Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty or AI) is a
London-based non-governmental organization focused on human rights.
The organization claims to have over 7 million members and supporters
around the world.
The stated objective of the organization is "to conduct research and
generate action to prevent and end abuses of human rights, and to
demand justice for those whose rights have been violated. "
Amnesty International was founded in
London in 1961, following the
publication of the article "The Forgotten Prisoners" in The Observer
on 28 May 1961, by the lawyer Peter Benenson. Amnesty draws
attention to human rights abuses and campaigns for compliance with
international laws and standards. It works to mobilize public opinion
to put pressure on governments that let abuse take place. Amnesty
considers capital punishment to be "the ultimate, irreversible denial
of human rights". The organization was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace
Prize for its "defence of human dignity against torture", and the
United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights
United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1978.
In the field of international human rights organizations, Amnesty has
the third longest history, after the International Federation for
Human Rights and broadest name recognition, and is believed by many to
set standards for the movement as a whole.
2.1 Artists For Amnesty
2.2 Charitable status
4.1 Country focus
6 Criticism and controversies
6.1 CAGE controversy
6.2 Pay controversy
7 Awards and honours
8 National sections
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International. He worked for
Britain's GC&CS at
Bletchley Park during World War II.
Amnesty International was founded in
London in July 1961 by English
labour lawyer Peter Benenson. According to his own account, he was
travelling in the
London Underground on 19 November 1960 when he read
that two Portuguese students from
Coimbra had been sentenced to seven
years of imprisonment in Portugal for allegedly "having drunk a toast
to liberty".[a] Researchers have never traced the alleged
newspaper article in question.[a] In 1960, Portugal was ruled by the
Estado Novo government of António de Oliveira Salazar. The
government was authoritarian in nature and strongly anti-communist,
suppressing enemies of the state as anti-Portuguese. In his
significant newspaper article "The Forgotten Prisoners", Benenson
later described his reaction as follows:
Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a story from
somewhere of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because
his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government ... The
newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these
feelings of disgust could be united into common action, something
effective could be done.
Benenson worked with friend Eric Baker. Baker was a member of the
Religious Society of Friends
Religious Society of Friends who had been involved in funding the
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as well as becoming head of
Quaker Peace and Social Witness, and in his memoirs Benenson described
him as "a partner in the launching of the project". In
consultation with other writers, academics and lawyers and, in
particular, Alec Digges, they wrote via
Louis Blom-Cooper to David
Astor, editor of
The Observer newspaper, who, on 28 May 1961,
published Benenson's article "The Forgotten Prisoners". The article
brought the reader's attention to those "imprisoned, tortured or
executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his
government" or, put another way, to violations, by governments, of
articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR). The article described these violations occurring, on a global
scale, in the context of restrictions to press freedom, to political
oppositions, to timely public trial before impartial courts, and to
asylum. It marked the launch of "Appeal for Amnesty, 1961", the aim of
which was to mobilize public opinion, quickly and widely, in defence
of these individuals, whom Benenson named "Prisoners of Conscience".
The "Appeal for Amnesty" was reprinted by a large number of
international newspapers. In the same year, Benenson had a book
published, Persecution 1961, which detailed the cases of nine
prisoners of conscience investigated and compiled by Benenson and
Baker (Maurice Adin, Ashton Jones, Agostinho Neto, Patrick Duncan,
Olga Ivinskaya, Luis Taruc, Constantin Noica, Antonio Amat and Hu
Feng). In July 1961 the leadership had decided that the appeal
would form the basis of a permanent organization, Amnesty, with the
first meeting taking place in London. Benenson ensured that all three
major political parties were represented, enlisting members of
parliament from the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, and the
Liberal Party. On 30 September 1962, it was officially named
"Amnesty International". Between the "Appeal for Amnesty, 1961" and
September 1962 the organization had been known simply as
What started as a short appeal soon became a permanent international
movement working to protect those imprisoned for non-violent
expression of their views and to secure worldwide recognition of
Articles 18 and 19 of the UDHR. From the very beginning, research and
campaigning were present in Amnesty International's work. A library
was established for information about prisoners of conscience and a
network of local groups, called "THREES" groups, was started. Each
group worked on behalf of three prisoners, one from each of the then
three main ideological regions of the world: communist, capitalist,
By the mid-1960s Amnesty International's global presence was growing
and an International Secretariat and International Executive Committee
were established to manage Amnesty International's national
organizations, called "Sections", which had appeared in several
countries. The international movement was starting to agree on its
core principles and techniques. For example, the issue of whether or
not to adopt prisoners who had advocated violence, like Nelson
Mandela, brought unanimous agreement that it could not give the name
of "Prisoner of Conscience" to such prisoners. Aside from the work of
the library and groups, Amnesty International's activities were
expanding to helping prisoners' families, sending observers to trials,
making representations to governments, and finding asylum or overseas
employment for prisoners. Its activity and influence were also
increasing within intergovernmental organizations; it would be awarded
consultative status by the United Nations, the
Council of Europe
Council of Europe and
UNESCO before the decade ended.
Peter Benenson resigned after an independent inquiry did not
support his claims that AI had been infiltrated by British agents.
Later he claimed that the Central Intelligence Agency had become
involved in Amnesty.
