New Jersey Amnesty International Chapter Puts US Drug Policy on International Human Rights Group's Agenda 11/2/01

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Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org), the London-based international human rights defense organization, has for years taken strong and principled stands against human rights abuses in places such as Colombia, where US drug policy helps fuel the fires of war and atrocity, as well as the United States, where the organization condemns US prisons -- full of nonviolent drug law violators -- and the application of the death penalty. But while Amnesty has contended with and condemned the results of the US holy war against drugs, the million-member organization with chapters in 162 countries has never directly focused on US drug policy in itself as a fount of human rights abuses.

Until now. In a move designed to force the organization to confront the relationship between US drug policy and inhumane practices, the Cape May County (New Jersey) Group #543 of AI's US affiliate has introduced a resolution calling on AI to "immediately recognize the correlation between this [drug] war and human rights and environmental abuses, within and outside the USA." The resolution further calls on Amnesty to appoint a research team to investigate such abuses and for Amnesty to act on the drug front "immediately."

Georgina Stanley, coordinator of the Cape May Amnesty group for the past decade, authored the resolution. "Amnesty International is like a big lumbering bear," she told DRCNet. "The organization has its mandates -- freedom for prisoners of conscience, fair and prompt trials for political prisoners, abolish the death penalty, prison conditions, and extrajudicial executions and 'disappearances' -- and many of our diehard people simply follow the mandates. But with this resolution, we want to push the envelope," she said.

"Our mandates are all deeply affected by the drug war," said Stanley, "but Amnesty hasn't made the formal connection. By making that connection, Amnesty can focus on the human rights abuses on a massive scale that flow from US drug policy. It isn't just poor peasants in Colombia being tortured and murdered with American equipment and American money," said Stanley. "There are also extrajudicial killings right here -- just look at Patrick Dorismond or the people at Rainbow Farm. And we are saying enough already."

The Cape May group has won approval to place the resolution for a vote before AI's Northeast US Regional Conference, set for this weekend at Columbia University in Manhattan. If the resolution passes at the regional conference, it then becomes part of a packet of resolutions to be voted on at Amnesty's annual general meeting, scheduled for Seattle next April. But according to Amnesty's Northeast US regional director, Josh Rubinstein, even if the resolution then passes at the national meeting, the US section's board of directors can still block its implementation.

"There are some provisions for the board of directors to raise objections," Rubinstein told DRCNet, "but if the board chooses not to implement a resolution, it must explain its reasons to the membership."

"We think the resolution will pass," Stanley replied. "It has generated excitement from coast to coast. Some members of the strategic planning committee say drug policy should be a long-term concern, but I say that is bullshit. We are in crisis now with this drug war. Some argue that going after the drug war could adversely affect our human rights and environmental programs, but I say the drug war must end, and if that means changing our mandate, then let's go for it."

Getting Amnesty behind the effort to end the drug war could bring a valuable ally to the reformers' cause, Stanley told DRCNet. "If we succeed in getting the drug war into Amnesty's core mandates, it means we can mobilize our million members worldwide, we can start Amnesty campaigns to influence policy makers and public officials. AI has powerful resources that we can mobilize, and I believe that Amnesty itself could benefit from bringing in new people ready to work with us on this, people like the November Coalition and FAMM, for instance."

Stanley is aiming beyond the US as well. "We are trying to get international support for this resolution," she told DRCNet. "We hope this theme of human rights abuses as part of the drug war will become part of an international campaign supported by the international secretariat in London. We want to get this into the next integrated strategic plan for the international secretariat, not just for our next two-year US plan," she said.

"I never wanted to get into this drug business because it's too hard, too complex," said the Irish-born activist, "but now I'm in the belly of the beast. This resolution is for the kids, the kids in Colombia, the kids standing on dead-end corners here, the kids rotting for years in prisons. Martin Luther King talked about the appalling silence of the good people. That appalling silence has to stop."

DRCNet will report back with updates on the resolution's progress -- one more facet of the drug reform agenda's necessary long march through society's institutions.

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Issue #209, 11/2/01 Editorial: Lessons Not Learned | Medical Marijuana Armageddon: Feds Declare War on California Buyers Clubs | Drug War Prisoner Given Solitary Confinement for Terror War Thought Crime | British Police Ask for Ecstasy Penalties to be Reduced as Drug War Collapse Continues | Colombia: Ambassador Patterson and Senator Graham Play the Terrorism Card | Border Smuggling Resumes After Temporary Post-September 11th Lull | New Jersey Amnesty International Chapter Puts US Drug Policy on International Human Rights Group's Agenda | Arkansas Drug Reformers on the Move -- Poll Shows Support for Medical Marijuana | Chapare, Bolivia: Increased Militarization Heightens Tensions in Coca-Growing Region | Stop the Presses: Casual Drug Users Have, Keep Jobs, Study Finds | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Drug Czar Nomination, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar

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