Human rights are an important part of our society. Every child should know their rights and act upon them. More countries around the world should make them universally known throughout its citizens and should make human rights activism more available to the general public. More countries need to start going the distance and not sitting around turning a blind eye. The human rights movement is not a recent one. Basic rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are rights given to citizens by nature not society; these rights are stated in the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Declaration of Independence (1776), the U.S. Constitution (1788), and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789) (“Human Rights”). In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) and stated that humans “are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (“Human Rights”). This declaration has thirty articles, each telling of a different right citizens are born with. After World War II, human rights became a major issue of international concern. Organizations such as Amnesty International aid the masses of people who fall victim to human rights violations. These violations include the holding of prisoners of conscience, whom are “detained for beliefs, color, sex, ethnic origin, language, or religion who have not used or advocated violence,” and ensures fair trials for all political prisoners, and a halt to the death penalty and to cruel, inhuman acts such as torture ( The Amnesty International Handbook. Amnesty International 3). Amnesty International got its start in 1961. In November of 1960, Peter Benenson, a 40-year-old British lawyer, saw an article about two Portuguese students being sentenced to seven years in prison simply for publicly holding a toast to freedom. Benenson, along with Eric Baker and Louis Blom-Cooper, started a one-year campaign called “appeal for Amnesty 1961” (Amnesty 5). These three men set out to enforce human rights by “putting pressure on governments through letter writing, public demonstration, media outreach, and other techniques,” none of which are violent (Amnesty 6). During the campaign, Amnesty International was called “ one of the greater lunacies of our time,” but today it is one of the most prodigious human rights organizations in the world (Amnesty 6). In the modern society we live in today, the people of America worry about trivial issues such as what brand clothes they will wear the next day or what food they will have for dinner. What if every day the only thing you worried about was whether or not you actually had clothes? What if your main concern was not what you had to eat but if you were getting food that day? Prison life is lonely, especially when the reason for being there is for speaking out about the government. No one should have to endure these types of punishment, found in secret prisons around the world. One former prisoner of conscience, Jamal Benomar, was imprisoned for speaking out against the repression and injustice in Morocco. One passage from The Amnesty International Handbook is particularly moving as he describes his experience being tortured in Moroccan secret prisons and the hope that Amnesty International instilled in him during his detainment (The Amnesty International Handbook Preface). Benomar is one of many prisoners of conscience that are frequently water boarded (when prisoners are immobilized and then water is poured on their face, causing a sensation of drowning), put into stress positions, which puts all of the body weight on one or two muscles in the body and leads to extreme pain and muscle failure, and denailing, where the prisoner is strapped down to a table, and, by the use of pliers, their nails are forcibly ripped off (“Torture”). All of these torture techniques are used to get information or to make sure that a person won’t give out certain information. In many ways, free citizens of the world can help prevent these atrocities. Believe it or not these types of torture are going on all the time, and citizens can make a difference in stopping them. In 2010, Amnesty International started an international campaign asking people everywhere, regardless of age, gender, sex, or ethnicity, to write letters to governments and human rights violators. This campaign was named “Write for Rights;” millions of people around the world did just that. The campaign is still going on today. By going on the Amnesty International website, you,too, can write letters to people of authority everywhere concerning issues about which you feel strongly and have your voice heard.
"Let Freedom Reign"
May 17, 2011