Campus human-rights activists focus efforts on children’s issues

This year’s Amnesty International student group is focusing its efforts on children’s rights in order to show students the significance of the organization.

The 25-member association wants to clarify the purpose of Amnesty International in the minds of U students and to maximize its efforts, said the U’s Amnesty International President Eric Peterson, a senior in political science and communication.

“We are trying to attack one problem at a time and raise consciousness almost with redundancy,” Peterson said. “We want to show concrete steps for people to take in order to help because a lot of students want to help but aren’t sure how to.”

This year, the club received $700 from the Associated Students of the University of Utah and plans on using the money for child-advocate speakers, advertising and free documentary showings in the Union.

In October, Amnesty International showed the documentary “Born Into Brothels” about the children of prostitutes in India.

In February, a free screening of a film by Trent Harris and philosophy Professor Deen Chatterjiee will be shown.

The documentary deals with child soldiers in Sierra Leone, said Jerliyn Kuhre, instructor in the languages and literature department and academic adviser to the U’s Amnesty International.

Katie Lee, a sophomore in history and international relations, said she joined the Amnesty International club “because I was in my high school’s Amnesty club and really enjoyed it. The U’s club has really met my expectations, and I feel that I can reach more people through the club here.”

Ethan Finley, a senior in Spanish, said he joined because Amnesty International is the best known international human rights organization.

“I really like the children’s rights focus because I think it will raise the profile of the group, and I really want to make campus aware of the human rights violations that go on every day, even in the U.S., because most students on campus don’t know,” he said.

Amnesty International was originally started when a U.S. attorney became aware of journalists being jailed in their own countries for reporting the truth.

He attempted to free them and was met with strong resistance from the governments in question.

“Amnesty International was founded to appeal for amnesty on behalf of several prisoners of conscience,” Kuhre said.

Today, Amnesty International’s mandate has expanded to include many other forms of human rights, but “prisoners of conscience” still remain a priority in the mandate and a permanent issue of advocacy, she said.

If you are interested in joining the group or receiving further information, you can e-mail the club at [email protected] or visit the group’s Web site at www.ustudents.net/amnesty.

[email protected]