By Dan Johnson, Group 48 Legislative Coordinator*
The past few weeks have resulted in two excellent opportunities for Oregonians to take action on human rights. The causes are compelling, and we know that our elected officials will listen. To those of you who have participated in the past, it would be wonderful to have your assistance again in these campaigns. To those of you who have never been involved in legislative action, this is a wonderful opportunity to get your feet wet!
Counter Terror with Justice
As many of you are aware, Amnesty International has been working constantly to halt the human rights abuses committed in the United States of America as a result of the War on Terror. The shift in national policy to disregard international treaties, fundamental human rights, and basic human decency inspired a wave of emotions and constant campaigns. We worked to guarantee lawful treatment of detainees, the cessation of extraordinary rendition, the defense of habeas corpus, and the release of those detained without charge.
Near the end of last summer, we arranged a meeting between Geneve Mantri, AIUSA’s director of the Counter Terror With Justice campaign, and Senator Ron Wyden’s staff members in Washington DC. This meeting came as a result of our visit with Senator Wyden’s local office, and as local members, we were invited to attend via teleconference. The staff spoke in agreement with the need to close Guantanamo and to respect the basic rights of detainees. There was excellent dialogue when Mantri mentioned that going forward, we must have transparency into the policies that resulted in the events of the past 8 years to know how these things happened, so we can insure that they don’t happen so easily ever again.
Tell our Senators and Members of Congress to Demand Accountability
The idea of learning from our mistakes has blossomed on Capitol Hill, and a hearing was held recently in the Senate Judiciary Committee to explore a non-partisan, independent commission that would investigate what went wrong. Momentum is building. Our local leaders are interested in what we have to say. Now is the time to work to maintain that momentum. We need to show that, as citizens, we too want to know what went wrong. We too want to know what needs to be done to prevent such abuse in the future. We need to encourage our leaders to push for this investigation, to reveal the truth, and to rebuild our commitment to human rights. The more visits we can stage, the stronger our voice is. Amnesty International members will be meeting with Senate and Congressional offices across the nation during the weeks of April 6th and 13th. Sign up to lead a local delegation today!
Defend Women’s Rights
The second opportunity for Oregonians to take action revolves around defending the human rights of women worldwide. Last year, during office visits in Washington DC and lobbying throughout the state, we successfully lobbied Gordon Smith to become one of the few Republican co-sponsors of the International Violence Against Women Act. Unfortunately, the bill was not passed last year. It needs to be re-introduced during this session and it has a sister bill designed to defend Native American women. Members in other states will be working to develop a bi-partisan coalition to pass both of these bills.
Support the Tribal Law and Order Act
Here in Oregon, our focus is on building support for the Tribal Law and Order Act. Native American women are more than two and a half times more likely to be raped in their lifetime than other women in the USA. Additionally, the perpetrators are less likely to receive justice in these cases. This act will:
- Provide for the establishment of a commission known as the Indian Law and Order Commission to conduct a comprehensive study of law enforcement and criminal justice in tribal communities;
- Provide for the establishment of a Tribal Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from Indian Tribes to serve as an advisory body to the Commission;
- Provide technical assistance and training to tribal law enforcement officials to gain access and input authority to utilize the National Criminal Information Center database;
- Collect, analyze, and report data regarding Indian Country crimes on an annual basis;
- Submit to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs a detailed spending report regarding tribal public safety.
This act was developed in a collaborative effort by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in consultation with tribal leaders, non-governmental organizations, and advocates on violent crime in Indian Country.
All we need to get this rolling are phone calls right now. There will likely be lobbying visits in the future, but right now we just need phone calls. Visit this link where you will find a list of phone numbers of our Senators and the talking points to ask the Senators to help stop violence against women.
Let Our Voices Be Heard
The more visits and phone calls we make, the louder our voice is. We need to make sure that human rights are a priority in the upcoming legislative session. We need to make sure our presence in legislative offices throughout Oregon continues, and that our elected officials are listening to their constituents.
* If you want to get in touch with Dan, please use the Contact page of this website.