Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 41

I sent out some more Amnesty International emails today. This is becoming one of my preferred virtual volunteering opportunities! Primarily because they give you a lot of information on what's happening with each cause/issue. So as you are sending out your emails you really get to know what's going on.

Today I did a variety of emails. My first one was for Darfur. While international attention has mostly focused on the South Sudan referendum, grave violations of human rights continue in neighboring Darfur. Whole villages in the Negeha region of South Darfur have been burned to the ground as recently as December. And unless the international community demands accountability for these atrocities and others committed, those responsible will continue to evade justice.

The next was for Jafar Panahi - an acclaimed film maker from Iran. He was sentenced to six years in prison as well as a total ban on his artistic activities for a period of twenty years. He was convicted of "propaganda against the state" for making a film deemed to be against the government, and for his alleged involvement in inciting the protests following last year's presidential election.

I did one for Angola. Nearly 40 members of an organization peacefully calling for economic and administrative autonomy of the diamond rich Lunda provinces were arrested between April 2009 and October 2010. Most were charged with contravening the now repealed Article 26 of Law on Crimes Against the Security of the State. Angolan authorities have not responded to the detainees’ lawyers appeal for their release nor provided an explanation for their continued detention.Their continued detention is a violation of their human rights.

This next one about David Kato was in the news recently. Last fall, Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato successfully sued a national newspaper that published the article "100 Top Ugandan Homos” with the caption “hang them." On January 26, Kato was brutally murdered in his home, the latest tragic example of the constant threat so many LGBT people face in Uganda.

I did one for the continuing unrest in Kashmir, where over 100 people have been killed during protests last summer and fall, mostly by Indian security forces. Amnesty International is urging Indian authorities to ensure that all killings of protesters are investigated independently, and if excess force is found to have been used, the responsible parties should be brought to justice. Amnesty has also called upon the Government of India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives special powers of immunity to Indian security forces in areas of Jammu and Kashmir. Repeal of this legislation would help protect civilians from grave abuses such as disappearance, unlawful killings, torture, and rape.

And lastly, I did one for change in Tunisia. The new government in Tunisia now has the opportunity to break with the legacy of 23 years of human rights abuses. Bold and far-reaching changes to overhaul the institutions that have failed the Tunisian people are imperative. The authorities need to acknowledge the true scale and severity of past human rights violations. They now have a historic opportunity to break with this infamous legacy and to carry out a human rights agenda for change.

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