SMU Professor Rick Halperin Elected Chair
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.

A lifelong 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.

Halperin teaches 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.