Monday, May 23, 2011

Amnesty International 50 years

As human rights Group international Amnesty International marks its 50th anniversary later this week, here a brief overview of its remarkable history and achievements.
Over the past 50 years the one-man initiative has grown into an international organization with 2.8 million members, donors and supporters. Numbering 300,000 members, the Dutch branch is the world’s biggest. Currently Amnesty is helping 4,500 individual human rights victims.
Benenson
The group’s origins go back to 28 May 1961, when British lawyer Peter Benenson launched a worldwide campaign, ‘Appeal for Amnesty 1961’, with the publication of an article, ‘The Forgotten Prisoners’, in the British newspaper The Observer. In the article, which was reprinted in papers across the world, he called for the release of two Portuguese students who had been sentenced to seven years in prison for raising their wine glasses in a toast to freedom in a bar in Lisbon.
Mission
Amnesty has three founding principles: protection of freedom, protection against any form of arbitrary violence committed or tolerated by any state and banning discrimination. At first, the group focused on helping release prisoners of conscience and rooting out torturre and executions. At present, the group aims to defend all rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Annual report

Amnesty’s first annual report was published in 1962. Numbering 25 pages, it described the human rights record of 20 countries. Amnesty’s 2010 report is over 400 pages long, contains reports on 159 countries and discusses a wide range of topics, including torture, capital punishment, refugee issues, impunity, police violence and discrimination.
United Nations
In 1964 the United Nations gave Amnesty International consultative status.
The Netherlands
Amnesty opened an office in Holland in 1968.
Torture
In 1972 Amensty launched its first worldwide campaign for the abolition of torture.
The first full Urgent Action was mounted the following year, on behalf of a Brazilian professor, Luiz Basilio Rossi, who had been arrested for political reasons. Luiz himself believed that Amnesty International's appeals were crucial: "I knew that my case had become public, I knew they could no longer kill me. Then the pressure on me decreased and conditions improved." Since then, the number of countries that torture has dropped by 50 percent, from 75 countries in 1972.
Nobel Prize
In 1977 Amnesty was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "having contributed to securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world".
Capital punishment
In 1977 Amnesty launched an international campaign against the death penalty. Only 16 countries had completely abolished capital punishment by then. Now 139 countries have.
International Criminal Tribunal
In 1998, 120 countries adopted the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Day Opening - May 23

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