Amnesty International

Essay by Ashley JamesUniversity, Master'sA+, November 1996

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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...