Amnesty International notches up 50 years

An Amnesty campaign event highlighting the 'disappeared'
An Amnesty campaign event highlighting the 'disappeared'

By staff

Human rights campaigning group Amnesty International is marking its 50th birthday.

UK lawyer Peter Benson began the movement in May 1961 by issuing an "appeal for amnesty" on behalf of two Portuguese students who had been imprisoned for raising their glasses in a "toast to freedom".

The organisation was officially named in 1962 and broadened its remit in the 1980s to include refugees and human rights education.

It decided to promote all rights in the universal declaration of human rights in 1991 and ten years later began work on economic, social and cultural rights too.

Foreign secretary William Hague said Amnesty's work had resulted in "many lives saved and prisoners of conscience released".

"As we have seen with recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, the role of Amnesty International and other civil society organisations remains relevant in today's world. I wish Amnesty every continued success in the future."

Aung San Suu Kyi, who Amnesty said was "possibly the world's most famous prisoner of conscience", said she hoped the organisation would be so successful its work would no longer be required.

"I hope that we shall be able to cooperate together to bring about this sad, this happy day when Amnesty International no longer needs to carry on its work," she said.


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