SMU Professor Rick Halperin Elected
of Amnesty International USA Board of Directors
(Washington, DC) – Rick Halperin of
Southern Methodist University in Dallas has been elected Chair of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA),
the organization announced July 27. Halperin is a human rights educator and
longtime activist who has lobbied tirelessly with abolitionist
organizations on the frontlines of the struggle against the death
penalty in Texas, elsewhere in the United States and abroad. Halperin
is the second consecutive Chair from Dallas, succeeding Chip Pitts.
“Rick's deep commitment to human rights and to
Amnesty International, along with his more than three decades of
activist experience, insure that he will provide inspired leadership
at a critical time in the life of the human rights movement,” said Dr.
William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.
Amnesty International activist and outspoken opponent of capital
punishment and torture, Halperin has addressed lawmakers, rights
organizations, faith communities and the press to shine the light of
international concern on human rights issues and to inspire activists
to call for an end to rights abuses. He has participated in numerous
Amnesty International delegations to monitor prison conditions and
other human rights developments, including in the Gaza Strip, San
Salvador and Dublin. In addition to service on the boards of
directors of more than a half dozen non-profit organizations, Halperin
has received awards for distinguished human rights activism, including
the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s Lifetime
Abolition Achievement Award and the Amnesty International Frederick
Douglas Abolitionist Award.
Halperin cited raising awareness as a key
component of the struggle to promote human rights at a time when
assaults on rights and civil liberties committed in the so-called “war
on terror” have grown rampant.
“Amnesty International must continue exposing
violations and focusing the public’s attention on the plight of
victims of human rights abuses in order to
mobilize pressure on governments to stop them,” said Halperin.
“While the movement is ultimately a struggle to change the human
heart, we must first work to open people’s eyes to rights abuses.”
Indefinite detention without charge or legal
status, torture and ill-treatment at U.S.-operated detention
facilities, racial profiling and rendering of prisoners to countries
that torture are some of the increased restrictions on civil liberties
and human rights that Amnesty International has documented since the
Bush administration declared its “war on terror” in late 2001.
Halperin was exposed to the frontlines of
major movements for social change at an early age, beginning with his
upbringing in the South during the civil rights era. Later, three
members of the host family with whom he stayed while on a student
exchange to Chile were killed during Augusto Pinochet’s overthrow of
the Allende government. While a student at the Sorbonne during his
sophomore year in college, Halperin traveled to Prague, where he
witnessed firsthand the self-immolation of Jan Palach, who killed
himself to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
courses on human rights through SMU’s
History Department and is assistant director of SMU's Office of
Leadership and Community Involvement. Halperin earned both a Doctorate of Philosophy and
a Master of Arts degree in Southern U.S. History at Auburn University
(AL) and Southern Methodist University, respectively. He has been a
member of Amnesty International USA for nearly 35 years and of Local
Group 205 in Dallas, Texas since 1985. He originally is from Loachapoka, Alabama.
Join Amnesty International for a
live online chat with AIUSA Board Chair Rick Halperin on Wednesday,
September 7. Visit
amnestyusa.org/abolish for more information.