Our History



A global movement for human rights begins. Lawyer Peter Benenson launches the ‘Appeal for Amnesty’ in the Observer newspaper, after two Portuguese students are jailed for raising a toast to freedom. © Guardian News and Media Limited.


The first prisoner of conscience is released, Ukrainian Archbishop Josyf Slipyi in Siberia. It sparks decades of tireless campaigning on behalf of people persecuted for their beliefs. (Photo: campaigners at a rally in London in 1983. © Raoul Shade.)


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


Amnesty is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for contributing to ‘securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world’. It’s recognition for the hard work and determination of Amnesty supporters across the world. © Amnesty International


Amnesty launches its first campaign against the death penalty. When we started in 1961, only nine countries had abolished state executions. By 2014, that figure had risen to 140. © Amnesty International


Amnesty campaigns for an International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring those responsible for genocides and war crimes to justice. The ICC is finally established in 2002. (Photo: Demonstrators form a ‘human carpet’ to put pressure on delegates negotiating the formation of the ICC, Italy 1998. © Antonio Sesta)


Nelson Mandela becomes an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience. In 1962, Amnesty had sent a lawyer to observe his trial in South Africa. Nelson Mandela wrote that “his mere presence, as well as the assistance he gave, were a source of tremendous inspiration and encouragement to us.” © Jurgen Schadeberg


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. © REUTERS/Kacper Pempel