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Amnesty International UCD Writers’ Club – A Welcome

In the first of our series from the Amnesty International UCD Writers’ Club, Andrew McKeown looks at the commitment to activism that a humanitarian outlook requires

I sit here, at a nice cafe on a university campus, writing an article for a newspaper and I am truly thankful for it. I am grateful because it means that I am getting an education, I have money for a coffee, and my right to free speech is protected. There are millions in the world who are not so lucky.

Though this article will discuss human rights, I know that I can write about pretty much anything- music, the government, sex; and I am safe to do so. My government will not raid my house in the night, its agents will not torture me, and if I actually ever am charged with a crime, I have the right to be represented in a court, in front of a jury of my peers.

Human rights are intrinsic to a just society. And where they are threatened, we must fight for them, with shield in hand to defend our brothers and sisters from any tyrant who would deny them their fundamental rights.

Amnesty was founded in 1961, and its objective and goal is, according to its charter, “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.”

Governments around the world continue to violate the rights of their citizens, defying international law and human decency. To date, 155 countries have adopted the Convention against Torture (CAT), of which 79 still tortured people in 2014. And the number of countries that utilise torture is higher still; 32 UN countries still haven’t even adopted CAT yet.

It is up to us to fight for the oppressed. We must see it as our duty to help our international brothers and sisters, and to use our freedoms to bolster theirs. Amnesty International’s petitions and campaigns have helped thousands of people all around the globe, and you can make a difference.

A tyrant and his agents will be less likely to torture if he thinks his regime will suffer economically from it. We know that boycotting products from tyrannical regimes can, and does, make a difference.

For the victims of human rights offences, any life is better. Many escape from their countries in small over-packed fishing vessels or tug boats. An Amnesty International report stated this week that “more than 2,500 people have drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year trying to reach Europe”, citing data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

We cannot stand idly by while innocent people drown within sight of the coasts of free nations.

Amnesty International’s vision, entrenched in its charter, is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. It involves itself in the betterment of women’s, children’s, minorities’ and indigenous rights, the Ending of torture, the abolition of the death penalty, the rights of refugees, of prisoners of conscience and the protection of human dignity.

We must use our voice to speak for those who will not otherwise be heard. We must be as candle flickering in the darkness, and remember that our lifespan will not be shortened by lighting other candles. Where the enemies of humanity act, we must counteract. Because we can.