'A small gesture can have a huge impact' said Amnesty as it launched its Greeting Card Campaign

Amnesty International has launched its annual Greetings Card Campaign, encouraging people across the UK to send a message of hope and solidarity to those facing persecution, torture and other human rights abuses around the world.

The campaign provides moral support for people who are in danger or unjustly imprisoned and it can strengthen and empower people as they confront human rights violations, letting them know that others are standing with them.

It also sends a powerful message to the authorities. Some of those featured in previous campaigns have seen their circumstances improve, and have even used the cards to further their own campaign work.

The family of 19-year-old law student Claudina Velásquez, who was murdered in Guatemala in August 2005, featured in last year’s campaign and received almost 20,000 cards. These cards have helped the family to apply pressure to the authorities to investigate Claudina’s case, as well as keeping it in the public eye.

Claudina’s father, Jorge Velásquez, said: “I think it's really important that each and every one of the people who sent us a card know how successful it's been, and how grateful we are”.

However, the initial investigation into Claudina’s murder was seriously flawed and her killers have still not been brought to justice. You can continue to send messages to Claudina’s family through this year’s campaign, showing support as they continue to press for justice.

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston who was kidnapped earlier this year and held for 114 days in the Gaza Strip, has also expressed his support for the Greetings Card Campaign, acknowledging the importance of a message of support and solidarity.

Alan said: "When you're unjustly imprisoned it's easy to fear that you'll be forgotten – that you'll be left, almost buried alive, and that the world will move on without you. But I was very lucky.

“I managed to get hold of a radio, and I heard that friends and colleagues and many, many strangers were supporting the campaign to free me. It was a tremendously important psychological boost during what were the hardest days of my life.

“Amnesty’s Greetings Card Campaign offers the same opportunity for individuals to stand together with those confronting oppression across the globe.

“It doesn't take much, but it can make a massive difference. A card can give hope to the individual concerned and it says to the authorities that the world is watching."

Those featured in this year’s campaign include Abu Omar, an Egyptian national with Italian residency who was subject to “extraordinary rendition,” having been abducted from a Milan street and flown from Italy to Cairo in Egypt where he was secretly detained for 14 months and allegedly tortured. Although later released, Abu Omar has been forbidden to leave the Egyptian city of Alexandria.

Three teenagers from Azerbaijan – Ruslan Bessonov, Maksim Genashilkin and Dmitri Pavlov – who were imprisoned after an unfair trial and are at risk of torture – are also featured in this year’s campaign.

Previous Greetings Card Campaigns over recent years have been extremely successful, providing hope and solidarity to those featured. For example:

Two Algerian lawyers – Hassiba Boumerdesi and Amine Sidhoum – were featured in last year’s campaign when they faced trumped-up charges which Amnesty International believed were intended to intimidate them and discourage them from carrying out their human rights work.

Hassiba Boumerdesi told Amnesty International: “I would like to thank you again for the wonderful work you have done to support us. The fact that I receive cards daily is the proof of the great mobilisation of many persons by Amnesty International. You had an important role in this. Each time I read a message I thank you.” Both lawyers were acquitted of all charges in this case.

There has also been good news reported in some other cases featured in last year’s campaign:

Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, an Ethiopian human rights activist and retired geography professor who Amnesty believed was being held for peacefully expressing his opinion, was released from prison earlier this year. The 77-year-old professor had been detained since November 2005 in connection with demonstrations against alleged fraud in the 2005 Ethiopia elections. On 16 July this year, Professor Mesfin was sentenced to life imprisonment, but just four days later he was among 38 people to be granted a presidential pardon.

Manager of Amnesty International UK’s Individuals at Risk programme, James Savage said: “This small gesture can have a huge impact on people’s lives. Those who receive these cards and messages tell Amnesty just how encouraging and helpful it was for them to receive these cards.

“By simply sending a card you can take an action that is both symbolic and meaningful. It motivates activists in other countries and reminds them that there are others around the world who support their work.”

Notes to the editor
A comprehensive summary of the people and groups featured in this year’s Campaign is available at www.amnesty.org.uk/gcc

The campaign runs until 31 January 2008. Amnesty will continue to campaign on behalf of the individuals featured beyond this date and encourage people in the UK to do so.

Photographs and interviews with some of the cases featured are available on request.

  • find out more about this year's Greetings Card Campaign /li>

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