AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (AI)
Last update of this source description: 12 April 2007.
The mission of Amnesty International is to “undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights”. (AI Website, http://web.amnesty.org/pages/aboutai-index-eng, accessed on 12 April 2007).
AI was founded in 1961 by a British lawyer, who heard the story of two Portuguese students sentenced to seven years in prison for raising a toast to freedom. He launched a newspaper campaign to bombard authorities around the world with protests about the “forgotten prisoners”. From this individual initiative grew a worldwide movement.
In its human rights reporting, AI addresses governments and non-state actors found responsible for human rights violations, international policy makers, intergovernmental organisations, companies, and civil society.
AI does respond to requests by lawyers and RSD authorities for expert opinion in individual asylum cases.
AI is an advocacy organisation. Its main objective is to free all prisoners of conscience. It seeks to influence policies towards, and by, governments and international organisations to end human rights abuses by mobilising public opinion as well as by making recommendations for further action.
In individual cases, the AI Urgent Action network aims to rouse broad public support by appealing to responsible actors (eg government authorities) to free a prisoner of conscience, or to ensure prisoners are not subject to torture or the death penalty.
Amnesty International’s funding depends on the contributions of its worldwide membership and fundraising activities. AI does not seek or accept money from governments or political parties. (AI Website, http://web.amnesty.org/pages/aboutai-faq-eng#6, accessed on 12 April 2007)
Scope of reporting:
Geographic focus: AI covers most countries of origin. The annual report (AI Report: http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/index.html; accessed on 12 April 2007) documents the situation of human rights abuses in more than 150 countries and territories.
Thematic focus: The release of prisoners of conscience, torture, violence against women, arms control, the death penalty, refugee rights, economic globalisation and human rights, child soldiers, and human rights education. AI has recently expanded its scope of reporting to include economic, cultural and social rights.
AI has sections and local groups in almost every country worldwide. Researchers in the International Secretariat carry out reporting. Local groups do not work on their own country, in order to maintain impartiality and protect AI staff and volunteers in the countries concerned. One exception to the “no-work-on-your-own-country-rule” is support and advice for refugees and asylum-seekers.
AI bases most of its reports on fact-finding missions. Its experts talk with victims or eyewitnesses of abuse. AI experts reporting from a country observe trials and interview local human rights activists and government officials. It complements fact-finding with reports from the media and other organisations. If access to a country is denied, “the organization also relies on other sources of information: testimonies from refugees or victims who have fled a country; information, such as letters, smuggled out of a country; a government itself; the more than 1,100 newspapers, journals, government bulletins and transcripts of radio broadcasts which Amnesty International receives; reports from lawyers and other humanitarian organizations and letters from prisoners and their families.” (Poe 2001, p. 656 quoting from AI Website as of March 1998)
The annual report (AI Report) is published in April/May for the previous year. Ad hoc reports, briefings and news releases are published on an almost daily basis. AI also publishes ad hoc thematic reports and Urgent Actions.
The AI Report is published in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish; press releases, thematic reports and news are also available in Albanian, Bosnian, Chinese, Kurdish, Russian, and Turkish.
Navigation of website:
Information about COI can be found under:
Home: Contains the latest information.
Library: Contains information arranged by country, region, sub-region and themes in English, Spanish, French and Arabic. This is the most comprehensive archive – not all reports published will be displayed on the homepage.
News: Contains the latest news by region in reverse chronological order.
Act Now: Contains current appeals.