In response to requests for more information about who we are and what we do, we have provided the following answers to commonly asked questions.
How does Amnesty International safeguard its independence?
Amnesty International's independence is a vital part of our effectiveness. We do not accept any money from governments or political parties, so we are free to criticise governments and others for abusing people's rights, or for failing to protect them. Because we are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion, we can take action to defend human rights wherever they are violated.
We are a democratic organisation, answerable only to our members and supporters, people who come from many different backgrounds but who share a common commitment to human rights.
Where does the money come from?
The vast majority of our income comes from the public, who generously contribute to our work. We do not accept money or other direct support from governments or political organisations for our work investigating and campaigning against human rights abuses.
The generosity and commitment of our supporters allows us to:
- Maintain our independence
- Keep up the pressure on governments, companies and other organisations
- Respond quickly to human rights crises when they occur
How does Amnesty International know it has the facts right?
Amnesty International's campaigns are based on the facts - detailed and accurate information about human rights, and the governments and others who violate them. We monitor thousands of media outlets, and gather information from government bulletins, legal documents, medical reports and our contact with reliable sources of information all over the world. We send representatives to observe political trials, monitor the treatment of prisoners and talk with victims and their families. Details are cross-checked and we take great care to avoid presenting unconfirmed allegations as fact.
Journalists, researchers, governments and United Nations experts rely on our reports. In another measure of our success, the governments we criticise very rarely offer a detailed rebuttal of our information.
What right do we have to interfere in the internal affairs of countries?
After World War II, the international community accepted that national sovereignty cannot be used as an excuse for human rights violations, or as a cover to protect people who are guilty of human rights abuses. Under international agreements and treaties - developed and approved by the world's governments - individual governments are accountable to the world for how they treat their people. The cornerstone of the modern international human rights system is the duty of all governments to advance human rights and protect them wherever they are under attack.
Some governments hide behind arguments that their human rights record is an internal matter, but Amnesty International continues to hold them accountable.
Aren't human rights a luxury, especially in less developed countries?
Under international law, the human rights on which Amnesty International defends are:
- Universal - they apply to every person without distinction
- Indivisible - one group of rights cannot be considered "more important" than another
Governments in every region, representing societies at all stages of development and people of many different cultures, have formally agreed that certain basic human rights - such as the right to life, shelter and freedom from torture - apply universally. We are not asking countries to do anything to which they are not already committed.
In any case, people from all cultures and regions agree their basic rights should be respected, and they should not be tortured, persecuted or driven from their homes in order to advance other human rights.
Don't human rights have to be restricted to ensure security?
Amnesty International recognises that governments have an obligation to protect the security of their citizens, just as they have an obligation to protect people's human rights. However, human rights should not be compromised in order to protect our security, and they do not have to be. In fact, lasting security can only be based on respect for human rights. Governments should be responding to security challenges by upholding the values, including human rights values, they claim to defend.
In some countries around the world, governments are using the current 'war on terror' as an excuse to ignore human rights, or to justify the repression of their political opponents. Many other countries have introduced laws that erode the human rights of their people. Amnesty International is campaigning to promote security with human rights.
What do we do about human rights abuses here in Australia?
Amnesty International members in Australia are campaigning to ensure that the government meets its international human rights obligations. We highlight Australian issues within each of our global campaigns.
Members of Amnesty International's refugee casework team also provide assistance to hundreds of asylum seekers in Australia each year.
In addition to these campaigns, Amnesty International members encourage the government to ratify international human rights treaties, adopt laws which respect human rights standards and ensure that human rights are promoted in foreign policy.