Amnesty International- Pursuit of Human Rights

Amnesty International got its start in London in 1961, with one campaign lead by founder Peter Benenson. Benenson was upset after hearing of two Portuguese students imprisoned for raising a toast to freedom. As a result of his indignation about this he decided to publish an article, “The Forgotten Prisoners” in the Observer newspaper.

This article initiated the “Appeal for Amnesty 1961”, it became a worldwide campaign. Motivating a significant reaction from people, the story was reprinted in newspapers all over the world. This resulted in the first international meeting held that year in July to establish a permanent international movement. Countries like Belgium, the UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and the US attended (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/history.)
Amnesty International is a non-governmental human rights organization devoted to ended human rights abuses. The objective of the organization is not only to motivate action to help prevent and bring an end to severe abuses of human rights, but also to demand justice for the people who’s rights have been abused. It is made up of over 3 million people including supporters, members and activists that are located in over 150 countries (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/about-amnesty-international.) Worldwide it has 1,800 employees and hundreds of volunteers that make the work they do possible. They work to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all people around the world. The organization runs free from any governmental, religious or economic influence and is mainly funded by their members and public donations. Amnesty International believes that when there is a human rights abuse anywhere in the world it should be a concern for people universally. Amnesty works to join people together from across the globe to mobilize, bring public pressure and demonstrate international solidarity. Amnesty International strives to shape international solidarity through the work they do and with all their members who work for global human rights.
Amnesty international puts together campaigns for the protection of womens rights, the abolition of the death penalty, demands for freedom of expression, justice for crimes against humanity, and corporate accountability when companies have abused human rights (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/about-amnesty-international.) They deal with these campaigns with many different tactics. One way they do this is to start a dialogue with multiple different agents including governments, intergovernmental organizations, armed political groups, companies and other non state actors (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/accountability/statute.)

Another way in which Amnesty handles campaigns is by using their research of individual cases of countries and people with patterns of human rights abuses. The organization will make records of the abuses and then publish them. After the information goes public Amnesty members and supporters start building public pressure (on governments and others that have the power to end abuses.) In addition, Amnesty International works to get all governments and other agents of power to comply with the rule of law, and to put into action the human rights standards. Also Amnesty has multiple human rights educational activities; and encourages the general support of human rights (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/accountability/statute.)
There are many issues/campaigns that Amnesty international is involved with that have a focus on peace and conflict. There is a list of some of the most recent examples:
• Demand for the “Three Freedoms” for Myanmar campaign: Myanmar will soon be holding its first national elections in 20 years which has been a atmosphere of harsh political repression. Amnesty is working to apply pressure to Myanmar’s neighboring countries to talk about and stand against the country’s military government.
• Sudan: Conflict in Darfur: Arms sales from China and Russia are fuelling serious human rights violations in Darfur, Amnesty International said today. These arms transfers highlight the urgent need to strengthen the existing ineffectual UN arms embargo and for governments to agree an effective Arms Trade Treaty.China, Russia, and Belarus keep on supplying weapons and munitions to Sudan regardless of that fact that these weapons will be used against the civilians living in Darfur. Some of these arms include significant amounts of ammunition, helicopter gunships, attack aircrafts, air-to-ground rockets and armored vehicles (http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/darfur-new-weapons-china-and-russia-fuelling-conflict-2012-02-08.)

A large part of Amnesty international’s work is devoted to working to prevent and end armed conflict. Amnesty International stated that where there is conflict and war there will inevitable be suffering for many and conflict reproduces massive amounts of human rights violations. Many of these include unlawful killings, torture, forced displacement and starvation. In these conflicts all over the world groups armed with weapons and governments habitually perform violence against civilians, committing war crimes and abusing human rights.

Although there are rules during war that every person, government is suppose to be following. This comes from the International humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the laws of armed conflict or the laws of war. It was developed in order to lessen the consequences of war and conflict. What it does is sets restrictions on the resources and methods of executing armed maneuvers. The rules of the International humanitarian law are set in place to compel the fighters to leave civilians alone and unharmed. Also, to spare those who are no longer involved in the fighting. These people would include soldiers who have been injured or who have surrendered. The IHL applies during armed conflict only and human rights law applies in war and peace (http://www.amnesty.org/en/armed-conflict.)

Amnesty International continues to battle armed conflict in many ways, here is a list of a few more things they continue to do:
• Campaign for the end to impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity
• Campaign to lessen the amount of small arms that fuel the conflict and abuse
• Lobbying for the adoption of a global Arms Trade Treaty.
• Campaigns for International peacekeepers to protect civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad, and has urged its supporters across the world to write to Sudanese MPs, calling on them to take a stand against the atrocities happening in their country.
• Campaigning to end the recruitment of child soldiers and to ensure that they are demobilized and reintegrated into society.
• Lobbying the UN for strengthened protection of civilians, including strict adherence to human rights and humanitarian law in peacekeeping efforts.
(http://www.amnesty.org/en/armed-conflict)

-Kristine Stull

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