Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does writing letters really help?
Absolutely! It must be hard to believe that one person writing a letter would make a difference, but remember that a million letters asking for the release of a prisoner of conscience is powerful. A million letters asking to stop the use of torture will make a difference. One voice joined with millions of other voices is very loud and persuasive. Letter writing is now electronic and very swift to respond.
Amnesty members who have written letters have aided in the release of countless prisoners of conscience, and have ensured the fair treatment of prisoners. In 2006 alone:
Guatemalan mayor Dominga Vasquez stopped receiving death threats;
Prisoners of conscience were released including:
Christian evangelical singer Helen Berhane in Eritrea;
Majda Mostaf Mahir in Saudi Arabia;
Jennifer Latheef in the Maldives;
Annette Auguste in Haiti;
Marcelino and Leonardo Miranda in Honduras;
Weja Chicampo in Equatorial Guinea;
Gurbandury Durdykuliev in Turkmenistan; and
Murat Kurnaz from Guantanamo Bay.
2. Do I have to pay a membership fee to be involved?
No. You can be a member of an Amnesty International Action Circle without paying a membership fee. However, remember that Amnesty International operates solely through donations, and receives no government funding. (This is important in order that it can remain independent and impartial.) Therefore, your financial contribution, in the form of a membership fee or donation, helps Amnesty International continue its important work. Donations are tax deductible.
3. If I want to join, how much is a membership?
A membership is a minimum of $35 per year, which includes a subscription to The Activist, and voting privileges at the Annual General Meeting. Low-income members and students are requested to contribute $15 per year.
4. How do I start working on human rights cases?
It’s easy! You can attend a meeting of an Amnesty International Action Circle. Alternatively, you can visit the website at www.amnesty.ca and choose an action appeal to work on. Alternatively, you can work on an action appeal provided your current copy of The Activist.
5. What should I say in a letter?
Read the instructions provided by Amnesty International for each case. Every case has been well researched, and the appropriate request for action is described. Make sure you write a polite, brief letter. Say who you are and state the basic facts of the case. Then make the request asked for by Amnesty International. Finally, ask for a reply to your letter. It is best to hand write the letter. You may then fax or mail the letter.
6. What opportunities are there for youth?
Lots! Amnesty International runs a Human Rights College every summer, for which sponsorship is available. There are a limited number of internships available for students at the head office in Ottawa each year. Amnesty International has a special Youth Program, which supports school and other youth groups, and Youth Campaigners who provide support to youth groups.
7. Do Amnesty International members do anything besides write letters?
Yes. They can attend training sessions for youth and fieldworkers, participate in fundraising events such as A Taste for Justice; take part in actions such as the Close Guantanamo Days of Action; work on specific campaigns on issues such as the Stolen Sisters campaign; and hold public awareness events such as movie nights with guest speakers. It is up to each local group to decide what direction they want to take within the framework of Amnesty International: a letter-writing circle, which works on urgent action appeals or on a specific country or prisoner’s case, a monthly meeting with a guest speaker, or a rally with street theatre.