About

Amnesty International (AI) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights.

Amnesty members come from all cultures and walks of life, numbering over one million people around the world. We believe that mass public pressure, expressed through effective forms of action, is critical in stopping human rights violations.

AI’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, AI’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.

AI is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government or political system, nor does it support or oppose the views of the victims whose rights it seeks to protect. It is concerned solely with the impartial protection of human rights.

AI has a varied network of members and supporters around the world. At the latest count, there were more than 1.8 million members, supporters and subscribers in over 150 countries and territories in every region of the world. Although they come from many different backgrounds and have widely different political and religious beliefs, they are united by a determination to work for a world where everyone enjoys human rights.

AI is a democratic, self-governing movement. Major policy decisions are taken by an International Council made up of representatives from all national sections.

AI’s national sections and local volunteer groups are primarily responsible for funding the movement. No funds are sought or accepted from governments for AI’s work investigating and campaigning against human rights violations.

Amnesty International was founded in 1961 by a British lawyer named Peter Benenson and a Quaker named Eric Baker. Benenson was reading his newspaper and was shocked and angered to come across the story of two Portuguese students sentenced to seven years in prison – for the crime of raising their glasses in a toast to freedom.

Benenson wrote to David Astor, editor of The Observer newspaper, who, on May 28, published Benenson’s article entitled The Forgotten Prisoners that asked readers to write letters showing support for the students. The response was so overwhelming that within a year groups of letter writers had formed in more than a dozen countries, writing to defend victims of injustice wherever they might be.

Later in that year, a member of one of these groups, Diana Redhouse, designed Amnesty’s Candle and Barbed-Wire logo, based on an old Chinese phrase: Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

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