About Amnesty International

Amnesty International (AI) is an independent, impartial movement that works for the release of all prisoners of conscience--people detained for their beliefs, race, sex, language, religion, ethnic origin, who have never used or advocated violence. AI works for fair and impartial trials and for the end of torture and executions in all cases.

AI bases its work on the principles set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on 10 December 1948.

AI's work begins with accurate and impartial research. The International Secretariat (IS), based in London, houses AI's large and expert research headquarters. The researchers collect information from around the world through witness reports, newspapers, journals, and letters from prisoners and their families. AI also sends fact-finding missions to conduct on-the-spot investigations. To ensure accuracy of information, AI verifies all information with at least two independent sources.

A Short History

Amnesty International began in 1961 with British lawyer Peter Beneson. He had read about two Portuguese students who were sentenced to seven years in prison for toasting to freedom. Beneson wondered how ordinary citizens could effectively convince the Portuguese government to release these victims of injustice. He started a one-year campaign. After the London Observer ran a full-page story announcing an "Appeal for Amnesty, 1961" enough people became interested to form Amnesty International as a continuing organization.


Today Amnesty International works in over 160 countries and has a membership of over 1,000,000. Each year Amnesty International sends out countless appeals on behalf of thousands of individuals whose human rights have been violated. It makes representations every year to the international government organizations where it has formal relations.

Where you come in...

Your letter can save a life! In more than one-third of the cases taken up each year, Amnesty International learns about some improvement in a prisoner's condition: Torture is stopped . . . . A person listed as "disappeared" reappears . . . . A death sentence is commuted . . . . Incommunicado detention is acknowledged . . . . A prisoner of conscience is released.

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