1. Foundation

      An English lawyer, Peter Benenson launched Amnesty International (AI), in May 1961 by the publication of a London newspaper article in 'The Observer'.

In his newspaper article Mr. Benenson said: 'Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government.'

Peter Benenson had the idea to fight for the release of prisoners, who have been arrested not for a crime, but for their political or religious beliefs. He called these people "prisoners of conscience". There was an enormous response to his initiative and Amnesty International soon became the world's largest human right organisation.

            --à       "Transparency with pictures is shown now"     ß--

2. Members

Amnesty International has around a million members and supporters in more than 160 countries. Members include politicians, doctors, farmers, journalists, teacher or students.                                              Amnesty International members work on cases worldwide, but they are not allowed to get involved in cases in their own country. Politicians influenced some members so early campaigns failed, because Amnesty International was misinformed and mislead.           

But there is an exception, which allowed members to work for prisoners in their own country, if it's only a case of capital punishment or a refugee issue.

3. What Amnesty International works


      Amnesty International is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to promote and protect all human rights.


      Amnesty International does not want to change any political system.

      Its primary aims are:

      - to release all prisoners of conscience

      - to ensure fair and prompt trials for all political


-     to abolish the death penalty and inhuman punishment or treatment of prisoners

   Amnesty International activities range from public demonstrations to letter writing, from human rights education to global campaigns on a particular issue.

The two main objectives of Amnesty International are campaigns and the adoption of 'prisoners of conscience'.

Most campaigns run for a year. During that time Amnesty is trying to inform the public about a certain topic, to get the publics support. In 1989 the campaign against the death penalty was started. Amnesty international is totally against the death penalty, and ever since 1989 the organisation has tried to abolish the death penalty in all countries of the world.

   Amnesty International has got the opinion that the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

The other main objective is the adoption of political prisoners.

   While Amnesty International works to ensure fair trails for all political prisoners, it does not adopt prisoners who have used or advocated violence for any reason. Certainly, the case of Nelson Mandela will never be forgotten in Amnesty International's history. Nelson Mandela was peacefully trying to campaign and fight against the apartheid in South Africa. This lead to Mandela's arrest and sentence to prison. Therefore Amnesty International adopted Mandela as a 'prisoner of conscience' and fought successfully for his release in 1961. After his release Nelson Mandela realised that it was no use trying to change the government's attitude by non-violent methods. In 1964 he was found guilty of sabotage and of planning to start a violent revolution. Mandela was sent to prison for life. Amnesty International didn't help and refused to adopt Mandela this time, because he was no longer a non-violent political prisoner.

4. The money

      Another important fact to bare in mind is to look at the way Amnesty International is financed. The organization gets no money from any government or political persuasion. It is completely independent and free of any other influences. Amnesty is financed largely by subscriptions and donations from its worldwide membership. The money for example is spent on professional research or human rights Education.

         5. Amnesty International Today

   On May 28 2001 Amnesty International's foundation had its 40th anniversary. Today, Amnesty International has more than 1 million members, subscribers and regular donors in more than 140 countries and territories.       


   The organisation's nerve centre is the International Secretariat in London and this is self-governed by a nine member International Executive Committee (IEC). The secretary General is Pierre Sané.

Over the last 40 years, Amnesty International has worked on about fifty thousand cases. Eighty percent of them have been resolved successfully.

The results of Amnesty International's work are better situations in prisons, fairer trails in courts and an enormous improvement in protecting human rights of people all over the world.


In 1977 Amnesty International received the Nobel Peace Price to honour it for its excellent work and its improvement in protecting human rights.

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