Canadians join global network to save lives through letters
Photo caption: Professor Luiz Rossi, subject of Amnesty International's first ever Urgent Action appeal, later thanked Amnesty members for taking action to protect him from torture.
(NC)—“Please act as quickly as possible. This may be crucial in locating Professor Rossi, or even in helping to save his life. Others have disappeared in this manner, and never been found again…We must do all we can to prevent another similar case.”
Those were the closing words of a brief but urgent message received by Amnesty International supporters on March 19, 1973. It was the organization's first-ever Urgent Action appeal, issued on behalf of Professor Luiz Basilio Rossi, who was abducted in São Paulo, Brazil, by the military in the middle of the night, put in prison and tortured. He would have almost certainly been killed if Amnesty members had not taken action to save him.
“I am an example of your success and a symbol of the importance of continuing your work,” Professor Rossi later told those members. Since that first appeal on behalf of Professor Rossi, many thousands of other appeals have been issued.
Amnesty campaigns in many ways, but when the immediate safety of someone is at risk, the method of choice is the Urgent Action Network (UAN). UAN members stand by ready to send urgent faxes, letters and emails to authorities around the world for individuals at risk of abuses like torture, imminent execution or unlawful arrest.
Urgent Actions are distributed to offices worldwide, including Canada. The national Amnesty offices then forward the cases to individual members who send appeals by the fastest means possible. There are more than 70,000 UAN members representing 80 countries and each case can generate between 3,000 and 5,000 appeals.
In Canada, the UAN's 1,300 members play a major part in the worldwide network (information is available at email@example.com). Members live all over Canada, from downtown Montreal to small town Alberta. Most UAN participants are individuals like you—people who sit at their kitchen table to handwrite their letters, or who use their workplace computers at lunch time. Community groups, religious groups and student groups are also active participants.
Canada's network is one of the most 'wired' in the world. At least 90% of members here receive their cases via email. These same individuals then fax or mail off their letters within hours. This speed is critical when it can mean the difference between life and death.
Often, the knowledge that someone cares helps to sustain the families and friends of victims of human rights abuses. The wife of Luiz Basilio Rossi said: “We were heartened to know that people outside Brazil knew what was going on, that they cared, and that they were prepared to do something about it. It gave us great comfort and hope.”
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