Amnesty International in the 1970s were key figures Seán
MacBride and Martin Ennals. While continuing to work for prisoners of
conscience, Amnesty International's purview widened to include "fair
trial" and opposition to long detention without trial (UDHR Article
9), and especially to the torture of prisoners (UDHR Article 5).
Amnesty International believed that the reasons underlying torture of
prisoners by governments, were either to acquire and obtain
information or to quell opposition by the use of terror, or both. Also
of concern was the export of more sophisticated torture methods,
equipment and teaching by the superpowers to "client states", for
example by the
United States through some activities of the CIA.
Amnesty International drew together reports from countries where
torture allegations seemed most persistent and organized an
international conference on torture. It sought to influence public
opinion to put pressure on national governments by organizing a
campaign for the "Abolition of Torture" which ran for several years.
Amnesty International's membership increased from 15,000 in 1969
to 200,000 by 1979. This growth in resources enabled an expansion
of its program, "outside of the prison walls", to include work on
"disappearances", the death penalty and the rights of refugees. A new
technique, the "Urgent Action", aimed at mobilizing the membership
into action rapidly was pioneered. The first was issued on 19 March
1973, on behalf of Luiz Basilio Rossi, a Brazilian academic, arrested
for political reasons.
At the intergovernmental level
Amnesty International pressed for
application of the UN's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of
Prisoners and of existing humanitarian conventions; to secure
ratifications of the two UN Covenants on Human Rights in 1976; and was
instrumental in obtaining additional instruments and provisions
forbidding its practice. Consultative status was granted at the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 1972.
In 1976 Amnesty's British Section started a series of fund-raising
events that came to be known as
The Secret Policeman's Balls
The Secret Policeman's Balls series.
They were staged in
London initially as comedy galas featuring what
the Daily Telegraph called "the crème de la crème of the British
comedy world" including members of comedy troupe Monty Python, and
later expanded to also include performances by leading rock musicians.
The series was created and developed by
Monty Python alumnus John
Cleese and entertainment industry executive Martin Lewis working
closely with Amnesty staff members Peter Luff (Assistant Director of
Amnesty 1974–78) and subsequently with Peter Walker (Amnesty
Fund-Raising Officer 1978–82). Cleese, Lewis and Luff worked
together on the first two shows (1976 and 1977). Cleese, Lewis and
Walker worked together on the 1979 and 1981 shows, the first to carry
what the Daily Telegraph described as the "rather brilliantly
re-christened" Secret Policeman's Ball title.
The organization was awarded the 1977
Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize for its
"defence of human dignity against torture" and the United Nations
Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1978.
Amnesty International was drawing more criticism from
governments. The USSR alleged that
Amnesty International conducted
Moroccan government denounced it as a defender of
lawbreakers, and the Argentinian government banned Amnesty
International's 1983 annual report.
Throughout the 1980s,
Amnesty International continued to campaign
against torture, and on behalf of prisoners of conscience. New issues
emerged, including extrajudicial killings, military, security and
police transfers, political killings, and disappearances.
Towards the end of the decade, the growing number of refugees
worldwide was a very visible area of Amnesty International's concern.
While many of the world's refugees of the time had been displaced by
war and famine, in adherence to its mandate, Amnesty International
concentrated on those forced to flee because of the human rights
violations it was seeking to prevent. It argued that rather than
focusing on new restrictions on entry for asylum-seekers, governments
were to address the human rights violations which were forcing people
Apart from a second campaign on torture during the first half of the
decade, two major musical events occurred, designed to increase
awareness of Amnesty and of human rights (particularly among younger
generations) during the mid- to late-1980s. The 1986 Conspiracy of
Hope tour, which played five concerts in the US, and culminated in a
daylong show, featuring some thirty-odd acts at Giants Stadium, and
Human Rights Now!
Human Rights Now! world tour. Human Rights Now!, which was
timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the United Nations'
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), played a series of
concerts on five continents over six weeks. Both tours featured some
of the most famous musicians and bands of the day.
Throughout the 1990s, Amnesty continued to grow, to a membership of
over 7 million in over 150 countries and territories, led by
Senegalese Secretary General Pierre Sané. Amnesty continued to work
on a wide range of issues and world events. For example, South African
groups joined in 1992 and hosted a visit by
Pierre Sané to meet with
the apartheid government to press for an investigation into
allegations of police abuse, an end to arms sales to the African Great
Lakes region and the abolition of the death penalty. In particular,
Amnesty International brought attention to violations committed on
specific groups, including refugees, racial/ethnic/religious
minorities, women and those executed or on Death Row. The death
penalty report When the State Kills and the "Human Rights are
Women's Rights" campaign were key actions for the latter two issues.
During the 1990s,
Amnesty International was forced to react to human
rights violations occurring in the context of a proliferation of armed
conflict in Angola, East Timor, the Persian Gulf, Rwanda, and the
Amnesty International took no position on whether
to support or oppose external military interventions in these armed
conflicts. It did not reject the use of force, even lethal force, or
ask those engaged to lay down their arms. Instead, it questioned the
motives behind external intervention and selectivity of international
action in relation to the strategic interests of those who sent
troops. It argued that action should be taken to prevent human-rights
problems from becoming human-rights catastrophes, and that both
intervention and inaction represented a failure of the international
In 1995, when AI wanted to promote how
Shell Oil Company
Shell Oil Company was involved
with the execution of an environmental and human-rights activist Ken
Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria, it was stopped. Newspapers and advertising
companies refused to run AI's ads because Shell Oil was a customer of
theirs as well. Shell's main argument was that it was drilling oil in
a country that already violated human rights and had no way to enforce
human-rights policies. To combat the buzz that AI was trying to
create, it immediately publicized how Shell was helping to improve
overall life in Nigeria. Salil Shetty, the director of Amnesty, said,
"Social media re-energises the idea of the global citizen". James
M. Russell notes how the drive for profit from private media sources
conflicts with the stories that AI wants to be heard.
