December 7, 2016

Amnesty writes for rights of prisoners

On Thursday, December 10th, the Webster University Amnesty International chapter held its annual Write for Rights in the UC Conference Room. At this event, Webster students gathered to write letters on behalf of prisoners and those suffering injustice around the world, from El Salvador to Louisiana.

Webster’s Amnesty chapter took on six different cases for this event. One case file, Teodoro Del Carmen Vasquez, displays the atrocities faced by women without proper access to healthcare and reproductive rights in El Salvador. In 2008, Teodora was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide” after suffering a stillbirth.

“Strict abortion laws in El Salvador result in imprisonment for any woman experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth,” Webster senior and Amnesty member Natalia Rubira said. “They are automatically suspected of abortion.”

Rubira said fear of such ramifications keeps women from seeking necessary medical care.

Rubira said women with cases like Teodoro Del Carmen Vasquez’s often fall through the cracks of local government. Without the advocacy of free individuals around the world, women like Teodoro remain voiceless.

Though a letter may seem inconsequential in the face of such systemic injustice, Rubira said the attention garnered by Amnesty International, “reminds governments that the world is watching and sees their abuse.” According to Rubira, such monitoring often results in improved conditions for prisoners taken on by Amnesty.

Amnesty holds governments accountable to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Drafted by representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed this document as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations in 1948.

Some basic tenets of the UDHR include the belief that all human beings are born free with equal rights, that all people deserve liberty and security, and that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

Webster’s Amnesty chapter gathers every Thursday at 3:15 in Sam Priest House, where students come for open discussion and letter writing, united by their passion for advocacy and human rights.

Amnesty works to free political prisoners jailed for non-violent expressions of their beliefs, promotes women’s rights, fights to end torture, and promotes human dignity by ensuring access to economic stability,

British lawyer and Amnesty International founder Peter Benson was spurred toward action when two Portuguese students were jailed for raising a toast to freedom. In his anger at this injustice, he composed an article for The Observer that garnered a worldwide response. His article gave rise to a movement from which Amnesty International was born.

According to Rubira, Amnesty creates a sense of belonging on campus and provides an outlet for the desire to see justice and hope defeat abuse.

“Amnesty is built on the belief that individuals can make a difference,” Rubira said. “Your voice matters.”

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