Members of Amnesty stayed in the Cage for two-hour shiftsSam Harrison

Cambridge University Amnesty International has staged what is thought to be its fortieth Cage demonstration in front of King’s Chapel.

The annual demonstration, intended to raise awareness of human rights abuses by states worldwide, alternates its focus between torture and the death penalty, this year choosing to draw attention to the former.

The protest had members of Amnesty sitting in a small wooden cage on the grass fronting King’s Chapel. The cage was occupied by two members of the organisation at a time on two-hour shifts, or eight-hour if overnight, for a total of 48 hours between Friday and Sunday.

The same cage, assembled at the beginning of the protest from its constituent parts by members of the group, has been used every year since the demonstration’s inception.

Following the election of Donald Trump, who has endorsed the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques, this year the campaign elected to focus on the USA. A stall in front of the cage bore a placard calling upon Theresa May to condemn Trump’s support for torture.

The placard also carried a quote from Trump himself, reading: “Torture works. Okay folks? We should be going much stronger than waterboarding.”

The campaign encouraged passers-by to sign several sheets, which were judiciously taped to the wall against the periodically strong winds. The campaign intends to stitch these together and present them at Downing Street in order to put pressure on May to speak out against Trump.

One member of Amnesty told Varsity that it was “sad” that the campaign was obliged to focus on the USA, which under President Barack Obama ceased to use torture in its infamous Guantánamo Bay military prison, but now threatens to restore it under its new president.

However, she argued that it was “very important to focus on the USA” given that “it calls itself the ‘leader of the free world’ and the President claims to be the most powerful man”, which means that it is doubly necessary to condemn Trump’s intentions.

She added that May could not be allowed to “bow to the USA’s economic power” with regards to this issue.

The cage attracted the attention of several passers-by, who flocked to the stand to find out more. One member of the group occupying the cage at the time told Varsity that it was an effective campaigning tool, calling it “a striking visual piece to get people to engage with what we are talking about.”

The Cage protest is part of Amnesty International’s broader Stop Torture campaign. The campaign reports that in the last five years it has seen torture in 141 countries, in spite of laws against the use of torture in almost every country and the UN Convention against Torture, for which Amnesty itself helped to lobby.

The Stop Torture campaign claims that torture persists because “many governments are either actively using torture or turning a blind eye.” Countries it identifies as particularly bad in this regard include Mexico, the Philippines, and Nigeria.

It campaigns for lawyers to be present during all interrogations, for prohibition of the use in court of confessions gained by torture, and for punishment of those responsible for torturing others

Sponsored links