As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we wanted to pause and give thanks to our members and supporters for helping to make freedom and justice possible for countless people this past year. Here are some highlights of the successes and progress you helped to make possible.
Release of prisoners of conscience
Facing calls from around the world, governments released numerous prisoners of conscience in 2012. From a young activist in Azerbaijan who protested the government, to a student in Cameroon who was imprisoned on charges of “homosexuality” to an Egyptian blogger who criticized the army’s abuse of peaceful protest, the power of your voices helped open prison doors for individuals at risk around the world.
A visit from a human rights hero
On her first visit to the U.S. in more than 20 years, Burmese democracy leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Amnesty Ambassador of Conscience Daw Aung San Suu Kyi joined Amnesty International USA to inspire the next generation of human rights activists in a town hall meeting with young people at Washington, D.C’s Newseum. We were both grateful and humbled by her presence.
Turning the tide against the death penalty
The diminishing enthusiasm for executions, though not quite enough to pass California’s Prop 34, is reflective of the national trend away from the death penalty. Growing moral qualms about the practice of killing prisoners, combined with frustrations over costs and worries that errors could lead to executing the innocent, are spreading across the country, including Connecticut, where the legislature voted to abolish the death penalty this year.
Momentum for marriage equality
This year, we saw incredible momentum in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples. Voters supported pro-marriage equality ballot measures in Maryland, Maine and Washington state and rejected a discriminatory ballot measure in Minnesota. And, two U.S. federal appeals courts struck down the provision of the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, in a ruling that is a victory for both marriage equality and for human rights.
Thousands rally to free Pussy Riot
When news broke of three young women who were charged with a hate crime after performing a peaceful protest song in a Russian cathedral, thousands rallied for their release. The three young members of feminist punk collective “Pussy Riot” were sentenced to two years in prison, prompting artists, activists and celebrities such as Madonna, Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Alex Kapranos, Corinne Bailey Rae and many others to stand up and support them. This outpouring of support was critical to keep the pressure on authorities as they considered the band members’ fate. Now, with one of the members conditionally released and the two others facing horrible conditions in penal colonies, we must continue to keep the pressure the Russian Authorities on until they’re free.
We want to thank you for your involvement with Amnesty International and for your steadfast support for freedom, justice and human rights around the world.