Amnesty International was proactive in pushing for recognition of the
universality of human rights. The campaign 'Get Up, Sign Up' marked 50
years of the UDHR. Thirteen million pledges were collected in support,
and the Decl music concert was held in Paris on 10 December 1998
(Human Rights Day). At the intergovernmental level, Amnesty
International argued in favour of creating a
United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights (established 1993) and an International
Criminal Court (established 2002).
After his arrest in
London in 1998 by the Metropolitan Police, Amnesty
International became involved in the legal battle of Senator Augusto
Pinochet, former Chilean dictator, who sought to avoid extradition to
Spain to face charges.
Lord Hoffman had an indirect connection with
Amnesty International, and this led to an important test for the
appearance of bias in legal proceedings in UK law. There was a
suit against the decision to release Senator Pinochet, taken by
the then British
Home Secretary Mr Jack Straw, before that decision
had actually been taken, in an attempt to prevent the release of
Senator Pinochet. The English High Court refused the application,
and Senator Pinochet was released and returned to Chile.
After 2000, Amnesty International's agenda turned to the challenges
arising from globalization and the reaction to the 11 September 2001
attacks in the United States. The issue of globalization provoked a
major shift in
Amnesty International policy, as the scope of its work
was widened to include economic, social and cultural rights, an area
that it had declined to work on in the past. Amnesty International
felt this shift was important, not just to give credence to its
principle of the indivisibility of rights, but because of what it saw
as the growing power of companies and the undermining of many nation
states as a result of globalization.
In the aftermath of 11 September attacks, the new Amnesty
International Secretary General, Irene Khan, reported that a senior
government official had said to
Amnesty International delegates: "Your
role collapsed with the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York".
In the years following the attacks, some[who?] believe that the gains
made by human rights organizations over previous decades had possibly
Amnesty International argued that human rights were
the basis for the security of all, not a barrier to it. Criticism came
directly from the Bush administration and The Washington Post, when
Khan, in 2005, likened the US government's detention facility at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a Soviet Gulag.
During the first half of the new decade,
Amnesty International turned
its attention to violence against women, controls on the world arms
trade, concerns surrounding the effectiveness of the UN, and ending
torture. With its membership close to two million by 2005,
Amnesty continued to work for prisoners of conscience.
In 2007, AI's executive committee decided to support access to
abortion "within reasonable gestational limits...for women in cases of
rape, incest or violence, or where the pregnancy jeopardizes a
mother's life or health".
Amnesty International reported, concerning the Iraq War, on 17 March
2008, that despite claims the security situation in Iraq has improved
in recent months, the human rights situation is disastrous, after the
start of the war five years earlier in 2003.
Amnesty International accused
Israel and the Palestinian Hamas
movement of committing war crimes during Israel's January offensive in
Gaza, called Operation Cast Lead, that resulted in the deaths of more
than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. The 117-page Amnesty
report charged Israeli forces with killing hundreds of civilians and
wanton destruction of thousands of homes. Amnesty found evidence of
Israeli soldiers using Palestinian civilians as human shields. A
United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict
was carried out; Amnesty stated that its findings were consistent with
those of Amnesty's own field investigation, and called on the UN to
act promptly to implement the mission's recommendations.
Stockholm Pride 2015 Parade
In February 2010, Amnesty suspended Gita Sahgal, its gender unit head,
after she criticized Amnesty for its links with Moazzam Begg, director
of Cageprisoners. She said it was "a gross error of judgment" to work
with "Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban".
Amnesty responded that Sahgal was not suspended "for raising these
issues internally... [Begg] speaks about his own views ..., not
Amnesty International's." Among those who spoke up for Saghal were
Salman Rushdie, Member of Parliament Denis MacShane, Joan Smith,
Christopher Hitchens, Martin Bright, Melanie Phillips, and Nick
In February 2011, Amnesty requested that Swiss authorities start a
criminal investigation of former US President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush and
In July 2011,
Amnesty International celebrated its 50 years with an
animated short film directed by Carlos Lascano, produced by Eallin
Motion Art and Dreamlife Studio, with music by Academy Award-winner
Hans Zimmer and nominee Lorne Balfe. The film shows that the fight for
humanity is not yet over.
In August 2012, Amnesty International's chief executive in India
sought an impartial investigation, led by the United Nations, to
render justice to those affected by war crimes in Sri Lanka.
On 18 August 2014, in the wake of demonstrations sparked by people
protesting the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed
18-year-old man, and subsequent acquittal of Darren Wilson, the
officer who shot him,
Amnesty International sent a 13-person
contingent of human rights activists to seek meetings with officials
as well as to train local activists in non-violent protest
methods. This was the first time that the organization has
deployed such a team to the United States. In a press
release, AI USA director
Steven W. Hawkins said, "The U.S. cannot
continue to allow those obligated and duty-bound to protect to become
those who their community fears most."
