Fighting, and Writing, for Human Rights

By Maya Delany, Sara Martinez Arango, and Josepha Damoiseau

Amnesty International is a global movement of over 7 million members who fight tirelessly for individuals to enjoy their human rights in a world free of injustice. The movement began when British lawyer, Peter Benenson, wrote a newspaper article criticizing the jailing of two Portuguese students after simply raising a toast to freedom. His article spread worldwide, calling individuals to unite and address human rights abuses, bring torturers to justice, change oppressive laws, and free people jailed just for voicing their opinion. Amnesty International is independent of any political ideology, economic interest or religion, investigates and exposes the facts, whenever and wherever abuses happen. Amnesty International tells powerful stories of human rights abuses to mobilize millions of members and supporters around the world to lobby governments and other powerful groups to make sure that they uphold promises and respect international law. The impact of Amnesty International’s activists on human rights abuses is illustrated by the story of Moses Akatugba.

Moses Akatugba was arrested by the Nigerian authorities in 2005 for armed robbery, a crime that he says he did not commit. Akatugba stated that he had been shot in the hand, beaten with machetes and batons, was tied and hung upside down for hours, and had his finger and toe nails pulled out with pliers. This torture continued for eight years until he produced a confession. In November of 2013, he was then sentenced to death by hanging. Moses Akatugba’s case became part of Amnesty International’s Stop Torture Campaign and was chosen as one of the organization’s cases for the annual Write for Rights event in 2014, in which the Amnesty International chapters around the world dedicate the month of December to writing letters for selected cases. The actions taken by activists worldwide collectively denounce the human rights violations of detention without charge or trial, ongoing torture, an unfair trial, and the death penalty. On May 28, 2015, Governor Emmanuel Eduaghan of Delta State granted Moses a total pardon. After hearing the news, Moses Akatugba told Amnesty International:

“I am overwhelmed. I thank Amnesty International and their activists for the great support that made me a conqueror in this situation. Amnesty International members and activists are my Heroes. I want to assure them, that this great effort they have shown to me will not be in vain, by the special grace of God I will live up to their expectation. I promise to be a Human Rights Activist, to fight for others.”

The total pardon for Moses Akatugba was a tremendous victory for human rights around the world and the fight against injustice. However, the work is not nearly done; Moses Akatugba was just one of many individuals that needed attention, and Amnesty International is alerted of new cases every day. The organization relies heavily on its membership and consistent support in order to continue its push for positive social change. If you are interested in receiving updates on Amnesty International’s campaigns, reports, and victories, we encourage you to become a member. Additionally, you are invited to join Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights event in December to show that your individual letters, alongside hundreds of thousands of others, really do have the power to change lives, just as they did for Moses Akatugba.

If changing lives through letter writing is something you would like to do year-round, check out our Individuals at Risk page for information on individual cases and sign up for our Urgent Action Network to hear about, and take action on, real-time human rights abuses around the world. 

To donate to Amnesty International, follow the link provided and click on Add to My Donation Basket, or use the code 722588 on your paper pledge form.