'Appeal for Amnesty'

Peter Benenson launched the ‘Appeal for Amnesty’ after learning two Portuguese students were imprisoned for raising a toast to freedom. This is the genesis of Amnesty International.

Amnesty International Australia

One year after the global movement for human rights began, Amnesty International Australia was founded in Melbourne.

Campaign against torture

Amnesty launches its first campaign against torture. 12 years later, the UN votes to combat torture worldwide with the Convention against Torture in 1984.

Nobel Peace Prize

Amnesty was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for contributing to ‘securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world’. 

Crisis response

Amnesty campaigns for an International Criminal Court to bring those responsible for genocides and war crimes to justice. ICC is established in 2002.

Ambassador of Conscience

Nelson Mandela becomes an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience.

Freedom of expression

Amnesty’s long fight for freedom of expression across the world moves to the internet. Ali Sayed al-Shihabi is released after being jailed for posting pro-democracy articles online in Syria.

Women's rights

Following extensive campaigning by Amnesty, the Australian Government introduced a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children.

Arms Trade Treaty

After 20 years of pressure from Amnesty supporters, a life-saving global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) finally came into force. It stemmed the flow of weapons fuelling atrocities around the world.


Amnesty International Australia argued successfully for no changes to #SaveTheRDA when amendments were threatened to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Climate Justice

After years of pressure, a historic settlement was won for Nigerian farmers and fisherman whose lives were devastated by two Shell oil spills in 2008.

End the death penalty

The Australian government said it would be 'unrelenting' in its efforts to abolish the death penalty. In 1961 when Amnesty started campaigning, only 9 countries had abolished the death penalty. Today, that figure is 108.

Individual at risk

Phyoe Phyoe Aung, jailed for helping to organise a student protest in Myanmar, was released. Amnesty supporters across the world wrote more than 394,000 letters, emails and tweets for her as part of Write for Rights.

LGBTQIA+ rights

Marriage equality bill passed. Amnesty did everything we could to secure a YES vote - flash mobs and inspiring blogs by the LGBTQI community.

Ambassador of Conscience

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick becomes an Ambassador of Conscience for his commitment to protesting police brutality and racism.

Ambassador of Conscience

Teenage climate justice activist Greta Thunberg wins Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award.

Refugee rights

With the support of Craig Foster and Sonny Bill Williams, Amnesty handed over 65,000 Australian signatures and 40 local councils to pledge their support to improve community sponsorship program.

Indigenous justice

The ACT government committed to raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14. A result of five years of campaigning, various research reports and over 70,000 Australians taking action.

Right to protest

Amnesty successfully campaigned for the defeat of a Tasmanian Bill to restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.

LGBTQIA+ rights

Thanks to the advocacy of survivors and allies, VIC, ACT and QLD are now protected from harmful conversion practices. Tens of thousands of Australians stood with survivors to call on governments to ban conversion practices.

Hope for the future...

As we celebrate 60 years of human rights impact, we reflect on the challenges of the past, celebrate the courage and strength of our movement, and look ahead with hope and a renewed commitment to challenge injustice. Together, we are unstoppable.

Our vision

How we started

In 1961, one man, outraged by injustices he saw, made an appeal to others to unite with him in common action.

British lawyer Peter Benenson penned the article The Forgotten Prisoners for the UK’s Observer newspaper in response to two Portuguese students jailed simply for raising a toast to freedom. Benenson described his disgust at the global trend of people being imprisoned, tortured or executed for their political views or religious orientation. 

At the time, he recognised there were “several million such people in prison… and their numbers are growing.”

Benenson had an idea, a hope, to solve this problem. In doing so, he gave life to the vision of collective action that defines Amnesty International’s work today.

“Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government.”Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International

Appeal for Amnesty

Peter Benenson in his garden
© Amnesty International

Peter Benenson launched the “Appeal for Amnesty 1961”, to collect, publish and distribute information about prisoners of conscience around the world. This appeal was reprinted in newspapers globally.

In July 1961, at the first international meeting, delegates decided to establish “a permanent international movement in defence of freedom of opinion and religion”.

On 10 December, World Human Rights Day, the first Amnesty candle was lit in the church of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, London.


Where we are today

Peter Benson found a way to inspire human beings to act together and change the world. Today, we are global network 10 million strong committed to defending human rights, changing oppressive laws and improving lives.

60 years on, human rights remain under attack around the globe. But there is hope.

Decades of human rights advocacy and impact has shown that, together, we have the power to challenge injustice and create real, lasting change. Our work protects and empowers people – from abolishing the death penalty to protecting sexual and reproductive rights, and from combating discrimination to defending refugees and migrants’ rights.

Together, we are unstoppable.

Image of a yellow and black flag, featuring the Amnesty International logo, being waved.
© Amnesty International
How we’re run
How we're run
Amnesty International is a worldwide organisation based on voluntary membership and is governed by a member-elected National Board.
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Our people
Our people
Amnesty International is a democratic movement, answerable to our own impassioned members.
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What are human rights?
What are human rights?
Learn about your basic human rights, the rights of children and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
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