"Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor."

—Ginetta Sagan
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"Amnesty International works impartially worldwide for the release of prisoners of conscience (men, women and children detained because of their opinions, religious beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, or language, provided they have not used or advocated violence), for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners, and for an end to torture and execution." --Amnesty-USA's original mission statement.

HFAI is Harvard's chapter of Amnesty International-USA, which is part of Amnesty International.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Prize-winning grassroots activist organization founded in 1961 with a mission to fight for human rights. Primarily through petition-signing and letter-writing, members urge government leaders (our own and those of the offending governments) to help individuals whose human rights are being violated. These individual cases are referred to as "actions." (While the focus of Amnesty has always been on cases of torture or political imprisonment, we also work on a wide range of human rights abuses, as defined by the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights.) The idea is that all the millions of Amnesty members around the world will simultaneously and immediately send letters, exerting great international pressure to affect aid. In addition to writing letters during our meetings, HFAI tables outside of high-traffic areas on campus to collect hundreds of signatures. Sometimes we stage or join in protests, hold candlelight vigils, or organize lectures or movie screenings to raise awareness about a particular action. For example, in 2003, we brought a former Liberian prisoner of conscience who was tortured by Charles Taylor's regime for his investigative journalism to speak to the Harvard community; his story, as well as his conviction that our letters on his behalf helped free him, inspired us all.

Amnesty also addresses human rights at a macro level, through focusing its attention upon particular regional areas or countries suffering an endemic human rights crisis (such as Central Africa or Chechnya), or through its prolonged "campaigns" on pressing "topics" (such as the death penalty, women's rights, or LGBT rights). Members write letters expressing their concern about the situation in a region or about the way a government is handling a topic; these letters often ask for support of specific legislative or executive actions that would address and hopefully remedy the problem. The letters can also be written on behalf of an individual related to a particular campaign or country. Tabling on these regional or topical issues allows HFAI to collect more signatures; vigils, lectures, etc. help raise awareness. For example, in 2004, we worked with Harvard's Latinas Unidas to bring an expert on the abductions/rapes/tortures/murders of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to speak to us, show us a video, and think about what we can do to help curb the murders there.

Finally: Amnesty International is independent of any government, political or religious ideology, and bases its campaigning activities on meticulous research. Each case is investigated to determine whether Amnesty should get involved; sources include victims' families, lawyers, religious bodies, community workers, humanitarian organizations, journalists, diplomats, exiles, news media, underground press, and AI research missions. We encourage you to learn more about Amnesty and ask us questions. One wonderful thing about HFAI is that we work on a variety of actions and issues and everyone has the flexibility to choose which actions suit his or her interests and beliefs. Also, many of our actions are nuanced: for example, while we advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, we by no means encourage the release of dangerous criminals; when we assert the right of an individual to a fair trial, we by no means assert their innocence.

If you'd like to learn more about Amnesty's actions, please visit these links:

List of current campaigns and permanent topics

List of countries with current or past rights violations

To see a sample Amnesty letter and see the current Amnesty actions, please visit Amnesty-USA's Online Action Center

Email: harvard.amnesty@gmail.com

HFAI Board:

Co-coordinators: Sabine Ronc ‘07, Jessie Behm ‘08
Officers abroad: Leticia Landa ‘07, Ghia Zaatari ‘07
Secretary: Zander Rafael ‘07
Treasurer: Akash Goel ‘07
Urgent Action Co-coordinator:
Urgent Action Co-coordinator: Mike Codini ‘08

 
site last updated: May 26, 2005
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contact coordinators Jessie Behm and Sabine Ronc
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