In June 2016,
Amnesty International has called on the United Nations
General Assembly to "immediately suspend"
Saudi Arabia from the UN
Human Rights Council." Richard Bennett, head of Amnesty's UN
Office, said: "The credibility of the U.N. Human Rights Council is at
stake. Since joining the council, Saudi Arabia’s dire human rights
record at home has continued to deteriorate and the coalition it leads
has unlawfully killed and injured thousands of civilians in the
conflict in Yemen."
In December 2016,
Amnesty International revealed that Voiceless
Victims, a fake non-profit organization which claims to raise
awareness for migrant workers who are victims of human rights abuses
in Qatar, had been trying to spy on their staff.
Amnesty International published its annual report for the year
2016–2017 on 21 February 2017. Secretary General Salil Shetty's
opening statement in the report highlighted many ongoing international
abuses as well as emerging threats. Shetty drew attention, among many
issues, to the Syrian Civil War, the use of chemical weapons in the
War in Darfur, outgoing
United States President Barack Obama's
expansion of drone warfare, and the successful 2016 presidential
election campaign of Obama's successor Donald Trump, which, as Shetty
put it, was characterized by "poisonous" discourse in which "he
frequently made deeply divisive statements marked by misogyny and
xenophobia, and pledged to roll back established civil liberties and
introduce policies which would be profoundly inimical to human
rights." In his opening summary, Shetty stated that "the world in 2016
became a darker and more unstable place."
Amnesty International launches its annual report of human
rights around the world titled " The State of the World’s Human
Rights". It warns from the consequences of "us vs them" speech which
divided human beings into two camps. It says that this speech enhances
a global pushback against human rights and makes the world more
divided and more dangerous. It states that in 2016, governments turned
a blind eye to war crimes and passed laws that violate free
expression. Recently, Trump signed an executive order in an attempt to
prevent refugees from seeking resettlement in the United States.
Elsewhere, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Thailand and Turkey
carried out massive crackdowns, while authorities in other countries
continued to implement security measures represent an infringement on
In July 2017 Turkish police detained 10 human rights activists during
a workshop on digital security at a hotel near Istanbul. Eight people,
including Idil Eser,
Amnesty International director in Turkey, as well
Peter Steudtner and Swede Ali Gharavi, were arrested. Two
others were detained but released pending trial. They were accused of
aiding armed terror organizations in alleged communications with
suspects linked to Kurdish and left-wing militants, as well as the
movement led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Amnesty International Sections, 2012
The Amnesty Canadian headquarters in Ottawa.
Amnesty International is largely made up of voluntary members, but
retains a small number of paid professionals. In countries in which
Amnesty International has a strong presence, members are organized as
"sections". Sections co-ordinate basic Amnesty International
activities normally with a significant number of members, some of whom
will form into "groups", and a professional staff. Each have a board
of directors. In 2005 there were 52 sections worldwide. "Structures"
are aspiring sections. They also co-ordinate basic activities but have
a smaller membership and a limited staff. In countries where no
section or structure exists, people can become "international
members". Two other organizational models exist: "international
networks", which promote specific themes or have a specific identity,
and "affiliated groups", which do the same work as section groups, but
The organizations outlined above are represented by the International
Council (IC) which is led by the IC Chairperson. Members of sections
and structures have the right to appoint one or more representatives
to the Council according to the size of their membership. The IC may
invite representatives from International Networks and other
individuals to meetings, but only representatives from sections and
structures have voting rights. The function of the IC is to appoint
and hold accountable internal governing bodies and to determine the
direction of the movement. The IC convenes every two years.
The International Board (formerly known as the International Executive
Committee [IEC]), led by the International Board Chairperson, consists
of eight members and the International Treasurer. It is elected by,
and accountable to, the IC, and meets at least two times during any
one year and in practice meets at least four times a year. The role of
the International Board is to take decisions on behalf of Amnesty
International, implement the strategy laid out by the IC, and ensure
compliance with the organization's statutes.
The International Secretariat (IS) is responsible for the conduct and
daily affairs of
Amnesty International under direction from the
International Board. It is run by approximately 500 professional
staff members and is headed by a Secretary General. The Secretariat
operates several work programmes; International Law and Organizations;
Research; Campaigns; Mobilization; and Communications. Its offices
have been located in
London since its establishment in the mid-1960s.
