Write for Rights 2014 Case # 9 & 10: Police Brutality & Gun Violence in Chicago

Join Amnesty Int’l Pittsburgh tonight from 6-9 pm at Calvary Episcopal Church at Shady & Walnut for our 28th annual Write-a-thon and Human Rights Festival. In addition to attempting to reach our goal of 1,000 letters for this year’s human rights cases, we will have Mayor Peduto as a special guest, along with a performance by artist Vanessa German.  City Council Proclamation and Candlelight Ceremony at 7 pm, with a special presentation acknowledging the 43 missing Mexican students afterwards.
Food & drink and all materials provided – just bring yourself!


Write for Rights 2014

Case # 9 & 10 – Police Brutality and Gun Violence in Chicago:
Darrell Cannon & Anthony Holmes
Hadiya Pendleton

Darrell Cannon & Anthony Holmes
Between 1972 and 1991, Chicago police under the direction of former Commander Jon Burge systematically tortured more than 100 people of color on Chicago’s South Side. Darrell Cannon and Anthony Holmes are just two of the survivors of Burge’s legacy of racist torture.
In May of 1972, Burge and his fellow officers repeatedly shocked Anthony with an electric shock box referred to by the detectives as the “ni**er box.” They wrapped the wires around his shackles while suffocating him with a plastic bag. Anthony passed out from the pain. When he regained consciousness, Anthony confessed to a murder he did not commit. His confession kept him behind bars for thirty years.
On November 2, 1983, three Chicago Police Department detectives tortured Darrell at a remote site on Chicago’s South Side. They pressed a cattle prod to his testicles and put it into his mouth. The officers attempted to lift him off the ground by handcuffs behind his back. They repeatedly made him believe that they had loaded a shotgun and rammed in into his mouth, pulling the trigger which, at each click, made him think his head was about to be blown off. Like Anthony, Darrell falsely confessed – and spent 24 years in prison on the basis of his confession.
Neither Burge nor any of the detectives under his command have been prosecuted for torture. Not one of the torture survivors have received the reparations (financial compensation, psychological counseling, vocational training) needed to make them whole, as required by international law. Now, the Chicago City council can finally address this ugly chapter in the City’s history by passing the Reparations Ordinance for the Chicago Police Torture Survivors. Help us put pressure on the Chicago authorities – the time to act is now!
Hadiya Pendleton
Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed at the age of 15. She is one of over 11,000 victims of firearm-related homicides in the United States every year.
On January 29, 2013, just after finishing her final exams, sophomore Hadiya Pendleton went to Chicago’s Vivian Gordon Harsh Park with her friends. Soon after their arrival, an assailant opened fire on the group. Hadiya was shot in the back and died from her wounds a short time later. The men accused of firing at the teens reportedly mistook the group as for a rival gang.
Hadiya was an Honors student, a volleyball player, an avid reader, a dreamer. The week before her death, as a baton-twirling majorette in her school’s marching band, she visited Washington, D.C. to participate in several events in honor of Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration. In the wake of this tragedy, her parents Nate and Cleo Pendleton have founded Hadiya’s Promise. The non-profit focuses on addressing gun violence and those who are often the perpetrators of gun violence – disaffected youth.
In 2015, Amnesty International will launch a campaign to end gun violence in the United States. The Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education Act (“Youth PROMISE Act”) will fund, implement, and evaluate evidence-based, locally controlled youth and gang violence prevention and intervention programs. By addressing the root causes of gun violence we can help ensure that young people like Hadiya will make it home from school safe and live out the promise of their dreams.




Write for Rights 2014 Case #8: Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning


Transgender US Army Private Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on August 21, 2013, after leaking classified US government material to the website Wikileaks. Some of the documents pointed to potential human rights violations and breaches of humanitarian law by US troops abroad, the CIA, and Afghan and Iraqi forces operating alongside the US army.

Chelsea says she was trying to spark a meaningful debate on the costs of war and raise awareness of US military conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. She believed that that she was exposing abuses by releasing the information, but she wasn’t allowed to present evidence that she was acting in the public interest. In fact, Chelsea couldn’t even explain her motives until the sentencing phase of her trial. What’s more, she was overcharged with offenses including ‘aiding the enemy’. It seems that her prosecution was meant to send a harsh warning to other potential whistleblowers seeking to expose U.S. Government wrongdoing.

Chelsea spent three years in detention, awaiting trial. For eleven months she endured conditions described by a UN expert on torture as ‘cruel and inhumane’. These included isolation in solitary confinement – 23 hours a day in a small cell with no window to the outside.

The US has spent far too long punishing Chelsea for revealing potential human rights abuses. She should be shown clemency and government officials should focus their energies on investigating the alleged abuses she exposed.



Write for Rights 2014 Case #7: Raif Badawi

Raif Badawi


In May 2014, Raif Badawi was jailed for 10 years. His sentence also included 1,000 lashes, a 10-year travel ban, and a lifetime ban from appearing on media outlets once he is released.

What was Raif’s so-called crime? Violating Saudi Arabia’s information technology law and insulting Islam through the creation of ‘Saudi Arabian Liberals,’ a website meant for social and political debate in Saudi Arabia. He is a Prisoner of Conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of his beliefs.

The charges against Raif are related to articles he wrote criticizing religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, and pieces penned by others that Raif published on the Saudi Arabian Liberals’ site. The prosecution had called for him to be tried for ‘apostasy’ or abandoning his religion, which carries the death penalty.

Raif is one of many activists in Saudi Arabia persecuted for openly expressing their views online. Facebook and Twitter are incredibly popular in a country where people can’t openly voice their opinions in public. The authorities have responded to this increase in online debate by monitoring social media sites and even trying to ban applications such as Skype and WhatsApp, further stifling free expression.


Write for Rights 2014 Case #6: Murad Shtewi

Join us for the Pittsburgh Write-a-thon and Human Rights Festival on Monday, December 8th, 6-9 pm at Calvary Episcopal Church

Murad Shtewi


Palestinian activist Murad Shtewi is an outspoken human rights defender from the Palestinian village of Kufr Qadum in the occupied West Bank. Every week, his community holds a demonstration to oppose Israel’s illegal settlements and demand that their main road be re-opened. As a result of his leadership, Murad was arrested in April 2014 and charged with rock-throwing and causing a public disturbance.

The unfounded charges against Murad are meant to not only to punish him, but to silence other Palestinian activists who dare to raise their voices against Israeli military occupation and human rights abuses. The 39-year-old father of three’s arrest and detention are part of a larger pattern of harassment by Israeli forces against Palestinian human rights defenders. Israeli forces also frequently resort to unnecessary and excessive force in response to protests. Since 2011, dozens of people in the occupied West Bank have been killed and thousands injured by weapons including rubber-coated metal bullets, live ammunition, and tear gas. As Israel’s largest foreign supplier of weapons, munitions, police equipment and devices – as well as training and techniques – the United States bears a particular responsibility for these abuses.

The majority of Kufr Qadum’s lands have been seized by the Israeli authorities for the purposes of building and servicing the illegal Israeli settlement of Kedumim. In 2002, during the second Palestinian uprising, known as the Intifada, the Israeli authorities closed off the main road connecting the village to the city of Nablus. The road is still closed, and the residents of Kufr Qadum and other Palestinians are prohibited from using roads designated for use by Israeli settlers only.