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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized
human rights to be respected and protected for everyone.
We believe human rights abuses anywhere are the concern of people everywhere.
So, outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world, we work to improve
people’s lives through campaigning and international solidarity.
Our mission is to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human
rights and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.
Our members and supporters exert influence on governments, political bodies, companies and
intergovernmental groups.
Activists take up human rights issues by mobilizing public pressure through mass demonstrations, vigils
and direct lobbying as well as online and offline campaigning.

Campaigning for those who need help

“They carried guns all the time. I was afraid of the guns. Actually, I was in constant fear.”
Fereh Musu Conteh, 13 years old, abducted by an armed group in Sierra Leone
Our campaigning remains firmly rooted in the power of individuals working in support of others who
need protection or support.

Working with and for individuals the world over, we campaign so that every person may enjoy all of the
human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We undertake research and take
action aimed at preventing and ending grave abuses of these rights, demanding that all governments
and other powerful entities respect the rule of law. It means we campaign globally and locally where
ever we can make a difference. For example, we take action to:

• Stop violence against women

• Defend the rights and dignity of those trapped in poverty

• Abolish the death penalty

• Oppose torture and combat terror with justice

• Free prisoners of conscience

• Protect the rights of refugees and migrants

• Regulate the global arms trade

Thousands of Amnesty International members respond to Urgent Action appeals on behalf of individuals
at immediate risk. Publicity through the news media and the internet takes our message in many
languages to millions of people.
Campaigning can change people’s lives – of victims and survivors of human rights abuses, of human
rights activists and defenders and even of the abusers.

Independent and democratic

We have a number of safeguards in place to protect our autonomy. We are:

• Independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion

• Democratic and self-governing

• Financially self-sufficient, thanks to the generous support of donations provided by individual

members and supporters

We do not support or oppose any government or political system and neither do we necessarily support
or oppose the views of the victims/survivors or human rights defenders whose rights we seek to protect.


Ever since we started campaigning in 1961, we’ve worked around the globe to stop the abuse of human
We now have more than 2.2 million members, supporters and subscribers in over 150 countries and
territories, in every region of the world.
The following short history highlights many of the campaigns and actions we’ve undertaken and key
human rights developments since we began all those years ago.

The 1960s

British lawyer Peter Benenson launched a worldwide campaign, ‘Appeal for Amnesty 1961’ with the
publication of a prominent article, ‘The Forgotten Prisoners’, in The Observer newspaper. The
imprisonment of two Portuguese students, who had raised their wine glasses in a toast to freedom,
moved Benenson to write this article. His appeal was reprinted in other papers across the world and
turned out to be the genesis of Amnesty International.
The first international meeting was held in July, with delegates from Belgium, the UK, France, Germany,
Ireland, Switzerland and the US. They decided to establish "a permanent international movement in
defence of freedom of opinion and religion".
A small office and library, staffed by volunteers, opened in Peter Benenson’s chambers, in Mitre Court,
London. The ’Threes Network‘ was established through which each Amnesty International group
adopted three prisoners from contrasting geographical and political areas, emphasizing the impartiality
of the group's work.
On Human Rights Day, 10 December, the first Amnesty candle was lit in the church of St-Martin-in-the-
Fields, London.
In January the first research trip was undertaken. This trip to Ghana, was followed by Czechoslovakia
in February (on behalf of a prisoner of conscience, Archbishop Josef Beran), and then to Portugal and
East Germany.
The Prisoner of Conscience Fund was established to provide relief to prisoners and their families.
AI’s first annual report was published; it contained details of 210 prisoners who had been adopted by 70
groups in seven countries; in addition, 1,200 cases were documented in the Prisoners of Conscience
At a conference in Belgium, a decision was made to set up a permanent organization that will be known
as Amnesty International.
An observer attended the trial of Nelson Mandela.
Amnesty International now comprised 350 groups – there was a two-year total of 770 prisoners adopted
and 140 released.
The International Secretariat (Amnesty International’s headquarters) was established in London.
Peter Benenson was named president. There were now 360 groups in 14 countries. In August the
United Nations gave Amnesty International consultative status.
Amnesty International issued its first reports – on prison conditions in Portugal, South Africa and
Romania – and sponsored a resolution at the United Nations to suspend and finally abolish the death
penalty for peacetime political offences.
The monthly Postcards for Prisoners campaign started.
Eric Baker took over the running of the organization.
There were 550 groups in 18 countries, and Amnesty International was working for nearly 2,000
prisoners in 63 countries – 293 prisoners had been released.
The first Prisoner of Conscience Week was observed in November.
Martin Ennals was appointed AI Secretary General.
In January, UNESCO granted Amnesty International consultative status as the organization reached
another milestone – 2,000 prisoners of conscience released.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted.

