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Amnesty International and the Internet

Posted on 21 March 2012 by Rachel

While Amnesty International is an effective human rights activist group overseas, Amnesty International USA is a fairly ineffective interest group because they rely on inexperienced people from the internet to take the lobbying initiative and therefore they are ineffectual at passing laws in their favor. They also place a huge amount of emphasis on the cessation of capital punishment and too many Americans support the use of the death penalty for any change to be made.

Instead of hiring people who are familiar with the bureaucratic system, as many interest groups do, Amnesty International USA (AI-USA) relies on volunteers from the rank-and-file American population to take the initiative. The AI-USA website provides petitions to sign and also gives the names and numbers of congressional representatives to call. Whether they call or not is left completely up to the individual. If they do choose to call a government official, there is no set speech or specific bit of information that should be passed on from AI-USA. The lobbying efforts, therefore, are not incredibly effective. There are too many things going on in Washington for the government officials to know about them all. It is generally a task left up to the lobbyists to inform the congressional representatives of issues going on. When an interest group does not facilitate that education, their cause falls by the wayside. The most recent piece of legislation produced by AI-USA is the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011.This lays out their plan for federally funded health care facilities for pregnant women living in poverty. While this is a good start, one piece of legislation in the works does not a good interest group make. AI-USA had to compose this because their “efforts” to have it added to a recent health care reform had not worked.

One of AI-USA’s most concerted efforts deals with the human rights violations at Guantánamo Bay. The protests and petitions that AI-USA conducted, again using average citizens, did not go towards new pieces of legislation regarding human rights, specifically targeting the United States’ use of indefinite detention. Instead, the numbers were sent directly to President Obama before his State of the Union address this year so that he would know that many people felt that what was going on at Guantánamo Bay was wrong. Both change and legislation regarding this topic have yet to be seen.

The main target of AI-USA is capital punishment. Their aim is to completely and totally abolish the use of the death penalty in every country. They believe that “the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state.” They recently had success in abolishing it in one country, Gabon, but continue to have difficulty in America. According to a poll by Gallup, cited by the New York Times, approximately two-thirds of Americans support the death penalty. This is a majority that will not be changed any time soon. If AI-USA continues to fight this and treat it as the most important issue, they will not be successful in the least on Capitol Hill because no change can be made regarding this subject.

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