“I Knew I Could Not Be Silent”: How This Student Helped Free An Imprisoned Activist

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The Urgent Action Network continues to be one of the most powerful tools student activists have (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

The Urgent Action Network continues to be one of the most powerful tools student activists have (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

This post is the third in a three-part blog series commemorating the launch of Amnesty USA’s redesigned Urgent Action Network. Read on for how this updated tool will help activists make a stronger impact.

In the never ending stream of pamphlets, tri-fold boards, and issues on college campuses, students are often left wondering what impact their voice actually makes. As an Amnesty International student leader at Virginia Commonwealth University, I was able to show students that their voice had the power to impact the lives of people at risk of human rights violations around the world. I used the tools provided by Amnesty International’s Urgent Action Network to engage students and send their voices to the chambers of a legislature, into the ears of oppressors and through the bars of a jail cell.

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Will Rouhani Create Meaningful Reforms or Play Political Games?

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The global community recently celebrated the release of Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and what appears to be dozens of others, among them political prisoners. However, we should reserve judgment regarding the future of human rights under the new administration in Iran until all those who remain unjustly imprisoned are freed and Iranians achieve the freedoms they have been demanding for several decades.

Sotoudeh, who had been detained in Iran since September 2010, was originally sentenced to 11 years in jail for “spreading propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security.” In reality, she is a lawyer who has defended many high-profile human rights campaigners, political activists, and juvenile offenders on death row. Throughout her career she publicly, but peacefully, challenged the Iranian authorities about the shortcomings of the rule of law and due process in the proceedings against her clients.

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From Jail Cell to Board Chair: Ann Burroughs on the Urgent Action Network

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946701_10151615992491363_98894236_nThis post is the second in a three-part blog series commemorating the launch of Amnesty USA’s redesigned Urgent Action Network. Read on for how this updated tool will help activists make a stronger impact.

Even now, twenty-seven years later, Ann Burroughs can remember what it felt like to go to prison.

I’ll never forget my anger as the door shut behind me for the first time. But I did not for a moment question my commitment to opposing injustice and the government’s repressive policies of discrimination and segregation.

Ann’s “crime” was campaigning against apartheid in South Africa. After being convicted, Amnesty declared Ann a Prisoner of Conscience and made her the subject of an Urgent Action (UA). The letters that poured in to South African officials as a result of that UA were integral in securing Ann’s release.

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Honduran Government Moves to Silence Indigenous Activists

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'Thank you for your solidarity' from the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) (Photo Credit: COPINH).

‘Thank you for your solidarity’ from the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) (Photo Credit: COPINH).

Last week, Amnesty issued an urgent action ahead of the September 12 hearing in Honduras against three indigenous leaders working on environmental issues: Bertha Cáceres, Tomás Gómez and Aureliano Molina.

They are all members of the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Cáceres is the general coordinator of COPINH, and both Gómez and Molina work at a community radio station, Lencas’ Voice (La Voz Lenca). Amnesty has called the government’s charges of usurpation, coercion and continued damages against these Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)“unfounded.” These accusations are connected to COPINH’s opposition to a hydro-electric project on indigenous land.

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How U.S. Representatives Are Defending Prisoners of Conscience

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The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

Last week, the Defending Freedoms project launched a Week of Action in which U.S. Representatives nationwide spoke out to highlight and give voice to political prisoners being held or detained around the world for expressing their views.

Members of Congress “adopted” prisoners of conscience and stood in solidarity with them with a commitment to highlight their cases and push for their release, as well as for an end to the human rights abuses they had been subjected to.

These individuals have been imprisoned because of who they are, what they believe, and how they have chosen to express their convictions. As a result, they are prevented from enjoying the most fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

The Defending Freedoms project was kick-started by Representatives Wolf and McGovern adopting the initiative’s first two prisoners of conscience – Gao Zhisheng of China and Bahrain’s Nabeel Rajab. In late 2012, Congress’ nonpartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) joined the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Amnesty International USA to create the Defending Freedoms initiative as a way to raise awareness and support for human rights and religious freedom by focusing on human rights defenders, political prisoners, and those who have been unjustly imprisoned around the world.

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