In 1961, London lawyer Peter Benenson read about a group of students in Portugal who were arrested and jailed for raising a toast to freedom in a public restaurant. This incident prompted him to launch a one-year campaign called “Appeal for Amnesty 1961” in the London Observer.
The “Appeal for Amnesty” called for the release of all people imprisoned because of peaceful expression of their beliefs, politics, race, religion, colour, or national origin. Benenson called these people, “prisoners of conscience.” His plan was to encourage people to write letters to government officials in countries, which had prisoners of conscience, calling for their release.
The campaign grew enormously, spread to other countries, and by the end of 1961 the organisation, Amnesty International, had been formed.
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 focussed 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.
I believe that this mission statement is compatible with catholic social teaching.
Amnesty International addresses governments, intergovernmental organisations, armed political groups, companies, and other non-state actors.
Amnesty International seeks to disclose human rights abuses accurately, quickly and persistently. It systematically and impartially researches the facts of individual cases and patterns of human rights abuses. These findings are publicised, and members, supporters and of amnesty international staff mobilise public pressure on governments and others to stop the abuses.
In addition to its work on specific…