Largest Human Rights Organization of the world turns 50: Renews Commitment to Freedom and Justice

Amnesty International Press Release

28 May 2011

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL is 50 years old. Amnesty International members in the Philippines will join the Global Call to Action to tip the scales against repression and injustice, with a Toast to Freedom on May 28, 2011, as it commemorates its 50th anniversary. Toasts to Freedom will be held in dozens of countries all over the world. In the Philippines, simultaneous toasts cum concerts will be held in Luneta Park (NCR), Quezon Park Ball Field (Dumaguerte City) and Tetuan Plaza (Zamboanga City). Members of Amnesty International will also hold simple gatherings in ious places in the country. Dr. Aurora Parong, Director of Amnesty International Philippines said, “We will join more than 3 million members and supporters all over the world for the Toast to Freedom and will take action to tip the scales against human rights violations and for justice to prevail. In our 50 years of existence, we have seen that ordinary people, even through simple letter writing, can help change the world and make a difference in people’s lives. What matters are strong commitment and persistent actions for human dignity.” “We are renewing our commitment to act for human rights in ious forms – from letter writing to online petitions, facebook, twitter and whatever action is necessary to reject human rights abuse and promote human rights, “ said Mr. Ritzlee Santos, Chairperson of the Board of Amnesty International Philippines. The 50th anniversary of the largest human rights organization of the world comes at a time when peoples in different countries of the world experience repression and injustice and continue to struggle for freedom from fear and want . Amnesty International recently launched its Annual Report on Human Rights 2011 2 weeks ago and stated that in many parts of the world, millions of people do not have the right to free speech; people live in fear due to torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances; whole communities have been profoundly affected by greed, their lands poisoned or taken from them by big corporations and government neglect. The human rights watchdog noted that in 2010, there were : Unlawful restrictions of freedom of expression in 89 countries; Torture occurs in 98 countries; Unfair trials in 54 countries and Prisoners of conscience in 48 countries. “Amnesty International first made its presence here in the Philippines during martial law. During those dark days of our nation, the Amnesty candle shone in many prison cells where political opposition to the dictatorship suffered torture and inhumane treatment. Amnesty International members from Norway, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands wrote letters to the political detainees and their families to tell them that they are not alone and they have concerned citizens of other nations watching and monitoring their cases. Bags and bags of letters were sent to government officials including Marcos to call for the release of prisoners of conscience. In the 80’s, I remember hundreds of letters from the Netherlands sent to prisoners of conscience in a detention center in Nueva Vizcaya. These letters boost the morale of the detainees, especially those who had been jailed for a long time, and made the soldiers in the detention camp improve their treatment of the detainees, “ shared Director Parong, who was also a political detainee during martial law. “ Letter writing for prisoners of conscience in the Philippines started in 1984, when Amnesty International worked for the release of 50 political prisoners, many of whom were trade union leaders, including the late Congressman Crispin Beltran. Letter writing continues until now. Last year, we are happy to have helped in the release of Nobel Peace awardee Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar – it took years of action to achieve her release from house arrest. And members find joy when we are able to get somebody out of prison,” added Mr. Santos. Amnesty International helped in disseminating information on human rights in ious parts of the world. It has encouraged millions of peoples to take action for human dignity. “Five decades of campaigning for human rights has led to, among others, the release of tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience. We helped make torturers international outlaws through our leading support for the establishment of the 1984 Convention against Torture. We helped end the untouchable status of powerful leaders who commit the most horrific crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by offering key support to the establishment and effective working of the International Criminal Court (ICC). We helped push 87 governments to abolish the death penalty. Together we contributed to efforts to stop the irresponsible trade in arms, munitions and equipment that inflicts misery and carnage on hundreds of thousands of people every year and. And together, we helped push human rights up in the political agenda in many countries and within some corporations,”narrated Dr. Parong. Amnesty International notes that despite the repression and injustice, a human rights revolution exists – people are overcoming fear and suppression of their rights and taking action to defend human rights. “We honor the human rights defenders in the Philippines and ious parts of the world who have the courage and determination to face risks to assert human dignity. Today, we ask each one again to renew commitment to human rights actions, not only for peoples in the Philippines but everywhere. We need to take solidarity action and stand together for human rights”, concluded Mr. Santos. Dr. Parong finally made an appeal, “Join us, take action and let us change minds, policies and the world. Let us make governments, armed groups and corporations accountable for human rights abuse. Let us take action to realize a world where every person enjoys the human rights embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

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