|founding||May 28, 1961|
|Seat||London , UK|
|main emphasis||Human rights organization|
Julie Verhaar (interim)
(International Secretary General) Peter Benenson (Founder)
|sales||278,000,000 euros (2015)|
Amnesty International (from English amnesty , pardon, penalty, amnesty ) is a non-governmental (NGO) and non-profit organization that campaigns for human rights worldwide. Its work is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights documents, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights . The organization researches human rights violations, conducts public relations and lobby workand organizes, among other things, letter and signature campaigns for all areas of their work.
Establishment of the international organization
Amnesty International was founded in London in 1961 by the English lawyer Peter Benenson . The idea of founding it should have come to him when he read in the newspaper repeatedly about torture and violent repression, with which governments acted against politically different people. In a 1983 interview, Benenson recalled that the article was about two Portuguese students who toasted freedom in a restaurant in Lisbon and were subsequently sentenced to prison terms. Subsequent research revealed that it was possibly a note in The Times dated December 19, 1960, which did not, however, contain any details about the "subversive activities" of the convicts. On May 28, 1961, Benenson published the article "The Forgotten Prisoners" in the British newspaper The Observer, naming several cases including Constantin Noica , Agostinho Neto and József Mindszenty , and calling on readers to to campaign for the release of these prisoners through letters to the respective governments. He wrote: “You can open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find in it a report of someone captured, tortured or executed, anywhere in the world, because their government does not like their beliefs or religion. “The Appeal for Amnesty, 1961 action that emerged from this article is considered to be the beginning of Amnesty International. Founding members included Eric Baker and the Irish politician Seán MacBride , who was also president of the organization from 1961 to 1974.
Although Amnesty International describes itself as an organization that is open to people of all nationalities and religions, its members initially came mainly from the English-speaking world and Western Europe. This limitation could be explained by the Cold War. Attempts to set up Amnesty groups in Eastern Europe have met with great difficulties. This was not only due to state repression, but also to the different interests pursued by Western and Eastern European human rights activists.
The German section had already decided in the 1970s to no longer use this logo for itself. Instead, a blue and white logo with lowercase letters was used until 2008. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland until mid-2008, a spelling with lowercase letters and abbreviations that is no longer used was used: amnesty international , ai or amnesty . In mid-2008, a new, uniform layout was introduced internationally, using the colors yellow and black. The logo includes the words Amnesty International in capital letters and the candle wrapped in barbed wire.
Foundation in Germany
The German section was founded in Cologne at the end of June 1961, two months after the founding of the international organization, by journalists Gerd Ruge , Carola Stern and Felix Rexhausen , and was recognized as the first section in July 1961. The German AI office resided for decades in Domstrasse in Cologne's Agnesviertel , where Stern lived at the time. Initially, the group called itself "Amnesty Appeal". For example, she campaigned for political prisoners imprisoned in the GDR. After the fall of the wall , the organization was also active in the new federal states, where it had been banned until then. As of 2020 it is based in Berlin. Markus N. Beeko has been Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany since 2016 (as of 2020).
Foundation in Austria
Amnesty International Austria was founded on May 4th 1970. On November 14, 2001, AI Austria was one of the first 44 organizations to receive the Austrian seal of approval for donations . Secretary General is Heinz Patzelt (as of January 2016).
Foundation in Switzerland
The Swiss section was officially founded in 1970. But the first section existed in Geneva as early as 1964, initiated by Seán MacBride , then Secretary General and co-founder of Amnesty International. The first employee was hired in 1976, in 1987 there were 14, and in 2000 it was 28. The current manager is Manon Schick .
