AIUSA Regional in San Francisco

So, I went to San Francisco nearly two weeks ago for the AIUSA Western Regional Conference.  It’s taken me way too long, but now the photos are up (JoJo’s as well) and a few videos (highlights of these later).

First, the conference.  Several of us made it to the Amnesty movie, Justice Without Borders Friday night (Nov. 9).  It was on the search for justice for human rights abuses via the international criminal justice system.  The idea that there should be no impunity, no matter how hight the official, for crimes like genocide and torture.  The need for justice for the victims and their families to help them heal and carry on.

Saturday morning’s plenary included a tribute to Agi – Agnes Vadas, from Friday Harbor, who died earlier this year.  Agnes was a virtuoso violinist, a child prodigy, a holocaust survivor, and a long time human rights defender who founded the Friday Harbor group.  She also maintained a long correspondence with a death row inmate chronicled in the book, Truth Be Told.  Agi had a wicked sense of humor and strong personality, and we miss her.

Another old friend, Magdeleno (leno), was mc for the session.  Leno has recently left Seattle and  NWIRP for sunny Miami and his family.  I’m sure Miami will never be the same.

I attended workshops on Amnesty’s Beijing Olympics 2008 Campaign, Shi Tao, and a report back from the ICM

Amnesty International is calling on China to make good on their promise of improving their human rights, made during their bid for the Olympics.  AI is not calling for a boycott, however (and is never involved in boycotts).  AI already has a media guide for journalists covering the Olympics, and is planning on another guide for visitors.  We will be hearing more about this campaign early next year.

Shi Tao is a journalist imprisoned by authorities for sending an e-mail through his Yahoo! based account to a U.S. based pro-democracy website about a government order to downplay the upcoming 15th Anniversary of the 1989 Tianamen Square massacre.  He was identified and prosecuted when Yahoo! gave his identity to Chinese authorities.

Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang and Executive Vice President and Chief Counsel, Michael Callahan had just been called before congress and grilled that Tuesday to answer why they lied last time about not knowing why China wanted Shi Tao’s information.  Tom Lantos also ordered on them to apologize to Shi Tao’s mother who was sitting right behind them. The following Tuesday, Yahoo! settled their lawsuit for helping China jail and torture Shi Tao and another journalist.

Shi Tao, however, remains in jail, and needs more letters and e-mails written on his behalf.

Since it’s internal, I’m not going to say too much about the session on the report back for the ICM, the International Council Meeting in Morales, Mexico; except that it is always inspirational to hear about people from so many different countries, languages and cultures come together out of concern for human rights everywhere.

We also debated resolutions at the conference, which is how the grassroots of Amnesty help make policy.  Resolutions passed will go to the Annual General Meeting (AGM), this year in April in Washington, D.C., then (if applicable) on to the ICM, for discussion by all the country sections.

The conference closed with an inspirational speech by Larry Cox, AIUSA Executive Director.

Still to come – the rest of my San Francisco trip!

Err, so to speak!





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