We are the world’s, and Ireland’s, largest human rights organisation working in a variety of ways to protect and promote human rights.
We investigate reports of human rights abuses and when we find proof we expose them to the world. Our members take action, mobilising people to put pressure on governments and others with influence to halt these abuses.
They organise demonstrations, tell the media, write letters, send emails, hold concerts, phone their elected representatives and do whatever they can to ensure their voice is heard.
Fundamentally, Amnesty International is a collection of ordinary people taking action to save a life, to free someone from prison, to protect our fundamental human rights.
We also educate people about their human rights, from children in classrooms, to government officials and members of the security forces. The more people know about their rights, the better they can fight for them.
We can be found working with a single prisoner of conscience as well as on global issues affecting millions of people.
Our human rights belong to each of us. They are not vague concepts or hazy aspirations. Your human rights are set out in international human rights law. States, including Ireland, are legally bound to protect and promote those human rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, agreed by the UN over 60 years ago, sets out in 30 simple articles the the rights to which each of us is entitled simply for being human. It lays out your right to vote and your right to education, your right to a fair trial and your right to a home.
Other international treaties, like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and theInternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights give more details on how your rights should be delivered. They are legally binding on the countries, including Ireland, that have ratified them.
Every year people are freed from prison because of our members. Last year two prisoners of conscience, Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe and Jacinta Marcial from Mexico, walked free because members across Ireland took action on their behalf.
Our campaign to abolish the death penalty sees more countries every year abandon this cruel punishment. We are building momentum behind our campaign for a Global Arms Treaty and two years ago, here in Dublin, we helped deliver an international treaty banning cluster munitions worldwide.
Here in Ireland we’ve successfully campaigned for legislation to monitor the Irish arms trade and to punish human trafficking. We’ve worked with the Government to ensure a strong national action plan to tackle gender based violence. The Irish Government agreed to play its part in shutting down Guantánamo by accepting two former detainees for resettlement in 2009.
Our members, ordinary people working for human rights, did all this. But we are only as effective as our numbers allow. The more people who join Amnesty International, the stronger we are.
We have teams of specialist researchers working on specific campaigns and countries backed by international experts. They investigate reports of human rights abuses. Information is crosschecked and confirmed from a variety of sources. We talk to local human rights activists, governments, survivors of abuses, journalists, diplomats, community leaders and humanitarian agencies, as well as monitoring media reports, to ensure our research is correct.
We also send fact-finding missions to assess the situation on the ground. In January 2009 for example we sent a research team into Gaza while the Israeli offensive was still ongoing to investigate reports of human rights abuses by both sides.
Before any statement or report is issued it is checked, checked and rechecked again for accuracy, to ensure it is politically neutral and that it falls within our mandate. If we make a mistake, we issue a correction.
Our research is recognised and trusted globally by governments, journalists, intergovernmental organisations, lawyers and activists.
To ensure our independence we do not seek or accept money from governments or political parties for our work researching and campaigning on human rights abuses. We depend on contributions from our members, donations from the general public and fundraising events.
Our members. We are a democratic organisation where our members set our policies and strategies. At a national level our members make the decisions at Annual Conference every year and elect an Executive Committee to run the organisation between conferences. Amnesty International Ireland has more than 15,000 members and supporters across the state.
Our International Council takes the major decisions for the global movement and sets policy. It is attended by representatives from every national section. They elect an International Executive Committee to carry out their decisions. This committee appoints a Secretary General to run our head office, the International Secretariat, based in London.
In 1961 a British lawyer called Peter Benenson read a newspaper article on the way to work. It told the story of two Portuguese students sentenced to seven years imprisonment for raising a toast to freedom in a café. Outraged by this he wrote a letter to the paper calling for an international campaign to bombard governments around the world with protests about the ‘forgotten prisoners’.
Within a month more than a thousand readers had sent letters of support. Within a year what had started as a small publicity campaign was an international organisation with national sections in seven countries, including Ireland.
Fifty years on we are now 3.2 million people organised in 150 countries and territories around the world. We work on every continent. We have received the Nobel Peace Prize and the United Nations Human Rights Award.
But we began with a single letter.
There are two easy ways to help.
Join – When you join Amnesty International you become part of a worldwide movement for human rights. You can get involved in campaigns, work to release prisoners of conscience, lobby the Irish Government and world leaders to protect human rights. Our members set our agenda and put it into action.
Donate – When you make a donation to Amnesty International you are making it possible for us to continue to stand up for human rights and to maintain our independence. We depend entirely on contributions from our members and donations from people like you to fund our work.