IR - One Definition a Day: Amnesty InternationalAn INGO working in the issue area of human rights. Amnesty began as a protest movement but quickly took on an organisational structure commensurate with its goals and tasks. The original conception for an international campaign in support of those detained throughtout the world for political or religious beliefs was that of Peter Benenson. Benenson's article in the British Sunday Observer in May 1961, entitled 'The Forgotten Prisoners' caught the imagination of world public opinion. Within a year over 200 cases had been taken up and representations on behalf of prisoners of conscience had been made.
Amnesty pursues three broad policy goals: the release of all prisoners of conscience; an end to all forms of torture (including the death penalty); and fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners. Amnesty is essentially a monitoring organisation and it critically depends upon a well-developed responsiveness from attentive publics throughout the system. In addition its reputation for impartiality and reliability makes it an important information source which is widely used by political elites across the world.
At the time of writing Amnesty has over one million members and supporters in over 150 states and territories. It is governed by a nine-member Executive Committee and a Secretary-General who implements policy decisions and heads the Secretariat. Its headquarters are based in London, UK. It is represented at the United Nations and in 1978 was awarded the UN human rights prize in recognition of its works in this area. Amnesty is officially recognized by the European Union, the Council of Europe, the organisation of American states and the Organisation of African Unity. It was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1977.
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