Ashley James Amnesty International Thousands of people are in prison because of their beliefs. Many are held without charge or trial. Torture and the death penalty are widespread. In many countries men, women, and children have "disappeared" after being taken into official custody. Still others have been killed without any pretense of legality.
These human rights abuses occur in countries of widely differing ideologies. Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people acting on the conviction that governments must not deny individuals their basic human rights. The organization was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for it's efforts to promote global observance of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International works specifically toward four main goals. They work for the release of prisoners of conscience, which is defined as people imprisoned for their beliefs, color, sex, ethnic origin, language, or religion, provided they have neither used nor promoted violence, for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners, for an end to the death penalty and torture in all cases, and for an end to extra-judicial executions and "disappearances". Amnesty International's effectiveness depends on its impartial application of a single standard of human rights to every country in the world.
The organization is independent of all governments, political factions, ideologies, economic interests, and religious creeds. It accepts no financial contribution from any government and is funded entirely by donations from its supporters. To safeguard impartiality, groups do not work for prisoners of conscience held within their own countries. Amnesty International members send letters, cards, and telegrams on behalf of individual prisoners to government officials. Constant action generates the most effective pressure. One well-written letter to a minister of justice is not pressure, ten letters are.
Hundreds of letters were sent on behalf of a prisoner detained for many years in Soviet psychiatric hospitals. Later he said that his release had been a direct result of the letters from Amnesty. He believes they were also the key to better treatment during imprisonment. "When the first two hundred letters came, the guards gave me back my clothes. Then the next two hundred letters came, and the prison director came to see me. When the next pile of letters arrived, the director got in touch with his superior.
The letters kept coming and coming: three thousand of them. The President was informed. The letters still kept arriving, and the President called the prison and told them to let me go". -A released prisoner from the Dominican Republic Amnesty International members also organize public meetings, collect signatures for petitions, and arrange publicity events, such as vigils at appropriate government embassies. They work on special projects, such as the Campaign to Abolish Torture.
At its launching Amnesty members met with more than half of the United States congressional representatives to voice their concern and outline Amnesty Internationals program to eradicate torture. Members also raise money to send medicine, food and clothing to prisoners and their families. Amnesty International sends missions to countries to appeal in person for the protection of human rights. A medical delegation to Bolivia successfully convinced the government to allow a prisoner to be flown abroad for a life-saving operation. Another group went to Gambia in response to reports that prisoners were held in leg irons and denied access to friends and relatives. Within months Gambia's President had taken steps to improve conditions.
When Amnesty International hears of political arrests or people facing torture or execution, it concentrates first on getting the facts. At the organization's headquarters in London, the Research Department (with a staff of more than 200 recruited from over 30 countries) collects and analyses information from a wide variety of sources. These include hundreds of newspapers and journals, government bulletins, transcripts of radio broadcasts, reports from lawyers and humanitarian groups, along with letters from the prisoners and their families. Amnesty International representatives frequently go on missions to collect on-the-spot information. Amnesty legal observers (sometimes paralegals) often attend trials where accepted international standards are at issue. Amnesty International was launched in 1961 by British lawyer Peter Berenson.
Today Amnesty has more tan 1,000,000 members, subscribers and regular donors in over 190 countries and territories. At the end of May 1996 Amnesty groups were working on 4,036 long-term assignments on behalf of 4,953 named and 2,903 unnamed individuals from 94 countries worldwide. Amnesty International never claims credit for the release of prisoners. Releases are the result of many factors, mainly the actions taken by friends and family.
However, many released prisoners have said that Amnesty's publicity and letters were very important. In fact, releases are the most easily seen, but not the only, consequence of Amnesty International's work. Conditions with the prison may be improved, torture may be stopped or prevented, and the prisoners may be given real hope by the knowledge that they have not been forgotten. The closest Amnesty International section to us is located 11154 La Paloma Dr. in Cupertino.