NEW YORK - March 14 - Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) members, staff and activists from across the country will tackle some of the most pressing human rights issues facing the world today at the organization's 2007 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Milwaukee from March 23-25. The conference, celebrating "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Change," begins with a rally for Darfur on Friday, March 23.
"The AGM brings together the lifeblood of the movement -- the activists who take on global human rights abuses every day," said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. "There are victories to celebrate, but as long as there is still rape and killing in Darfur, there is much more work to do. As long as the U.S. government continues to violate a broad range of rights in the war on terror, the human rights movement will fight back. And as long as many women face daily violence and governments across the world hold political prisoners, we will continue campaigning to end human suffering."
Members of the public are invited to attend the conference, held at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center; the weekend-long program includes workshops and plenary panels on topics such as the international causes of poverty in Haiti and the worldwide movement to abolish the death penalty. Registration is $100 for the weekend or $30 for Saturday.
In choosing Milwaukee, AIUSA is celebrating the city’s and Wisconsin's legacy of social justice. In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state in the country to amend its state human rights statute to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The state has been death-penalty-free for more than 150 years. Milwaukee is home to AIUSA Group 106 -- which has been meeting for more than 25 years. There are also four high school AIUSA groups and one university group in Milwaukee.
The conference kicks off at 4 pm on Friday, March 23, with a rally at Milwaukee's Pere Marquette Park to call for greater U.S. and international action to stop the killings in Darfur, Sudan. Amnesty International is campaigning for the United States, China and other nations to further pressure Sudan to admit U.N. peacekeepers.
The conference's first plenary, at 7:30 pm on March 23, will feature:
- Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA, will speak about the organization's campaign on economic, social and cultural rights.
- Lydia Cacho, a Mexican journalist and human rights activist, who will be presented with AIUSA's 13th annual Ginetta Sagan Fund award. Cacho founded and directs the Refuge Center for Abused Women of Cancun, which provides assistance to women and girls who have experienced violence. Because of her work, she faces threats and danger on a daily basis.
- Professor Carol Anderson, author of a forthcoming book uncovering the role of the African-American political center and its decades-long fight for the political and economic liberation of peoples of color in Africa and Asia.
The focus plenary, at 11 am on Saturday, March 24, will include:
- U.S. Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) will speak about U.S. human rights violations in the context of the war on terror and about the ongoing crisis in Darfur.
- Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an intellectual freedom advocate in Egypt who founded the Ibn Khaldun Center for Developmental Studies, an organization that promotes human rights and democracy.
- Jennifer Latheef, an opposition political activist in the Maldives who was detained following a peaceful protest in 2003. Amnesty International considered her to be a "prisoner of conscience" and campaigned for her release, which occurred in 2006.
- Neal Katyal (appearing by video) and Lt. Commander Charles Swift will be honored for their work as human rights defenders. Katyal and Swift are attorneys for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Guantanamo detainee who challenged the Bush administration's military commissions. The Supreme Court struck down the commissions, holding that they violated U.S. military law and international law.
As part of the conference, legendary slam poetry artist and comedian Big Poppa E will emcee Slamming for Human Rights on the evening of March 24. Big Poppa E combines poetry, stand-up comedy and dramatic monologue; he has headlined in more than 200 showcases nationwide. Bruce George will be featured as the guest celebrity judge. George is co-founder of the award winning and critically acclaimed Def Poetry Jam and the 2003 Tony Award winner for "Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway;" he serves as the executive consultant for Jessie Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The event begins at 8:30 pm at 2040 Lofts, at 2040 W. Wisconsin Ave.
The conference's workshops, primarily on March 24, cover a wide range of topics such as child soldiers and the abolition of the death penalty. One workshop will give context to the United States' condoning of torture by examining the history of the practice.
Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement that promotes and defends all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has more than 360,000 members in the United Stated and more than 2.2 million members and supporters worldwide.