Not many people have the courage to act when they turn on the news and hear of a life-changing humanitarian disaster. But for Peter Benenson, his rage was ignited. Whilst doing his everyday route through The London Underground, this young barrister saw an opportunity to make a difference after reading a story about two male students in Portugal, who were given life-long sentences after simply toasting to their freedom. Portugal, at the time, was under the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Benenson felt that he had to act and that things had to change, and subsequently, Amnesty International was born. Ella Pilson explores.
Amnesty International is a global movement that fights for human rights all around the world. Having over 10 million members, their mission focuses on the enforcement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and within this, spearheading their own causes such as the United Nations Convention Against Torture (1984), or long-term campaign against the death penalty.
In the UK, this is split between two organisations: the Amnesty International UK section and the Amnesty International UK Charitable Trust. The main difference between these are the methods that are used, the areas they focus on, and how they conduct their charity work. The Trust works on aid given by wills, gift aid schemes or foundations, and is subject to more regulation in how it operates. It mainly focuses on promoting and working towards global human rights causes. The UK section is less restrained and pursues more UK-specific human rights causes. Their efforts centre around campaigning, advocacy and education. These structures work alongside and complement one another, allowing for maximum support and impact of the movement.
The impacts of global warming are affecting people’s rights to food, water and healthcare
Amnesty International focuses on a range of human right abuses, whether this be domestic violence, refugees, the right to a fair trial, or even climate change. Whilst not the normal focus, most people usually associate the climate crisis with helping to improve sustainability or in tackling environment-specific issues such as deforestation. But human rights are closely linked to this crisis. We are a part of the Earth, and our issues cannot be separated from that of the planet.
The impacts of global warming are affecting people’s rights to food, water and healthcare, to name a few, more likely to impact less industrially developed and marginalised communities the most. Still, these issues affect everyone and require input from everyone. 26.4 million people are displaced every year due to extreme weather conditions. 400,000 deaths are linked to climate change, and an additional 250,000 people are expected to die from climate-related issues in 2030-50 – only seven years away. This isn’t something we can deny.
Amnesty’s methods of help can range from educating, exposing abuse, petitioning for change, to policy making, all of which are working to protect the integral values of justice, truth and dignity. Most recently, they called for a ceasefire in Gaza and an investigation into the mass killings, attacks and hostages being taken.
Everyone is entitled to basic human rights. This includes everyday things that we take for granted
How Can Our Donations Make a Difference?
Amnesty International uses our donations to not only make a huge difference to long-term issues and causes, but to also impact individual lives directly. One specific example of this is activist Li Qiaochu who was imprisoned in February 2020 for defending the rights of women and workers. Amnesty International was able to mobilise support and secure her release in June the same year. With our help, they are able to bring hope and courage to the people who are brave enough to challenge the exploitation and abuse within their society.
Everyone is entitled to basic human rights. This includes everyday things that we take for granted, such as freedom of speech. One of the most famous examples of the impact which Amnesty International has had in the UK has been justice for the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. This event took place during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. A lack of regulation of the crowds caused a human crush where the lives of 97 people were taken and many others were injured. The subsequent aftermath of this was that they were labelled as ‘accidental’ deaths and victims were criminalised within the press by being presented as alcoholics and hooligans. Amnesty International used the Human Rights Act to redeem these victims and uncover misconduct by the authorities. A second inquest in 2016 concluded this as unlawful killing and negligence by police and ambulance services.
We should use Benenson’s example to take action now to be involved, and to not wait until our own rights are challenged. If you would like to know more about Amnesty International or how you could get involved, here’s a link to their website.
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