The 1970s

There were now 850 groups in 27 countries; 520 prisoners had been released during the year.
Amnesty International’s 10th anniversary received widespread publicity in international press, radio and
television, in a year when 700 prisoners were released.
Amnesty International launched its first worldwide campaign for the abolition of torture.
The first full Urgent Action was issued, on behalf of Professor Luiz Basilio Rossi, a Brazilian who was
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."
The new regime in Chile agreed to admit a three-person Amnesty International mission for an on-the-
spot probe into allegations of massive violations of human rights.
The United Nations unanimously approved the Amnesty International-inspired resolution formally
denouncing torture.
Amnesty International’s Sean McBride, Chair of the International Executive Committee, was awarded
the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his lifelong work for human rights.
On the first anniversary of Chile's military coup, AI published a report exposing political oppression,
executions and torture under the regime of President Augusto Pinochet.
Mumtaz Soysal of Turkey became first ever former prisoner of conscience elected to the International
Executive Committee, Amnesty International’s most senior governance body.
The United Nations unanimously adopted a Declaration Against Torture.
There were now 1,592 groups in 33 countries and more than 70,000 members in 65 countries.
The first Secret Policeman's Ball fundraising event in London featured John Cleese and Monty Python,
Peter Cook and other Beyond the Fringe comedians, Not the Nine o’Clock News, Fawlty Towers and
The Goodies. The series continued in later years starring comedians and musicians such as Peter
Gabriel, Duran Duran, Mark Knopfler, Bob Geldolf, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins paved the way for
benefits such as Live Aid.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights entered into force. Together they are known as the International Bill of
Amnesty International 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".
Amnesty International won the United Nations Human Rights prize for "outstanding contributions in the
field of human rights".
List published of 2,665 cases of people known to have "disappeared" in Argentina after the military coup
by Jorge Rafael Videla.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was
adopted by the UN General Assembly.

The 1980s

Thomas Hammarberg of Sweden took over from Martin Ennals as Secretary General.
A candle-lighting ceremony was held in London to mark Amnesty International’s 20th anniversary.
On 10 December, Human Rights Day, an appeal was launched for a universal amnesty for all prisoners
of conscience. More than one million people sign petitions, which were presented to the United Nations
a year later.
Amnesty International launched a special report on political killings by governments.
Amnesty International launched the second Campaign Against Torture, which included a 12-point plan
for the abolition of torture.
Amnesty International published its first educational pack: Teaching and Learning about Human Rights.
The International Council Meeting in Helsinki, Finland, made a decision to broaden the statute to include
work for refugees.
There were now more than half a million members, supporters and subscribers.
Amnesty International USA launched the Conspiracy of Hope rock concert tour with U2, Sting, Peter
Gabriel, Bryan Adams, Lou Reed, the Neville Brothers and others.
Ian Martin became General Secretary.
AI published a report which said that the death penalty in the USA is racially biased and arbitrary and
violated treaties such as the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR).
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
enters into force.
Human Rights Now! concert tour, featuring Sting and Bruce Springsteen, among others, travelled to 19
cities in 15 countries and was viewed by millions when broadcast on Human Rights Day.
Membership surged in many countries following the tour.
Amnesty International published a major new study on the death penalty, When the State Kills.

The 1990s
Membership increased to 700,000 members in 150 countries, with more than 6,000 volunteer groups in
70 countries.
Amnesty International’s 30th anniversary saw the organization broaden its scope to cover work on
abuses by armed opposition groups, hostage taking and people imprisoned due to their sexual
Membership passed one million.
Pierre Sané was appointed Secretary General of Amnesty International.
The UN Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance was adopted.
Amnesty International activists demonstrated at the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights
in Vienna, and displayed Urgent Actions from around the world.
Amnesty International launched major international campaigns on women's rights, disappearances and
political killings.
Amnesty International campaigned to Stop the Torture Trade.
Amnesty International launched the campaign for a permanent International Criminal Court.
Human rights of refugees worldwide became a major focus of campaigning.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted in July 1998.
Amnesty International launched the Get Up, Sign Up! campaign to mark the 50th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights – 13 million pledges of support were collected.
A concert was held in Paris on Human Rights Day featuring Radiohead, Asian Dub Foundation, Bruce
Springsteen, Tracey Chapman, Alanis Morissette, Youssou N'Dour and Peter Gabriel, with special
appearances by the Dalai Lama and international human rights activists.
The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders was adopted in March 1999.
Our International Council Meeting agreed to expand Amnesty International’s remit to include: the impact
of economic relations on human rights; empowering human rights defenders; campaigning against
impunity; enhancing work to protect refugees; and strengthening grassroots activism.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against
Women was adopted, meaning the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women can
receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups.

