Amnesty 101

We’re a Global Movement

With more than 7 million members, activists and volunteers in over 150 countries, Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of “ordinary” people working to achieve extraordinary results.

Amnesty International was founded in 1961 by British lawyer Peter Benenson. He became angry after reading a report about two Portuguese students who had been imprisoned for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom. In response, Benenson published an article – “The Forgotten Prisoners” – in the London Observer newspaper on May 28, 1961. He called on people to protest the imprisonment of men and women around the world because of their political and religious beliefs. Thousands of people in many countries offered their help, and Amnesty International was born.

Every day our members stand in solidarity with – and help protect – thousands of individuals and communities around the world whose human rights are under attack. Our guiding document is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we work to ensure universal access to these rights.

The Amnesty Candle

Amnesty’s trademark is a candle wrapped in barbed wire. The candle represents:

  • The light of public attention that Amnesty members shine on the hidden abuses (the barbed wire) of human rights violators.
  • The spark of public pressure that Amnesty members create in order to bring about positive change in people’s lives.
  • The beacon of hope and solidarity for people who defend human rights, often at great personal risk, and for the many who become