From Jail Cell to Board Chair: Ann Burroughs on the Urgent Action Network

September 23, 2013

946701_10151615992491363_98894236_nThis post is the second in a three-part blog series commemorating the launch of Amnesty USA’s redesigned Urgent Action Network. Read on for how this updated tool will help activists make a stronger impact.

Even now, twenty-seven years later, Ann Burroughs can remember what it felt like to go to prison.

I’ll never forget my anger as the door shut behind me for the first time. But I did not for a moment question my commitment to opposing injustice and the government’s repressive policies of discrimination and segregation.

Ann’s “crime” was campaigning against apartheid in South Africa. After being convicted, Amnesty declared Ann a Prisoner of Conscience and made her the subject of an Urgent Action (UA). The letters that poured in to South African officials as a result of that UA were integral in securing Ann’s release.

For 40 years, the Urgent Action Network (UAN) has served as a real-time alert mechanism of human rights abuses throughout the world as they are happening. It remains one of the most powerful tools we have, enabling activists to take action on behalf of those whose human rights are being violated, no matter where they are.

Receiving thousands of letters and phone calls from Amnesty activists lets authorities know the world is watching and prompts them to take action. In Ann’s case, this meant being released after three-and-a-half months of imprisonment, but her story doesn’t end there.

I was more determined than ever before to end apartheid and dedicate my life to a fundamental principle of the international human rights movement: all people are equal in dignity and rights.

Ann Burroughs
Ann Burroughs

Ann devoted her life to campaigning for social justice and today, she serves as the Chair of Amnesty International USA’s Board of Directors.

Amnesty is dedicated to providing our activists with the tools they need to campaign for change. We are continuing to update the UAN so it can keep delivering success stories like Ann’s.

On September 19, Amnesty International launched a redesign of the Urgent Action Network. The UAN has a new sign-up form that will allow people to choose which UA’s they want to receive by theme, region and frequency. It is also now mobile-enabled, which enables us to sign up more members on the go. These changes will help elevate our impact to when we stand up for those who are persecuted around the world.

Help prevent and end human rights violations. Visit the new Urgent Action Network. Join thousands of Amnesty International members who have signed up for the UAN to respond to cases involving individuals and communities at imminent risk of human rights violations.