Amnesty International Sections, 2005
Algeria; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Belgium (Dutch-speaking);
Belgium (French-speaking); Benin; Bermuda; Canada (English-speaking);
Canada (French-speaking); Chile; Côte d'Ivoire; Denmark; Faroe
Islands; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Guyana; Hong Kong; Iceland;
Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Korea (Republic of); Luxembourg;
Mauritius; Mexico; Morocco; Nepal; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway;
Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Puerto Rico; Senegal; Sierra
Leone; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Taiwan; Togo; Tunisia;
United States of America; Uruguay; Venezuela
Amnesty International Structures, 2005
Belarus; Bolivia; Burkina Faso; Croatia; Curaçao; Czech Republic;
Gambia; Hungary; Malaysia; Mali; Moldova; Mongolia; Pakistan;
Paraguay; Slovakia; South Africa; Thailand; Turkey; Ukraine; Zambia;
International Board (formerly known as "IEC") Chairpersons
Seán MacBride, 1965–74; Dirk Börner, 1974–17; Thomas Hammarberg,
1977–79; José Zalaquett, 1979–82; Suriya Wickremasinghe,
1982–85; Wolfgang Heinz, 1985–96; Franca Sciuto, 1986–89; Peter
Duffy, 1989–91; Annette Fischer, 1991–92; Ross Daniels, 1993–19;
Susan Waltz, 1996–98; Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, 1999–2000; Colm O
Cuanachain, 2001–02; Paul Hoffman, 2003–04; Jaap Jacobson, 2005;
Hanna Roberts, 2005–06; Lilian Gonçalves-Ho Kang You, 2006–07;
Peter Pack, 2007–11; Pietro Antonioli, 2011–13; and Nicole Bieske,
Peter Benenson Peter Benenson
Eric Baker Eric Baker
Martin Ennals Martin Ennals
Thomas Hammarberg Thomas Hammarberg
Avery Brundage Ian Martin
Pierre Sané Pierre Sané
Irene Zubaida Khan Irene Khan
Salil Shetty Salil Shetty
2010 – 2018
Kumi Naidoo Kumi Naidoo
2018 – in charge
Artists For Amnesty
Amnesty International, through its "Artists For Amnesty" programme has
also endorsed various cultural media works for what its leadership
often consider accurate or educational treatments of real-world topics
that fall within the range of Amnesty's concern:
A is for Auschwitz
At the Death House Door
Catch a Fire
In Prison My Whole Life
Lord of War
The Constant Gardener
Tibet: Beyond Fear
Trouble the Water
12 Years a Slave
In the UK
Amnesty International has two principal arms, Amnesty
International UK and
Amnesty International Charity Ltd. Both are
UK-based organizations but only the latter is a charity.
The core principle of
Amnesty International is a focus on prisoners of
conscience, those persons imprisoned or prevented from expressing any
opinion other than violence. Along with this commitment to opposing
repression of freedom of expression, Amnesty International's founding
principles included non-intervention on political questions, a robust
commitment to gathering facts about the various cases and promoting
One key issue in the principles is in regards to those individuals who
may advocate or tacitly support resorting to violence in struggles
against repression. AI does not judge whether recourse to violence is
justified or not. However, AI does not oppose the political use of
violence in itself since The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in
its preamble, foresees situations in which people could "be compelled
to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and
oppression". If a prisoner is serving a sentence imposed, after a fair
trial, for activities involving violence, AI will not ask the
government to release the prisoner.
AI neither supports nor condemns the resort to violence by political
opposition groups in itself, just as AI neither supports nor condemns
a government policy of using military force in fighting against armed
opposition movements. However, AI supports minimum humane standards
that should be respected by governments and armed opposition groups
alike. When an opposition group tortures or kills its captives, takes
hostages, or commits deliberate and arbitrary killings, AI condemns
these abuses.[dubious – discuss]
Amnesty International opposes capital punishment in all cases,
regardless of the crime committed, the circumstances surrounding the
individual or the method of execution.
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Amnesty International's vision is of a world in which every person
enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
In pursuit of this vision, Amnesty International's mission is to
undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave
abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of
conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the
context of its work to promote all human rights.
-Statute of Amnesty International, 27th International Council meeting,
Amnesty International primarily targets governments, but also reports
on non-governmental bodies and private individuals ("non-state
There are six key areas which Amnesty deals with:
Women's, children's, minorities' and indigenous rights
Abolition of the death penalty
Rights of refugees
Rights of prisoners of conscience
Protection of human dignity.
Some specific aims are to: abolish the death penalty, end extra
judicial executions and "disappearances," ensure prison conditions
meet international human rights standards, ensure prompt and fair
trial for all political prisoners, ensure free education to all
children worldwide, decriminalize abortion, fight impunity from
systems of justice, end the recruitment and use of child soldiers,
free all prisoners of conscience, promote economic, social and
cultural rights for marginalized communities, protect human rights
defenders, promote religious tolerance, protect LGBT rights, stop
torture and ill-treatment, stop unlawful killings in armed conflict,
uphold the rights of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers, and
protect human dignity.
Amnesty International at the 2009 Marcha Gay in Mexico City, 20 June
To further these aims,
Amnesty International has developed several
techniques to publicize information and mobilize public opinion. The
organization considers as one of its strengths the publication of
impartial and accurate reports. Reports are researched by:
interviewing victims and officials, observing trials, working with
local human rights activists, and monitoring the media. It aims to
issue timely press releases and publishes information in newsletters
and on web sites. It also sends official missions to countries to make
courteous but insistent inquiries.
Campaigns to mobilize public opinion can take the form of individual,
country, or thematic campaigns. Many techniques are deployed, such as
direct appeals (for example, letter writing), media and publicity
work, and public demonstrations. Often, fund-raising is integrated
In situations which require immediate attention, Amnesty International
calls on existing urgent action networks or crisis response networks;
for all other matters, it calls on its membership. It considers the
large size of its human resources to be another of its key strengths.
The role of
Amnesty International has an immense impact on getting
citizens onboard(sic) with focusing on human rights issues. These
groups influence countries and governments to give their people
justice with pressure and in human resources. An example of Amnesty
International's work, which began in the 1960s, is writing letters to
free imprisoned people that were put there for non-violent
expressions. The group now has power, attends sessions, and became a
source of information for the UN. The increase in participation of
non-governmental organizations changes how we live today. Felix Dodds
states in a recent document: "In 1972 there were 39 democratic
countries in the world; by 2002, there were 139."