Structure of the organization
Numbers and other data about the organization
Amnesty International claims to have more than seven million members and supporters in more than 150 countries. There are sections in 53 states that guarantee continuous human rights work. The larger sections usually have a secretariat with full-time employees. The section coordinates the work of the members and is the liaison between the groups and the International Secretariat in London. The sections send representatives to the Global Assembly (until 2017 International Council Meeting and English International Council Meeting (ICM) ), the supreme body of Amnesty at the international level, which occurs every two years. The Global Assembly defines Amnesty's strategy and operation, and elects the international board to manage the day-to-day running of the organization. The International Secretariat in London, headed by the International Secretary General, is also under the responsibility of the International Board of Directors. From 2010 to August 2018 this was Salil Shetty , who is from India . He initiated a change in the organization by increasing the presence in countries of the global south through the establishment of offices and research work anchored there, while the headquarters in London was downsized. His successor since 2018 is Kumi Naidoo from South Africa, former director of Greenpeace .
|Surname||Term of office|
|Kumi Naidoo||since 2018|
Membership and structures are regulated in the statutes and a working framework. Members can join a group. Groups are expected to be active through targeted campaigns on site, letter writing, public relations work and fundraising. All members also receive offers to participate independently of group activities. In Germany there are around 30,000 members, of which around 9,000 are in over 600 local groups, which are divided into 43 districts. In addition, there are so-called coordination groups that coordinate work on individual countries or specific human rights issues across the section. Around 70,000 sponsors support the organization with regular contributions. The German section is managed and represented externally by an honorary board of directors consisting of seven members. The spokeswoman for the board is Gabriele Stein, who together with the board member for finance, Roland Vogel, represents the association legally.
In 1999 Amnesty International Germany moved into rooms in the “ House of Democracy and Human Rights ” on Greifswalder Strasse in Berlin . In 2012 the secretariat finally gave up its seat in Bonn . Due to lack of space, only the Berlin-Brandenburg district office and the East Regional Office are located in the "House of Democracy and Human Rights"; the section's secretariat is now in Zinnowitzer Strasse. There are also regional offices in Munich (since 2011) and in Düsseldorf (since 2016) that support members in southern and western Germany.
The secretariat carries out administrative tasks for the members, carries out public relations and takes on lobbying work. It employs over 60 part-time and full-time employees and is headed by Markus N. Beeko as General Secretary, who replaced Selmin Çalışkan in September 2016 .
The annual meeting of the German section takes place once a year over two and a half days at Pentecost. All members are entitled to propose and vote, groups have additional voting rights. Sponsors have no voting rights and cannot participate. The annual meeting elects the seven-person honorary board and decides on the main topics of the work of the section. The discussions are confidential ("internal"), individual resolutions can only be made public if the annual meeting decides.
The German section is financed mainly from membership and sponsorship contributions and donations, to a lesser extent from inheritance, sales proceeds, fines and collections. The organization has been conducting “ direct dialogues ” in cities since around 2010 in order to attract sponsors; sometimes external companies are hired for this. In 2016, around 20.3 million euros were collected. Of this, around 5.9 million euros were transferred to the international secretariat. To support the work of Amnesty International, the Human Rights Foundation - Amnesty International Foundation, based in Berlin, was established in May 2003 .
The Amnesty International Annual Report , which describes the human rights situation in around 160 countries and territories, is published annually . The German version appears a few months later by S. Fischer Verlag .
Goals and way of working
The organization continuously researches the human rights situation around the world and carries out actions against specific human rights violations. The organization's annual report (Amnesty International Report) contains an overview of the human rights situation in almost every country in the world.
The organization has seven goals under the motto Globalize Justice! set:
- Build mutual respect and fight against discrimination
- Demand for justice
- Ensuring the physical and mental integrity of all people
- Protection of human rights in armed conflict
- Protection of the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and migrants
- Protection of the rights of women and girls
- Promotion of economic, social and cultural rights
From 2005 to 2009 the international campaign “Preventing violence against women” ran against the various forms of violence against women, both on the part of the state and in the domestic environment. After a difficult and controversial internal discussion, the Organization's 2007 international council meeting in Morelos, Mexico, adopted a limited position on abortion. Complete decriminalization should be demanded and states should be asked to legalize abortion in the case of rape, sexual assault, incest and in the case of serious danger to a woman's life. The organization affirms that many social factors and constraints contribute to unwanted pregnancies and thus also to the decision of women - about 26 million illegal cases worldwide each year.
