60 Years of Declaring Human Rights Universally!

Wow, has it been 60 years already? Time flies when you're promoting equality for all humankind. Today marks the 60th anniversary of the UN's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a remarkable document, and truly inspiring. It has had a large impact on the world--the Guinness Book of World Records says it is the most translated document in the world. Read it, read about it, tell your friends about it, tell your enemies about it, and, if you read this today, come by the booth in the Wilk, it'll be up til 6. We're passing out pamphlets with the text of the UDHR as well as a letter from Jack Healey at no extra cost!


Crisis in Congo

I personally don't know too much about the current humanitarian crisis going on in Congo, but I'm learning more and it really saddens me. Just today I saw a collection of pictures from the amazing photoblog "The Big Picture" that puts faces to the numbers. The pictures are beautiful, tragic, and sometimes a bit graphic, but definitely worth viewing.

This video from Condition: Critical (an awesome Doctors Without Borders webpage) tells more about what's going on:

What can you do? Get educated, spread the word, donate to Doctors Without Borders, or investigate the situation yourself and figure out another way to help (and let us all know too!)


Close Gitmo

Sign the ACLU's open letter to President-elect Barack Obama encouraging him to follow through on his promises to close Guantanamo Bay if you care about ending our government's use of torture and disregard for basic human rights. He's stated many times that he wants to, most recently just this week on 60 Minutes, so let's remind him that it is a top priority as he takes over in the White House.


Maryland Considers Abolishing the Death Penalty

I came across some good news today: the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment has recommended that the state abolish the death penalty. They cite the "real possibility" of executing an innocent person and the huge costs associated with death penalty cases going through the court system. Hopefully they make the right choice!

Read more from the Washington Post or the ACLU blog.


Some Positive Stastistics

Humanity's efforts to promote peace and human rights is working!

"The Human Security Report Project which, to the surprise of many, revealed that there had been a dramatic decline in political violence around the world in the wake of the Cold War.

After nearly five decades of inexorable increase, the number of violent conflicts dropped by 40 percent. The deadliest conflicts, and genocides, dropped even more dramatically––by more than 70 percent.

Wars are not only far less frequent; they are also much less deadly. In 1950, the average armed conflict killed 38,000 people; by 2005, the figure was just 700."


Save Darfur!

Today we heard about one of the largest ongoing human rights tragedies of our time, the Darfur Genocide. We heard from two awesome representatives from the BYU/UVU Darfur Action Committee (Facebook group) about the history of the conflict there and also what we can do to help stop it. We talked about the awesome Save Darfur website, and specifically the things you can do to help listed in the Current Initiatives section.

As pointed out at the meeting today, the situation there is unique in that it is the first genocide ever to be recognized as such while it is going on, rather than looking back afterwards and going "Whoops, that was genocide, huh?" as happened with Nazi Germany, Rwanda, and basically every other genocide in history. So now that we're not in the denial stage, we can do something about it!

Next week, we'll be talking about the situation in Burma, which is also an ongoing nightmare. Same time and place: Wednesday, 6 pm, 117 HRCB. See ya there!



Sure, talking about issues is good--we have to get educated, right? However, to slip into a classic BYU cliche, we enter to learn but then go forth to serve. So after you leave the weekly BYU Amnesty meeting, what are you doing to promote human rights? Hopefully, a lot. Here's a few ideas to help ya out. More will be added, and we invite your ideas in the comments section too, so check back often!

  • Join and/or donate to Amnesty International. They also have a section of their website called Ways You Can Help that has some great ways to be involved in some international human rights issues.
  • America's a democracy, so act like it! Write or call your senator or congressperson and ask what they're doing to promote equality and fairness for all Americans, and for all humans for that matter!
  • Be a Pen Pal with a Death Row Inmate - If you'd like to learn more about what it's like to be on death row, why not write to someone who's there? The Jail Outreach organization can get you in touch with an inmate who you can write to. If you're interested, email Austin at biggins2 at gmail dot com with "Death Row Penpal" in the subject line and we'll get you set up.
  • Get a free bumper sticker that lets everyone know you're a Constitution voter. When people ask what that means, you can let them know about your beliefs in equal rights and human dignity; you know, the things our Constitution is supposed to protect.
  • Sign a petition to close down Guantanamo, the site of some of America's most egregious human rights abuses.
  • Letter to the editor - write in to your local paper. If you're a student at BYU, write to the Daily Universe at letters@byu.edu and let them know what you think about the human rights issue that you're most passionate about!
  • Talk to all of your friends and family about human rights issues and help them get educated about all the ways they can help too!
  • Save Darfur! - Check out the list of current initiatives that you can get involved in to help stop a genocide.
  • Keep your eyes open for events happening right here in Provo/Orem. For example, did you know UVU has an annual symposium discussing the death penalty? Or that BYU's rallies in support of the monks involved in last year's Saffron Revolution in Burma were some of the biggest on any college campus in America? We're not quite as out of the loop here as you might think!