This shows that non-governmental organizations make enormous leaps
within a short period of time for human rights.
Protesting Israel's policy against African refugees, Tel Aviv, 9
Amnesty reports disproportionately on relatively more democratic and
open countries, arguing that its intention is not to produce a
range of reports which statistically represents the world's human
rights abuses, but rather to apply the pressure of public opinion to
encourage improvements. The demonstration effect of the behaviour of
both key Western governments and major non-Western states is an
important factor: as one former Amnesty
Secretary-General pointed out,
"for many countries and a large number of people, the
United States is
a model," and according to one Amnesty manager, "large countries
inﬂuence small countries." In addition, with the end of the Cold
War, Amnesty felt that a greater emphasis on human rights in the North
was needed to improve its credibility with its Southern critics by
demonstrating its willingness to report on human rights issues in a
truly global manner.
According to one academic study, as a result of these considerations
the frequency of Amnesty's reports is influenced by a number of
factors, besides the frequency and severity of human rights abuses.
For example, Amnesty reports significantly more (than predicted by
human rights abuses) on more economically powerful states; and on
countries which receive US military aid, on the basis that this
Western complicity in abuses increases the likelihood of public
pressure being able to make a difference. In addition, around
1993–94, Amnesty consciously developed its media relations,
producing fewer background reports and more press releases, to
increase the impact of its reports. Press releases are partly driven
by news coverage, to use existing news coverage as leverage to discuss
Amnesty's human rights concerns. This increases Amnesty's focus on the
countries the media is more interested in.
In 2012, Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty UK's campaign manager whose main
focus is Syria, listed several countries as "regimes who abuse
peoples' basic universal rights": Burma, Iran, Israel, North Korea and
Sudan. By including
Israel in that short list Mr. Benedict was
reprimanded; his opinion was garnered solely from "his own visits"
with no other objective sources.
Amnesty's country focus is similar to that of some other comparable
NGOs, notably Human Rights Watch: between 1991 and 2000, Amnesty and
HRW shared eight of ten countries in their "top ten" (by Amnesty press
releases; 7 for Amnesty reports). In addition, six of the 10
countries most reported on by
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch in the 1990s also
made The Economist's and Newsweek's "most covered" lists during that
Amnesty International is financed largely by fees and donations from
its worldwide membership. It says that it does not accept donations
from governments or governmental organizations. According to the AI
website, "these personal and unaffiliated donations allow AI to
maintain full independence from any and all governments, political
ideologies, economic interests or religions. We neither seek nor
accept any funds for human rights research from governments or
political parties and we accept support only from businesses that have
been carefully vetted. By way of ethical fundraising leading to
donations from individuals, we are able to stand firm and unwavering
in our defence of universal and indivisible human rights."
However, AI did receive grants from the UK Department for
International Development, the European Commission, the United
States State Department and other governments.
AI(USA) was also funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. However,
this funds are only used "in support of its human rights education
Criticism and controversies
Main article: Criticism of Amnesty International
Criticism of Amnesty International
Criticism of Amnesty International includes claims of excessive pay
for management, underprotection of overseas staff, associating with
organizations with a dubious record on human rights protection,
selection bias, ideological/foreign policy bias against either
non-Western countries or Western-supported countries, and
criticism of Amnesty's policies relating to abortion.
Governments and their supporters have criticized Amnesty's criticism
of their policies, including those of Australia, Czech
Republic, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India,
Iran, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Russia
and the United States, for what they assert is one-sided reporting
or a failure to treat threats to security as a mitigating factor. The
actions of these governments, and of other governments critical of
Amnesty International, have been the subject of human rights concerns
voiced by Amnesty. The
Sudan Vision Daily, a daily newspaper in Sudan,
compared Amnesty to the National Endowment for Democracy, saying "it
is, in essence, a
British intelligence organization which is a part of
the Government decision making system."
Amnesty International suspended Gita Sahgal, its gender unit head,
after she criticized Amnesty for its high-profile associations with
Moazzam Begg, the director of Cageprisoners, representing men in
extrajudicial detention. "To be appearing on platforms with
Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, Begg, whom we treat
as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment," she
said. Sahgal argued that by associating with Begg and
Cageprisoners, Amnesty was risking its reputation on human
rights. "As a former Guantanamo detainee, it was
legitimate to hear his experiences, but as a supporter of the Taliban
it was absolutely wrong to legitimise him as a partner", Sahgal
said. She said she repeatedly brought the matter up with Amnesty
for two years, to no avail. A few hours after the article was
published, Saghal was suspended from her position. Amnesty's
Senior Director of Law and Policy, Widney Brown, later said Sahgal
raised concerns about Begg and
Cageprisoners to her personally for the
first time a few days before sharing them with the Sunday Times.
Sahgal issued a statement saying she felt that Amnesty was risking its
reputation by associating with and thereby politically legitimizing
Cageprisoners "actively promotes Islamic Right ideas and
individuals". She said the issue was not about Begg's "freedom of
opinion, nor about his right to propound his views: he already
exercises these rights fully as he should. The issue is ... the
importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective
distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic
discrimination and fundamentally undermine the universality of human
rights." The controversy prompted responses by politicians, the
writer Salman Rushdie, and journalist Christopher Hitchens, among
others who criticized Amnesty's association with Begg.
