Amnesty holds vigil for victims

Where does one go to report a missing loved one in Juarez, Mexico? One can’t, and doesn’t, as Amnesty International (AI) shared with students at its Candlelight vigil last Monday.

“According to information received by Amnesty International, in the last 10 years, approximately 370 women have been murdered, at least 137 of which were sexually assaulted prior to death,” AI President, Kevin Semanick, senior finance and statistics major, said. “Furthermore, 75 bodies have still not been identified.”

The tribute to the women of Juarez, Mexico began in February with the Vagina Monologues, and continued to AI’s candlelight vigil on March 29 in front of Brower Student Center. Semanick led the group in a moment of silence, in commemoration of the lost and missing women of Juarez, before ending the candlelight vigil.

In a moving tribute to the missing and victimized women, Jessica Boston, acting treasurer for AI and sophomore psychology major, and Jeanette Franco, secretary and acting vice president and junior physical education major, read names of victims, before being assisted by other attendees of the vigil.

The candlelight vigil was supported with votive candles and Semanick took a moment to introduce the small group.

As a basic human rights group, AI serves to speak out for prisoners of conscience, who have been imprisoned because they spoke out against their individual governments, Semanick said. AI will not take on any cases where the prisoner of conscience protested in a non-peaceful form.

AI has maintained a status of being politically neutral to ensure that the human rights campaign will be the most important issue it tackles as an organization.

However, membership has become a setback to the organization, due to the lack of core group members that are consistently involved with AI.

Semanick said that if the organization could tap into the resources of various community service organizations membership would increase.

“That’s what makes Greek life so effective,” Semanick said.

Future events and campaigns are decided between the group members in a relatively democratic process. If enough interest is shown in a particular campaign, AI chooses to adopt that campaign.

In the past, AI has organized events such as letter writing campaigns, coffeehouses and tabling at this year’s Vagina Monologues.

Semanick said it is difficult to be an effective organization due to the low number of members.

However, AI’s letter writing campaign on National Coming Out Day on the behalf of Egyptian homosexuals who were imprisoned for being open about their sexual preference received a great turnout.

A coffeehouse held in the beginning of December increased member turnout and enabled AI to show students unfamiliar with the organization a video that showed exactly what AI does.

Semanick said he would like the organization to keep growing. “With growth, hopefully (AI would) be able to do more and more that benefited human rights around the world,” he said.