Frequently asked questions

What does Amnesty International do?

Amnesty International is the world’s largest human rights organisation. We campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. We are a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries and territories.

We investigate reports of human rights abuses and when we find proof, we expose them to the world. Our supporters take action, join local groups or our activist networks, and fundraise to support our work.

We also educate people about their human rights, believing that the more people know about their rights, the better they can fight for them.

We work independently and impartially to promote all of the human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We work on both individual Prisoner of Conscience cases, as well as on global issues effecting millions of people.

Each year, we publish a comprehensive annual report which analyses the human rights situation in 150 countries and territories.

What are human rights?

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, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was agreed by the UN more than 60 years ago. States, including Ireland, are legally bound to protect and promote those human rights. Other international treaties, like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights give more detail on how your rights should be delivered. They are legally binding on the countries, including Ireland, who have ratified them.

Is Amnesty International effective?

Yes. In 2016 alone, our supporters helped us to free more than 650 people – that’s nearly two each day – from unfair and often abusive imprisonment. Together, we helped change laws in 40 countries. We brought football’s global governing body to account, and helped convict war criminals. Here are 33 successes from 2016.

2016 also had more than its fair share of setbacks. In a year of so much uncertainty, we found one thing we could be certain about: Outrage is not enough. Change happens when we take action together. You can be a part of our movement: Join Amnesty today or start by taking action now.

Where does Amnesty International get its information?

We have teams of specialist researchers working on specific campaigns and countries and they are supported by additional 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 human rights 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. Before any statement or report is issued it is 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.

Who funds Amnesty International?

The overwhelming majority of our income comes from individuals the world over. These personal donations allow Amnesty International to maintain full independence from all governments, political ideologies, economic interests and religions. We neither seek nor accept any funds for human rights research from governments or political parties and we accept support only from businesses that have been carefully vetted.

Broadly speaking, we have two kinds of income:

1)      General income – including donations, membership subscriptions and direct mail appeals –  which funds the day to day operations of the Amnesty International Ireland section and most of our international human rights work. This work includes campaigning for prisoners of conscience, individuals at risk and the abolition of the death penalty.

2)      We also receive income from philanthropic organisations to work on specific issues. Funding for these projects can only be spent in these areas. For example, our ‘It’s time. Repeal the 8th.’ campaign is in part funded by a grant from the Open Society Foundation.

In line with our commitment to transparency, our annual accounts are published on our website. Find out more about how we’re funded.

How much are Amnesty International's staff paid?

Full details of the salaries and benefits of Amnesty International Ireland’s employees can be found here.

Who runs Amnesty International?

Our members. We are a democratic organisation. At a national level, our members make decisions at Annual Conference every year and elect a National Board to oversee the organisation’s governance. The National Board appoints an Executive Director who is responsible for operational management of the organisation. Amnesty International Ireland has more than 18,000 members and many more activists and supporters.

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.

Find out more about how we’re run.

How did Amnesty International start?

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.

More than fifty years later, we are now 7 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.

How can I get involved with Amnesty International?

You can get involved with Amnesty in a number of ways.

We are a membership organisation. We rely on the active participation of our members to achieve our goals. We encourage all people who support our work to join our movement.

You can take action now to support our current cases.

You can make a donation to fund our ongoing work.

You can join a local group or an activist network.

You can get involved with our youth program or share our human rights education work.

You can fundraise with us or purchase something from our shop.

You can leave a legacy.