After her suspension and the controversy, Saghal was interviewed by
numerous media and attracted international supporters. She was
National Public Radio
National Public Radio (NPR) on 27 February, where she
discussed the activities of
Cageprisoners and why she deemed it
inappropriate for Amnesty to associate with Begg. She said that
Cageprisoners' Asim Qureshi spoke supporting global jihad at a Hizb
ut-Tahrir rally. She noted that a best seller at Begg's bookshop
was a book by Abdullah Azzam, a mentor of
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden and a
founder of the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba.
In a separate interview for the Indian Daily News & Analysis,
Saghal said that, as Quereshi affirmed Begg's support for global jihad
BBC World Service
BBC World Service programme, "these things could have been stated
in his [Begg's] introduction" with Amnesty. She said that Begg's
bookshop had published The Army of Madinah, which she characterized as
a jihad manual by Dhiren Barot.
In February 2011, newspaper stories in the UK revealed that Irene Khan
had received a payment of £533,103 from Amnesty International
following her resignation from the organization on 31 December
2009, a fact pointed to from Amnesty's records for the
2009–2010 financial year. The sum paid to her was in excess of four
times her annual salary of £132,490. The deputy secretary
general, Kate Gilmore, who also resigned in December 2009, received an
ex-gratia payment of £320,000. Peter Pack, the chairman of
Amnesty's International Executive Committee (IEC), initially stated on
19 February 2011: "The payments to outgoing secretary general Irene
Khan shown in the accounts of AI (Amnesty International) Ltd for the
year ending 31 March 2010 include payments made as part of a
confidential agreement between AI Ltd and Irene Khan" and that
"It is a term of this agreement that no further comment on it will be
made by either party."
The payment and AI's initial response to its leakage to the press led
to considerable outcry. Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for
Shipley, decried the payment, telling the Daily Express: "I am sure
people making donations to Amnesty, in the belief they are alleviating
poverty, never dreamed they were subsidising a fat cat payout. This
will disillusion many benefactors." On 21 February Peter Pack
issued a further statement, in which he said that the payment was a
"unique situation" that was "in the best interest of Amnesty's work"
and that there would be no repetition of it. He stated that "the
new secretary general, with the full support of the IEC, has initiated
a process to review our employment policies and procedures to ensure
that such a situation does not happen again." Pack also stated
that Amnesty was "fully committed to applying all the resources that
we receive from our millions of supporters to the fight for human
rights". On 25 February, Pack issued a letter to Amnesty members
and staff. In summary, it states that the IEC in 2008 had decided not
to prolong Khan's contract for a third term. In the following months,
IEC discovered that due to British employment law, it had to choose
between the three options of either offering Khan a third term,
discontinuing her post and, in their judgement, risking legal
consequences, or signing a confidential agreement and issuing a pay
Awards and honours
Amnesty International received the Four Freedom award for the
Freedom of SpeechIn 1977,
Amnesty International was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize for "having contributed to securing the ground for
freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world".
Amnesty International Algeria
Amnesty International Ghana
Amnesty International Argentina
Amnesty International Australia
Amnesty International Austria
Amnesty International Belgium)
Amnesty International Flanders
Amnesty International Francophone Belgium
Amnesty International Benin
Amnesty International Bermuda
Amnesty International Brazil
Amnesty International Burkina Faso
Amnesty International Canada (English)
Amnistie internationale Canada (Francophone)
Amnesty International Chile
Amnesty International Czech Republic
Amnesty International Denmark
Amnesty International Faroe Islands
Amnesty International Finland
Amnesty International France
Amnesty International Germany
Amnesty International Greece
Amnesty International Hong Kong
Amnesty International Hungary
Amnesty International Iceland
Amnesty International India
Amnesty International Ireland
Amnesty International Israel
Amnesty International Italy
Amnesty International Japan
Amnesty International Jersey
Amnesty International Luxembourg
Amnesty International Malaysia
Amnesty International Mauritius
Amnesty International Mexico
Amnesty International Moldova
Amnesty International Mongolia
Amnesty International Morocco
Amnesty International Nepal
Amnesty International Netherlands
Amnesty International New Zealand
Amnesty International Norway
Amnesty International Paraguay
Amnesty International Peru
Amnesty International Philippines
Amnesty International Poland
Amnesty International Portugal
Amnesty International Puerto Rico
Amnesty International Russia
Amnesty International Senegal
Amnesty International Slovak Republic
Amnesty International Slovenia
Amnesty International South Africa
Amnesty International South Korea
Amnesty International Spain
Amnesty International Sweden
Amnesty International Switzerland
Amnesty International Taiwan
