THE BLOG

Amnesty International, It's Not Just the *Political* Prisoners

04/28/2006 07:30 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Amnesty International USA's annual conference begins today in my hometown of Portland.

I'm one in solidarity with Amnesty International, but I feel they ought to broaden their scope.

First, let's take a look at what their noble priorities are:

Free all prisoners of conscience. These are people detained anywhere for their beliefs or because of their ethnic origin, gender, race, language, national or social origin, or economic status who have not used or advocated violence.

Ensure fair and prompt trials for political prisoners.

Abolish the death penalty, torture and other cruel treatment of prisoners.

End political killings and "disappearances," where people from different countries end up missing.

But I would go further.

Here's what else I would like to see Amnesty International tackle:

Fight religious persecution -- whether it is jailing of Christians in Muslim nations, sectarian violence in the name of God or Gods, or anything related. I'm not a religionist myself but as someone who believes in the freedom to think, I have to believe in the freedom to believe.

Fight sexual persecution. Two consenting adults should never have to go to jail for what they might have been caught doing -- or what they are suspected of doing.

Fight drug imprisonment. Here in the U.S. as well as in so many other nations, there are -- to quote Bob Dylan's "Chimes Of Freedom" -- "unharmful gentle souls, misplaced inside a jail." Their only crime? Smoking something that they believed might help them reach inside their minds and figure out life, love, or maybe even just escape the travails of their existance for awhile.

And when these victims of persecution hear the jail door slam, they hear the same chilling sounds that political prisoners do.