In May 2016, the organization, including all of its national associations, took up the call to legalize prostitution . They stand up for the human rights of sex workers, not for a right to sex for sale. The decision was preceded by three years of reviewing research reports from various institutions such as the WHO , UNAIDS and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Physical and Mental Health and a decision by the decision-making body International Council Meeting .
Typical forms of action of the organization include:
- Casework: This has been carried out since the organization was founded and includes long-term care of a prisoner of conscience by one or more amnesty groups, ideally until his or her release. One principle was that Amnesty groups should not work on issues in their own country.
- Urgent Actions : These were introduced in 1973 in order to be able to react quickly to impending human rights violations. If possible, members and supporters are mobilized within 48 hours to appeal to the responsible government agencies. In 2005 there were 326 of these actions.
- Letters against oblivion: three cases from different countries are presented each month, often involving violent government enforced disappearances , long-term imprisonment or convictions due to unfair trials.
- Public relations and lobbying : A wide range of actions by the groups and the work of the national secretariat aim to raise public awareness of human rights violations and to make human rights violations known and thus gain support for the cause. The annual Ambassador of Conscience Award draws attention to the work of Amnesty .
- Human rights education: Actions in schools, public lectures etc. to anchor knowledge about human rights.
- Online campaigns: Amnesty is increasingly using the internet as a protest medium for its campaign work with e-collecting campaigns and online petitions .
Actions and campaigns
The organization repeatedly carries out large and small, international themed campaigns, some of which are designed over several years.
Major international priorities are currently (2018/19):
- Courage needs protection!
- 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In 1988 there was an international Amnesty concert tour entitled Human Rights NOW! . On December 10, 2005 - International Human Rights Day - a new music project called Make Some Noise was started. Well-known international artists, including The Black Eyed Peas , Serj Tankian and The Cure , published cover versions of John Lennon songs exclusively on the Amnesty website. In parallel to the music, specific campaigns and cases are presented there.
Ambassador of conscience
Since 2003, Amnesty International gives the undoped Price Ambassador of Conscience Award ( English Ambassador of Conscience ). Vaclav Havel was the first winner, in 2019 the award went to Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future .
Human rights award
The German section has been awarding the Amnesty International Human Rights Prize every two years since 1998 . In 2016 the award was given to the Indian lawyer Henri Tiphagne . In 2018 the prize was awarded to the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture in Cairo.
Criticism of the strategic approach
Governments and related commentators, who are critical of Amnesty International in its reports, have on various occasions criticized Amnesty. Amnesty, for example, For example, China , Russia and the Congo accused of one-sidedness against non-Western countries in their assessments and that security requirements (e.g. when fighting rebels) were not sufficiently taken into account. Conversely, Amnesty z. B. attacked by the American Jewish Congress after criticizing Israeli politics in the Gaza Strip . When an Amnesty report in May 2005 placed the United States at the forefront of human rights violations (see Guantanamo Bay Naval Base Detention Center ), a White House spokesman described this as ridiculous and claimed that the information provided was incorrect.
In addition to allegations of one-sidedness, there were critical voices complaining that Amnesty was too focused on public relations. In 2002, law professor Francis Boyle (former AI executive committee member in the US) accused Amnesty that publicity would come first , then donations and members would be recruited, there would be internal power struggles, and human rights as The goal would only come at the end.
At the international council meeting in Dakar in August 2001, it was decided to extend the mandate to also work for economic, social and cultural rights. Afterwards, some members said that AI was losing its profile and expanding its field of activity too much. AI could mutate into a "human rights general store" and lose credibility. AI should continue to focus on civil and political rights. These concerns were addressed in a 2010 BBC report on the organization's 50th birthday. It alleged that Amnesty International had failed to attract any significant number of members outside of Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Criticism on individual points
- Amnesty International fell for the incubator lie before the Second Gulf War (1990–1991) - the story, fabricated by a US PR firm, that Iraqi troops tore babies from the incubators of a Kuwaiti hospital.
