The story behind Amnesty International


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Why are human rights important?

The pain is indescribable. I had been there several days when they brought Ray in. For the whole of the next day they assaulted us both. I felt quite close to death and I said, "Why don't you just shoot us? When they came back, we were told to put on our jackets and ties, taken to a car and then driven to a police station. The next day we were taken to court and given bail.

My release definitely came about because of pressure from Amnesty, along with local churches, student groups and trade unions, which threatened to call for a national strike if we were not released.

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We were charged under the law and order maintenance act and the case dragged on until May last year. The supreme court ruled in our favour. Soon after I was released on bail, I left Zimbabwe. Amnesty arranged for Ray and me to come to London and have treatment at the Medical Foundation. After that I went to America to study. I am back in Zimbabwe now. My family all say that I should have stayed in the US, but I am so angry about the way we were treated.

I'm pursuing damages and I won't give the government the satisfaction of knowing I've run away. He is 59 and now lives and works in London. I was arrested six days after the coup. I was an active socialist, working hard towards change, but repression was widespread; you were either a friend of the military or their enemy. The local police came to my home and took me away in front of my children. They took me to the local police station and as they questioned me they started beating me. When I look back, I realise it was then that I was most terrified.

Until I felt the first blow I had thought, in a very stupid way, that they would conduct a civilised interrogation, that they would say they were sorry and that I would go home. After that, I was moved around a lot and tortured repeatedly. Basically, they wanted names and information, which I never gave them - not just because I didn't want to jeopardise the lives of other people, but because I knew that once I did, I would die.

They would tie my hands behind my back and force my head into a bucket of water.

Amnesty International - Wikipedia

It was a terrifying experience of near death, which caused terrible pain in your lungs. In one prison I slipped and broke my arm. Five hours later, they took me to the local hospital to be put in plaster. When I got back, the interrogation started again, and they gave me electric shocks inside my plaster. Even during a journey to another prison they chained us to the floor of the plane and beat us.

These people were professional. They would torture us, and then have tea and a chat about fishing or their families and then they would start again. My wife wasn't sure where I was or what she could do, when someone suggested that she write to some English people we had met and tell them what had happened. A year before the coup, we had picked up a couple of hitchhikers who turned out to be English and we'd become friends.

Extraordinarily, it turned out that they were Amnesty members and when they heard from my wife they contacted Amnesty, who launched an urgent-action appeal. After three years, I was released from prison and finally allowed to leave the country.

When I was released, I think by mistake, they gave me a lot of Christmas cards from England, from lovely people in this country. My wife and children joined me in London. One of my children was very surprised - he didn't recognise this man who kept kissing him and his mother. It was a very nice moment. We have been here since I now work at the Medical Foundation, which cares for victims of torture.

People need healing, but also recognition of their suffering. People who come to see us often just want to tell us that they exist. I feel well now and very grateful to the people who have helped me. Amnesty is so important because it has brought the notion of human rights to a wider audience. She is 32 and is learning English and living in London. The democratically elected government was ousted and martial law declared. The regime was very oppressive.

Match making: the story behind Tinder and Amnesty International’s partnership

They banned all political parties and civilian groups. Many people were murdered and there was detention and torture. At that time, my brother Isam was in the army, and about seven months after they came to power an announcement was made about the military on the radio. I remember I was shopping in the market and I heard that an attempt at a coup had taken place. Well-illustrated journalistic account.

This text was first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above. London: Amnesty International Publication, Other Sources Larsen, Egon.

A Flame in Barbed Wire. New York: Norton, Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page. In creating AI, Benenson drew inspiration from Christian notions of charity and compassion as well as the anti-slavery movement—two central elements of nineteenth century humanitarianism.


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The Cold War also influenced Amnesty. As an organization motivated by Christian principles, Amnesty remained decidedly anticommunist.

What does Amnesty do?

Amnesty International has a well-documented archival collection that includes many administrative documents such as conference reports, minutes from meetings, and correspondence between AI activists. Brian Drohan teaches European history at the U. Military Academy — West Point. His research explores the roles of humanitarianism and human rights in war, particularly during the end of the British Empire. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Further Reading Amnesty International has a well-documented archival collection that includes many administrative documents such as conference reports, minutes from meetings, and correspondence between AI activists.

Gangrene London: Calder Books,

The story behind Amnesty International The story behind Amnesty International
The story behind Amnesty International The story behind Amnesty International
The story behind Amnesty International The story behind Amnesty International
The story behind Amnesty International The story behind Amnesty International
The story behind Amnesty International The story behind Amnesty International
The story behind Amnesty International The story behind Amnesty International
The story behind Amnesty International The story behind Amnesty International
The story behind Amnesty International The story behind Amnesty International

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