Again, we'd love to hear your ideas, either here on the blog or at our weekly meetings (Wednesdays at 6:00 in 117 Kennedy Center).


Capital Punishment in America

Did you know: If you kill a white person, you're much more likely to be sentenced to death than if you kill a minority? In the last 30 years, 130 people have been cleared of wrongdoing while awaiting execution? That the United States executed more of its citizens in 2007 than every other country in the world except China, Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia? These are just a few of the facts we learned tonight at an eye-opening presentation and discussion on the topic of the Death Penalty as currently practiced in America.

We'll be including Brent's awesome slides that give some more info about capital punishment in the US as soon as we get them made available, but first, here's some stuff you can do to personally get involved and make a difference:

  • Troy Davis - Sentenced to death in Georgia for a crime he says he didn't commit. Convicted on very questionable evidence. 2 hours before he was to be put to death last Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution and is considering hearing his case. If not, he will likely be executed Monday. Hear his own words, sign Amnesty International's petition, and read more about the situation and other things you can do to help.
  • Be a Pen Pal with a Death Row Inmate - If you'd like to learn more about what it's like to be on death row, why not write to someone who's there? The Jail Outreach organization can get you in touch with an inmate who you can write to. If you're interested, email me at biggins2 at gmail dot com with "Death Row Penpal" in the subject line and we'll get you set up.
  • Attend the Fourth annual Symposium on Restorative Justice, Punishment, and the Death Penalty at UVU next Thursday, October 2nd. It's an all-day symposium, so you can take part in discussions and presentations throughout the day, but BYU Amnesty will be carpooling over for the keynote speaker, William Schabas, director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland. We'll be meeting at 6 oclock at BYU, stay tuned for details.
  • Letter to the editor - write in to your local paper. Write to the Daily Universe at letters@byu.edu and let them know what you think about Troy Davis, the death penalty, and/or the American justice system.

It was a great discussion, thanks to everyone who came, and we hope to see even more of you next week! And, as always, we welcome your thoughts and questions via the comments box below.


America's Use of Torture in the War on Terror

Thanks everybody for the great turnout, we had a lot of people and some thought-provoking discussion! I've posted a little embedded version of the powerpoint presentation I put together for it, so you can click through it right here:

Here on the blog is a great place to share that last thought you didn't have time to say at the meeting, a rebuttal to my horrible arguments, a dissertation on the moral/philosophical issues involved, or a link to a good resource. Just click on the link below to leave a comment and join in the discussion. Please respond to one or more of the following:
Do you feel that the interrogation techniques we're employing in the war on terror are torture? Which ones?
Do you think we are justified in our actions towards the prisoners we've captured?
What would you like to see BYU Amnesty do this semester to help promote dialogue, awareness, and understanding of this human rights issue?


Opening Social!

We had our opening social Thursday, and it was pretty awesome. Sure, the tech side of the meeting didn't come together so we ended up video-less, but that just means you can watch the introductory movie whenever you want and however many times you want here:

Carl Hoiland, our beloved club President, led us through an overview of what Amnesty International is and how we can learn more about the issues, engage in dialogue, and make a difference--all right here in Provo. Between munching on delicious fresh fruit and chips/salsa, we came up with topics that we all decided would be important to get involved with. They include, but are not limited to:

  • The War on Terror/Torture

  • Genocide (e.g. Darfur)

  • Domestic violence

  • The Death Penalty

  • Human trafficking

  • Child Soldiers

  • LGBT Rights

  • Euthanasia

And that's just what I could remember off the top of my head! The point is, there's a lot of human rights issues that need our attention and this semester is going to be an amazing opportunity to put charity into practice and make our world better.

So what do you think? What would you like to see the club doing this semester? Was the food okay? Do you know anybody who would be good to have come in and speak to the club? Leave a comment here on this post and let us know, because this is YOUR club!


Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore,

The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11
Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
Article 12
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Article 14
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 15
Everyone has the right to a nationality.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Article 16
Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Article 17
Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Article 21
Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Article 22
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Article 26
Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
Article 27
Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Article 28
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29
Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 30
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

From http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/index.htm