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Kiwis spread hope with pen and paper

Kiwis spread hope with pen and paper this holiday season

In the holiday spirit of compassion for others, Amnesty International is asking New Zealanders to put pen to paper this week, to speak out on behalf of people around the world in danger simply because of their peaceful actions or beliefs.

Write for Rights, Amnesty International's largest global write-a-thon, is happening this week to mark International Human Rights Day on Wednesday 10 December.

"The simple act of letter writing has so often proven to be the key to freeing prisoners of conscience and bringing justice to the darkest corners of the world," says Margaret Taylor, Amnesty's Activism Support Manager.

One of the cases people can write on behalf of is Japanese citizen Hakamada Iwao, who has been on Death Row in Japan since 1968, despite having an unfair trial and confessing under duress. Hakamada now suffers from mental illness after spending almost three decades in solitary confinement.

"Letters sent by thousands of people contributes massive international pressure on human rights abusers. For people like Hakamada, the power of a few words can lead to their release from unfair imprisonment or torture and let them know they are not alone, that they are not forgotten," says Taylor.

Amnesty International was founded upon a letter-writing campaign in 1961, when two Portuguese students were imprisoned for raising their wine glasses in a toast to freedom. More than 45 years on, letter-writing has been the signature tool for an organisation that has grown into a global movement of over 2.2 million members. Since the birth of Amnesty International, activists have helped free approximately 44,000 individuals.

Last year, 41 countries took part in the letter-writing marathon, and over 200,000 letters were sent. This year, Kiwis can take part individually or at a group event. Prizes will be awarded to top letter-writers.

Events are being held throughout the country between 8th to 14th December including in Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Christchurch. For more information about Amnesty's Write for Rights events, please visit www.amnesty.org.nz/udhr60/writeforrights


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