Our story - defending human rights for over 50 years

In October 1960 a young barrister got on the London Underground, opened his paper and read a short article about a couple of students in Portugal who had been imprisoned for seven years after raising their glasses in a toast to freedom.

Sounds uneventful, but this was to become one of the most significant moments in the global movement for human rights. That barrister was called Peter Benenson, and his outrage at the imprisonment of the two men led to the birth of Amnesty International. 

Now, over 50 years and a Nobel Peace Prize later, we continue to campaign for justice where ever it has been denied. We protect people, defending their right to freedom, to truth, and to dignity. We do this by investigating and exposing abuses where they happen. By galvanising our global movement of seven million people to intervene where individuals are at risk and by educating future generations so that one day the dream of human rights for all becomes a reality. 

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At our heart we are about people

Jabbar SavalanWe are about people like Jabbar Salavan – a young activist in Azerbaijan who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison after calling for peaceful protests against the government. 

We are about people like Ben – a student at De Montfort University. In 2011 Ben joined thousands of others in writing to the Azerbaijan authorities to demand Jabbar’s release. It worked. Jabbar was freed by Presidential pardon that December, nearly two years earlier than intended. 

Jenni Williams, co-founder of Women of Zimbabwe Arise

We are about people like Jenni Williams. Ten years ago she co-founded Women of Zimbabwe Arise, an organisation that campaigns for social justice. Since then, Jenni and other members of WOZA have been threatened and severely beaten by police. They are frequently arrested and have been charged with everything from ‘kidnapping and theft’ to ‘criminal nuisance’.

Despite all of this, they have never stopped fighting for what they believe in.

We are about people like Jo, a shop assistant from Manchester and all the other thousands of you who have taken the time to write messages of support to WOZA members, and appeal to the authorities on their behalf. The power of these actions has led Jenni Williams to call Amnesty her ‘big sister’. 

Donatella Rovera, our Syria researcher, on the groundWe are about Donatella, our Syria researcher who has repeatedly braved the dangers in the country to collect evidence of war crimes – driven by her commitment to gather independent information and bring those responsible to justice. 

And we are about Gary, a business analyst from Belfast who donated alongside hundreds of others to help us raise over £12,000 in support of our work on the country. Together they ensured that we are not only able to send Donatella and her colleagues to research the situation on the ground, but also help build hope for a future Syria free from human rights abuses by offering a training programme to peaceful Syrian activists.

We are about Jabbar, Ben, Jenni, Jo, Donatella and Gary.  

And we are about people like you.

Because Amnesty is all about people, from every walk of life, taking a stand in their own way - wherever there are human rights concerns.