- In 2002 Amnesty was charged with never condemning the apartheid system in South Africa as a whole.
- In April 2007, AI announced that it would henceforth advocate a decriminalization of abortion within certain limits as well as the right to abortion in the event of rape , incest or serious danger to the mother's health or life. The Curia Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church , Renato Raffaele Martino , said in an interview that Catholics and church organizations should consider whether they could continue to support AI. Amnesty International responded by advocating not a universal right to abortion but the decriminalization of women in need. In implementing this policy, AI described a complete ban on abortion as torture in the sense of the anti-torture convention in 2009. In 2018, Amnesty decided that not only must abortion be decriminalized, but that access to abortion must be legal for women, girls and “people who can get pregnant”. In this context, Amnesty also lobbied against the right to life before birth by sending a letter to the UN Human Rights Committee arguing that a right to life before birth is incompatible with human rights. ("Amnesty International recommends that the General Comment makes clear that the right to life protection under the Covenant extends only after birth.")
- In 2014 Amnesty International conducted an internal consultation on whether prostitution and its environment should be decriminalized. The internal documents leaked to the public and sparked a heated international debate. In Germany criticized u. a. the feminist magazine Emma considered decriminalizing brothels and employers from prostitution. A corresponding document, which was adopted at the meeting of the International Council of Human Rights Organization from 7 to 11 August 2015 in Dublin, once again attracted international attention. Criticism of the Amnesty position on prostitution may come. a. from Catholic and feminist circles, as well as from former prostitutes, whereby in this context the term “human rights organization” is also called into question.
- At the beginning of 2017, Amnesty International criticized the operational measures taken by the Cologne police on New Year's Eve 2016/17 as racist (" racial profiling "), while the police and most politicians contradicted such allegations and praised the prevention of a repetition of group-wise sexual assaults such as New Year's Eve 2015/16 .
- Since 2010, numerous critics have accused Amnesty International of an uncritical stance towards political Islam. In 2010, when the then head of the women's rights department, Gita Sahgal, criticized Amnesty for publicly appearing with Islamists without clearly distancing themselves from their ideology, she was subsequently dismissed. A similarly serious controversy, albeit without layoffs, sparked an English-language video by the organization in the summer of 2019, which supported the thesis that hijabs, burqas and headscarves were exclusively a question of the freedom of choice of the individuals concerned.
- In May 2019, Amnesty International's Secretary General Kumi Naidoo admitted a hole in the organization's budget of up to £ 17 million in missing donation funds by the end of 2020. To deal with the budget crisis, Naidoo announced to employees that the organization's headquarters had cut nearly 100 jobs as part of an urgent restructuring. Unite the Union, the UK's largest union, said the layoffs were a direct result of "excessive spending by the organization's management team" and "despite an increase in income". Unite, who represents the workforce, feared the cuts would be most severe among lower-income workers. It said that Amnesty International's top 23 earners received a total of £ 2.6 million last year - an average of £ 113,000 a year. Unite requested a review of the need to have that many leaders in the organization. A short time later, the organization fired five of the seven members of the executive board in London. With this, the human rights organization reacted, according to its own statements, to a report on "toxic" working conditions. The report on working conditions was commissioned after the accumulation of suicides by employees in Geneva and Paris in 2018. When it was published in January, external experts confirmed that the company had "weak points in organizational culture and management". Employees have complained of intense pressure and stress and often described the working conditions as "toxic". Thereupon General Secretary Naidoo announced consequences.
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- 1977: Nobel Peace Prize
- 1984: Four Freedoms Award , in the category of freedom of expression
- 1988: Hans Böckler Prize
- 1998: Jaime Brunet Prize for Human Rights
- 2001: Order of Freedom (Portugal)
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