Amnesty puts the spotlight on torture

By Kris Kotarski

It has been almost 40 years since British lawyer Peter Beneson started the entity known today known as Amnesty International. What began in 1961 has now grown to massive proportions, with over one million activists in over 150 countries. The organization received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, and continues to raise awareness of humanitarian issues around the globe. There are over 60,000 Canadian AI members, several of them right here on campus at the University of Calgary. The U of C chapter has been around for five years and last week in MacEwan Hall they kicked off their portion of AI’s worldwide campaign to stop torture.

"This year the focus is on torture in general, and all the aspects of torture, whether [it’s] rape, sexual abuse, or being beaten," said Anita Singh, communications director for the campus chapter. "We’re trying to focus on the faces of torture, and basically try to personify torture."

One of the main goals of the campaign is to raise the level of awareness about torture and the campaign so far is a huge success.

"We’ve had a lot of media coverage, and if our main focus is awareness, then I think we’re doing an awesome job," Singh remarked.

"Across Canada it’s going quite well," added Amnesty’s Vice-president Events Misha Fox.

Even though there have been organizational problems for the campus chapter because of the SU’s decision to move clubs like Amnesty from old Mac Hall, the campaign has been well advertised and well planned.

"Half of our stuff is scattered around campus," said Fox. "But we’ve done the best we could and [the campaign] has turned out alright."

The group is looking to run another campaign very soon. This one will be a special action plan given to the group by the AI secretariat in Ottawa.

"We’re one of the longer running organizations on campus," said Singh. "We’re the only student group in Canada with a long-term action plan. Since we have been so consistent they’ve decided that we’re worthy of the action plan."

"A student in Myanmar was protesting against the government and he’s a prisoner at the moment and he’s been tortured as well so we’re trying to put the focus on him," continued Singh. "We decided we’d take a student because it’s someone who is closer to our own age and our situation. We had, for example in Speaker’s Corner, people speaking out against the government. If this was happening in Myanmar, we might be in the same situation as our long-term action plan."

Emily Greer, a fifth-year international relations student was very impressed with the campaign on campus.

"I am really interested in AI and I think they do a lot of good work," she said. "Promoting human rights and trying to minimize degradation of anyone in the world should be supported."

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