release. Amnesty refuses to help prisoners who have been imprisoned due to acts of violence, and the charity does not support prisoners who have broken international law. Amnesty International works all across the globe, specialising in countries where human rights abuses are particularly severe, such as Burma and Saudi Arabia.
The Amnesty International society of UEA was formed four years ago and has been steadily expanding ever since. Our society runs in accordance with the Amnesty International central office, writing the letters suggested by the Amnesty website and participating in fund raising and awareness campaigns. We also run specialised campaigns for particular days, such as World Children’s Day and Stop Violence Against Women Day.
As a means of making people more aware of human rights violations worldwide, we painted ‘Imagine having no childhood’ on a large white sheet and asked students to write their names and any comment they felt was necessary to show their support for oppressed children around the world.
We use many different methods for fund raising. Last year we drew the Amnesty International candle in the middle of the university square and asked students to help fill it with any change they could spare. This not only raised money directly for Amnesty International but also improved awareness across campus.
We have also had a certain amount of success with our own personal letter-writing campaign. This January, UEA Amnesty Member Abby Freestone received a letter from the Mexican embassy in London, informing her that due to the letters received action had been taken to help three Mexican individuals. First, Obtilia Eugencio Manuel, a human rights defender in Mexico, who has had to suffer numerous death threats and acts of intimidation from unknown individuals, now has full federal protection from the Mexican government. Second, Valentina Rosendo Cantu is also under federal protection. She was raped and tortured by the Mexican Army on Feb. 16, 2002, and she was attempting to bring the case to the international courts but had been prevented by Army intimidation.
Furthermore, last year each member of UEA Amnesty International received a letter from our own government in response to letters sent about ending the trade of conflict diamonds in the UK.
We continue to meet on a regular basis to write letters and discuss new methods of campaigning.