Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.

We are funded by members and people like you. We are independent of any political ideology, economic interest or religion. No government is beyond scrutiny. No situation is beyond hope. 

Few would have predicted when we started that torturers would become international outlaws. That most countries would abolish the death penalty. And seemingly untouchable dictators would be made to answer for their crimes.

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

Amnesty International
Peter_Benenson_founder_of_Amnesty_International_in_1986_ © Private
Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International, in 1986 © Private
Members and supporters take part in Amnesty's annual Write for Rights letter writing marathon at AI Zimbabwe offices, 10 December 2019. © Amnesty International
Members and supporters take part in Amnesty’s annual Write for Rights letter-writing marathon at AI Zimbabwe offices, 10 December 2019.

Where it all began

In 1961, British lawyer Peter Benenson was outraged when two Portuguese students were jailed just for raising a toast to freedom. He wrote an article in The Observer newspaper and launched a campaign that provoked an incredible response. Reprinted in newspapers across the world, his call to action sparked the idea that people everywhere can unite in solidarity for justice and freedom. 

This inspiring moment didn’t just give birth to an extraordinary movement, it was the start of extraordinary social change.

Only when the last prisoner of conscience has been freed, when the last torture chamber has been closed, when the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reality for the world’s people, will our work be done. 

Peter Benenson, Amnesty International founder

1961

A global movement for human rights begins. Lawyer Peter Benenson launches the ‘Appeal for Amnesty’ in the Observer newspaper, after two Portuguese students are jailed for raising a toast to freedom. © Guardian News and Media Limited.

1963

The first prisoner of conscience is released, Ukrainian Archbishop Josyf Slipyi in Siberia. It sparks decades of tireless campaigning on behalf of people persecuted for their beliefs. (Photo: campaigners at a rally in London in 1983. © Raoul Shade.)

1972

Amnesty launches its first campaign against torture. 12 years later, the UN votes to combat torture worldwide with the Convention against Torture in 1984. © Amnesty International Switzerland


1977

Amnesty is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for contributing to ‘securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world’. It’s recognition for the hard work and determination of Amnesty supporters across the world. © Amnesty International
Amnesty wins the nobel peace prize in 1977 © Amnesty International

1980

Amnesty launches its first campaign against the death penalty. When we started in 1961, only nine countries had abolished state executions. By 2014, that figure had risen to 140. © Amnesty International

1980

Amnesty campaigns for an International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring those responsible for genocides and war crimes to justice. The ICC is finally established in 2002. (Photo: Demonstrators form a ‘human carpet’ to put pressure on delegates negotiating the formation of the ICC, Italy 1998. © Antonio Sesta)
Demonstrators form a ‘human carpet’ to put pressure on delegates negotiating the formation of the ICC, Italy 1998. © Antonio Sesta

2006

Nelson Mandela becomes an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience. In 1962, Amnesty had sent a lawyer to observe his trial in South Africa. Nelson Mandela wrote that “his mere presence, as well as the assistance he gave, were a source of tremendous inspiration and encouragement to us.” © Jurgen Schadeberg

2007

Amnesty’s long fight for freedom of expression across the world moves to the internet. Ali Sayed al-Shihabi is released after being jailed for posting pro-democracy articles online in Syria. © REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

2014

After 20 years of pressure from Amnesty supporters, a life-saving global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) comes into force on 24 December 2014. It will help stop the flow of weapons fuelling atrocities around the world. © Amnesty International
Two young people in Togo write letters as part of Amnesty International's Write for Rights campaign © Amnesty International Togo
Two young people in Togo write letters as part of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign © Amnesty International Togo

Amnesty evolves

Over the years, human rights have moved from the fringes to centre stage in world affairs. 

Amnesty has grown from seeking the release of political prisoners to upholding the whole spectrum of human rights. Our work protects and empowers people – from abolishing the death penalty to protecting sexual and reproductive rights, and from combatting discrimination to defending refugees and migrants’ rights. We speak out for anyone and everyone whose freedom and dignity are under threat.

Amnesty Today

After more than 50 years of groundbreaking achievements, Amnesty has been through a major transformation, adapting to dramatic changes in the world.

We have shifted from a large London base, to open regional offices in cities in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. These offices are major hubs for our investigations, campaigns and communications. The new regional offices strengthen the work of Sections who already work at the national level in more than 70 countries. We can now respond quickly to events wherever they happen and be a powerful force for freedom and justice.

Imagine what we can now achieve standing side by side with activists in every corner of the globe. How many more prison doors will open? How many more torturers will be brought to justice? How many more people will realize their rights and live in dignity?