2000-present day

Amnesty International launched the third Campaign against Torture.
Irene Khan was appointed Secretary General of Amnesty International.
In its 40th anniversary year, Amnesty International changed its Statute to incorporate, into its mission,
work for economic, social and cutlural rights thus committing itself to advance both the universality and
indivisibility of all human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration.
Amnesty International’s Stop Torture website won a Revolution Award, which recognised the best in
digital marketing.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in
armed conflict was adopted (the Convention on the Rights of the Child itself having been adopted in
The 60th ratification of the Rome Statute took place, paving the way for the International Criminal Court
to come into force on 1 July 2002.
Amnesty International launched a campaign in the Russian Federation against the widespread human
rights abuses committed in a climate of impunity.
Amnesty International, Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) launched
the global Control Arms campaign.
Amnesty International launched the Stop Violence Against Women campaign.
Amnesty International launched the Make Some Noise campaign – music, celebration and action in
support of Amnesty International’s work. Yoko Ono made a gift to Amnesty International of the recording
rights to Imagine and John Lennon's entire solo songbook.
Amnesty International's report, Cruel. Inhuman. Degrades us all – Stop torture and ill-treatment in the
‘war on terror’, challenged the claim that, in the face of terrorist threats, states need not be bound by
previously agreed human rights standards.
Amnesty International’s report, Partners in crime: Europe’s role in US renditions, detailed the
involvement of European states in US flights used to secretly seize and imprison terrorist suspects
without due process.
The millionth person to post a picture of himself on the Control Arms Million Faces web petition calling
for an Arms Trade Treaty presented the petition to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. A further quarter
of a million people signed the petition before the year was out.
Amnesty International and its partners in the Control Arms campaign achieved a major victory when the
UN voted overwhelmingly to start work on a treaty.
The UN adopted the International Convention For The Protection Of All Persons From Enforced
Amnesty International launched a global petition calling on Sudan’s government to protect civilians in
Darfur and launched a CD featuring 30 world-class musicians to mobilize support, called Make Some
Noise: The Campaign to Save Darfur.
The United Nations General Assembly (GA) adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Following intense campaigning by Amnesty International and its partners in the World Coalition Against
the Death Penalty, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Third Committee's 62nd session
adopted resolution L29 calling for a global moratorium on executions.
Amnesty International has more than 2.2 million members, supporters and subscribers in over 150
countries and territories in every region of the world.
Amnesty International’s International Executive Committee (IEC) is elected democratically by our
biennial International Council Meeting.
The IEC provides guidance and leadership for the Amnesty International movement worldwide and
meets regularly throughout the year.


The International Executive Committee (IEC) consists of nine people, each of whom is a member of
Amnesty International. They are elected to office by the biennial International Council Meeting (ICM).

The IEC members’ four-year terms are staggered, with half the members up for re-election at each ICM.
Each member is eligible for re-election for a maximum of two consecutive terms.

The IEC may not include more than one member from any Amnesty International national body or more
than one member of Amnesty International from any country, state or territory in which no Amnesty
International body exists.

In 2009, the IEC decided to co-opt one additional member to serve as an IEC member until the 2011
ICM, in accordance with the Statute of Amnesty International.

The IEC meets at least two times during any one year and in practice meets at least four times a year.

The IEC's role is to provide guidance and leadership for the Amnesty International movement
worldwide. Its chief functions are set down by the statute and include to:

• ensure the movement’s compliance with Amnesty International's statute

• ensure implementation of Amnesty International's Integrated Strategic Plan

• ensure the sound financial management of Amnesty International at the international level

• provide consent for the establishment of sections, structures and other bodies of Amnesty

• hold sections, structures and other bodies of Amnesty International accountable for their
functioning by presenting reports to the International Council Meeting

• take international decisions on behalf of Amnesty International

• ensure human resources development

The IEC also appoints and directs Amnesty International's Secretary General who, in turn, is
responsible for the day-to-day conduct of the international movement, acting as the movement’s chief
spokesperson, its chief political advisor and as the chief executive officer of the International Secretariat.

The IEC issues the wider Amnesty International movement with regular reports on its priorities,
deliberations and decisions and includes financial reports and budget statements.

The IEC is accountable to the International Council. At each International Council Meeting, the IEC
provides detailed accounts of the work it has undertaken and makes recommendations to the Council
on matters affecting our future direction.

The Secretary General is the operational leader of the Amnesty International movement, acting as the
movement's chief political adviser and strategist, its chief spokesperson and the chief executive officer
of the International Secretariat. As such the Secretary General is responsible for developing and
coordinating Amnesty International's strategies to promote and protect human rights, representing the
movement to governments, inter-governmental and other organizations, the worlds media and the
general public. The Secretary General is appointed by and reports to the International Executive

Amnesty International's Secretary General-designate is Salil Shetty, who will take up his functions in
June 2010. He replaces Irene Khan who left at the end of 2009 after eight years in the position. Until
Salil Shetty starts in June, Claudio Cordone, Senior Director for Research and Regional Programmes, is
acting as interim Secretary General.

As Senior Director for Research and Regional Programmes, Claudio Cordone has been responsible for
research standards and country work across five regional departments. Prior to that, he worked for
Amnesty International as Senior Director for International Law and Organizations (2002 - 2004) as well
as Director of its main policy unit (1994 to 2002) and as a Researcher on the Middle East and North
Africa (1985 to 1994).

In 1997-1998, he took a leave of absence from Amnesty International to set up the Human Rights Office
of the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in charge of conducting human rights investigations as
part of the UN program of police reform in the country. He has a degree in law from Rome University,
Italy, and an MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University, USA. He is an Italian national.


The International Secretariat of Amnesty International is led by a team of Senior Directors headed by
the Secretary General. The Senior Directors work closely with the directors and deputy directors of the
IS' programmes (departments) and together they provide strategic direction, operational management
and direct support to the secretariat’s staff and volunteers. They also work closely with the directors of
Amnesty International’s local chapters.