With a little practice -
Letters of appeal can be written quite easily and quickly. There are a few guidelines that should be adhered to:
1. Be polite -
So that your letter doesn't go straight to the bin. The goal is to help a person in need, not to vent your anger.
2. Be concise -
Long letters will often not be handled let alone translated. One page should be the maximum.
3. Only write on the topic -
And avoid attacks on an ideological level. Your letter is more likely to make a difference if the recipient feels that you do not reject the government in question on ideological grounds. Make it clear that you are only concerned for the political prisoner and the internationally recognised standards of rights. You can find the Universal Declaration of Human Rights here.
4. Emphasise the fact that you are not against the country as such
Rather try to speak to the person's sense of pride and self-worth. Write respectfully and mention that the country or the culture is generally known, for example, for its tolerance.
5. Say who you are
Anonymous letters have no effect. Do you have an academic title or do you have a position that will lend more weight to your statement? Mention it either in the header or the text itself.
6. Individual letters ...
Are much more effective than copies of form letters. So if you are using one of the standardised letters on our homepage copy it into your writing programme and vary it a little if possible. The more individual letters reach a body, the greater is the impression that many different people are interested in the matter independently of one another.
7. Do you have a special interest ?
Or a special connection with the country in question? For example, have you visited it as a tourist? Do mention it as the fear of a decline in tourism has repeatedly proven to be an effective weapon for human rights.
8. Present the case concisely
It is very likely that the recipient will not be directly responsible for the imprisonment of the prisoner in question. It is even very likely that the reader will not be aware of the case. Be aware of the fact that the recipient may even be open to a discussion of the fate of the political prisoner. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader. Therefore, also refrain from any sarcasm.
9. Write in English -
Or depending on the recipient in French or another world language. If you have your letter translated into a little known foreign language, the recipient will suppose that you are a supporter of an opposing political party.
10. Send a copy ...
Of your letter with a short cover letter to the embassy of the country in question. You can enhance the effectiveness of your letter by sending it to more than one recipient. You may even make this known (recipient: ...)
11. Repeat the effort
Especially in the case of long-term prisoners it is helpful to repeat the enquiry. Even if you should not get an answer - the recipient will be very aware whether the interest in the prisoner fades or not.
12. In the case of recipients in foreign countries...
It is especially effective if you include a newspaper article to show how well known the subject is to the public. But: Do not send interviews with human rights activists to their home countries as you will harm them significantly.
13. Writing of letters of appeal can be fun
Think of the person you are helping. Think of the enormous number of prisoners that have been saved from abuse or were released early. Have fun writing!
14. Examples and cases can be found under "appeals".