I Choose to Be a Radical, Unapologetic Human Rights Activist

by Gerry Carolina Rivadeneira, 2015 Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellow

GerryBlogPic3March 8, 2011. This was the day my activist self was born.

I remember it was a hot sunny day in the middle of Miami, Florida. I was standing on stage with a microphone in my hand and I told the crowd, “We are here for Women’s Rights! Women’s Rights here and worldwide!” The microphone became my tool for advocacy as I was standing there on top of the stage, rallying the participants before the 5k Walk 4 Women’s Rights began.

I felt so many emotions surging through my body as I rejoiced at the success of my first community awareness and fundraising event. These emotions came to life in front of my friends, teachers, and community partners. I had no idea one day I would be feeling these same emotions on stage standing next to the Kristof family as the 2015 Ladis Kristof Fellow. The Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellowship is awarded annually to a student activist for her or his outstanding efforts on behalf of human rights.

As an immigrant Latina, my experiences have shaped the values that call me to human rights activism. For my community, activism is a form of survival. I grew up with activism around me portrayed by the everyday resistance of the people in my immigrant community. But it was on March 8th of my junior year of high school that I was able to claim activism for myself.

Since that day, no one has been able to take the microphone of advocacy from my hand.

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Stop imminent execution of Saudi activist

Saudi Arabia is about to execute Ali al-Nimr, a young man arrested in 2012 for taking part in a demonstration when he was just 17 years old. Amnesty International confirmed that Ali al-Nimr and two other young Shi’a activists were moved to solitary confinement in al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh on October 5.

Ali was allegedly tortured. He has claimed that he signed a confession under duress, and was denied the right to a lawyer when charges were first brought against him. His lawyer was not informed of court hearings. The signed “confession” is the only evidence against him.

In sentencing Ali, a juvenile offender, to death, Saudi Arabia has violated its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans capital punishment for people under 18.

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Connecticut Supreme Court ruled death penalty as unconstitutional

Amnesty International USA
Press Release
August 13, 2015

Amnesty International USA Statement on Connecticut Supreme Court
Death Penalty Decision

Today, the Connecticut Supreme Court struck down exemptions to the state’s 2012 death penalty ban, which had excluded the 11 inmates currently on death row. In response, James Clark, Amnesty International USA’s senior campaigner on the death penalty, released the following statement:

“Today’s ruling that any use of the death penalty in Connecticut is unconstitutional brings the state closer in line with the majority of the country, which is abandoning the death penalty in law and in practice.

“It’s encouraging that the court determined that the death penalty fails to meet ‘contemporary standards of decency’ and serves no ‘legitimate penological purpose.’ Connecticut can now stand fully among the 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have abolished the death penalty.”

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US fails to meet international standards on the use of lethal force by police

Amnesty International USA
Press Release
June 18, 2015

Amnesty International Report Finds That All 50 States Fail to Meet International Standards on the Use of Lethal Force by Police

A new report by Amnesty International USA finds that all 50 states and the District of Columbia fail to comply with international standards on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers, which require that lethal force should only be used as a last resort when strictly necessary to protect themselves or others against imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Deadly Force: Police Use of Lethal Force in the United States calls for reform at the state and federal levels to ensure that laws are brought into line with international law and standards.

“Police have a fundamental obligation to protect human life. Deadly force must be reserved as a method of absolute last resort,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “The fact that absolutely no state laws conform to this standard is deeply disturbing and raises serious human rights concerns.

“Reform is needed and it is needed immediately. Lives are at stake.”

The report is based on a review of the use of force statutes within the United States. Amnesty International reviewed relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the Department of Justice guidelines on the use of deadly force, and available statistical data, including from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI Uniform Crime Reports.

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Saudi Arabia: Decision to uphold Raif Badawi sentence is a dark day for freedom of expression

Amnesty International
Press Release
June 7, 2015

The decision by the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia to uphold the sentence of the blogger Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes is a dark day for freedom of expression in the Kingdom, Amnesty International said.

“It is abhorrent that this cruel and unjust sentence has been upheld. Blogging is not a crime and Raif Badawi is being punished merely for daring to exercise his right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

“By failing to overturn the sentence Saudi Arabian authorities today have displayed a callous disregard to justice and to the tens of thousands of voices around the world calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Now that his sentence is final and cannot be revoked, his public flogging might start as soon as Friday and he will unjustly serve the remaining of his sentence. The court’s decision casts a further stain on Saudi Arabia’s already bleak human rights record.”

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