Amnesty International Thailand
Amnesty International Togo
Amnesty International Tunisia
Amnesty International Turkey
Amnesty International UK
Amnesty International Ukraine
Amnesty International Uruguay
Amnesty International USA
Amnesty International Venezuela
Human rights portal
100 Days Campaign
Amnesty International UK Media Awards
Amnesty International UK Media Awards winners
List of peace activists
^ a b The anthropologist Linda Rabben refers to the origin of Amnesty
as a "creation myth" with a "kernel of truth": "The immediate impetus
to form Amnesty did come from Peter Benenson's righteous indignation
while reading a newspaper in the
London tube on 19 November
1960." The historian Tom Buchanan traced the origins story to a
radio broadcast by
Peter Benenson in 1962. The 4 March 1962 BBC news
story did not refer to a "toast to liberty", but Benenson said his
tube ride was on 19 December 1960. Buchanan was unable to find the
newspaper article about the Portuguese students in The Daily Telegraph
for either month. Buchanan found many news stories reporting on the
repressive Portuguese political arrests in
The Times for November
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^ "Amnesty International's director in
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Laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize
1901 Henry Dunant / Frédéric Passy
1902 Élie Ducommun / Charles Gobat
1903 Randal Cremer
1904 Institut de Droit International
1905 Bertha von Suttner
1906 Theodore Roosevelt
1907 Ernesto Moneta / Louis Renault
1908 Klas Arnoldson / Fredrik Bajer
1909 A. M. F. Beernaert / Paul Estournelles de Constant
1910 International Peace Bureau
1911 Tobias Asser / Alfred Fried
1912 Elihu Root
1913 Henri La Fontaine
1917 International Committee of the Red Cross
1919 Woodrow Wilson
1920 Léon Bourgeois
1921 Hjalmar Branting / Christian Lange
1922 Fridtjof Nansen
1925 Austen Chamberlain / Charles Dawes
1926 Aristide Briand / Gustav Stresemann
1927 Ferdinand Buisson / Ludwig Quidde
1929 Frank B. Kellogg
1930 Nathan Söderblom
1931 Jane Addams / Nicholas Butler
1933 Norman Angell
1934 Arthur Henderson
1935 Carl von Ossietzky
1936 Carlos Saavedra Lamas
1937 Robert Cecil
1938 Nansen International Office for Refugees
1944 International Committee of the Red Cross
1945 Cordell Hull
1946 Emily Balch / John Mott
1947 Friends Service Council / American Friends Service Committee
1949 John Boyd Orr
1950 Ralph Bunche
1951 Léon Jouhaux
1952 Albert Schweitzer
1953 George Marshall
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1957 Lester B. Pearson
1958 Georges Pire
1959 Philip Noel-Baker
1960 Albert Lutuli
1961 Dag Hammarskjöld
1962 Linus Pauling
1963 International Committee of the Red Cross / League of Red
1964 Martin Luther King Jr.
1968 René Cassin
1969 International Labour Organization
1970 Norman Borlaug
1971 Willy Brandt
1973 Lê Đức Thọ (declined award) / Henry Kissinger
1974 Seán MacBride / Eisaku Satō
1975 Andrei Sakharov
1976 Betty Williams / Mairead Corrigan
1977 Amnesty International
1978 Anwar Sadat / Menachem Begin
1979 Mother Teresa
1980 Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1982 Alva Myrdal / Alfonso García Robles
1983 Lech Wałęsa
1984 Desmond Tutu
1985 International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
1986 Elie Wiesel
1987 Óscar Arias
1989 Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)
1990 Mikhail Gorbachev
1991 Aung San Suu Kyi
1992 Rigoberta Menchú
1993 Nelson Mandela / F. W. de Klerk
1994 Shimon Peres / Yitzhak Rabin / Yasser Arafat
1995 Pugwash Conferences / Joseph Rotblat
1996 Carlos Belo / José Ramos-Horta
1997 International Campaign to Ban Landmines / Jody Williams
1998 John Hume / David Trimble
1999 Médecins Sans Frontières
2000 Kim Dae-jung
2001 United Nations / Kofi Annan
2002 Jimmy Carter
2003 Shirin Ebadi
2004 Wangari Maathai
2005 International Atomic Energy Agency / Mohamed ElBaradei
2006 Grameen Bank / Muhammad Yunus
2007 Al Gore / Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
2008 Martti Ahtisaari
2009 Barack Obama
2010 Liu Xiaobo
2011 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf / Leymah Gbowee / Tawakkol Karman
2012 European Union
2013 Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
2014 Kailash Satyarthi / Malala Yousafzai
2015 Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet
2016 Juan Manuel Santos
2017 International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Olof Palme Prize laureates
Cyril Ramaphosa (1987)
UN Peace Keeping Operation (1988)
Václav Havel (1989)
SOS Racisme (1990)
Amnesty International (1991)
Arzu Abdullayeva, Anahit Bayandour (1992)
Students for Sarajevo (1993)
Wei Jingsheng (1994)
Fatah Youth, Israeli Labor Young Leadership,
Peace Now (1995)
Bruce C. Harris (1996)
Salima Ghezali (1997)
Veran Matić, Senad Pećanin,
Viktor Ivančić (1998)
Kurdo Baksi, Björn Fries, Klippan Parent Group (1999)
Bryan Stevenson (2000)
Fazle Hasan Abed
Fazle Hasan Abed (2001)
Hanan Ashrawi (2002)
Hans Blix (2003)
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Sergei Kovalev,
Anna Politkovskaya (2004)
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi (2005)
Kofi Annan, Mossaad Mohamed Ali (2006)
Parvin Ardalan (2007)
Denis Mukwege (2008)
Carsten Jensen (2009)
Eyad al-Sarraj (2010)
Roberto Saviano (2011)
Radhia Nasraoui, Waleed Sami Abulkhair (2012)
Rosa Taikon (2013)
Xu Youyu (2014)
Mitri Raheb (2015)
Spyridon Galinos, Giusi Nicolini (2016)
ISNI: 0000 0001 2170 8241
BNF: cb11870755b (data)