Amnesty International: Its Forty-Six Years of Existence Essay

The concept of International Human Rights was part of Hitler’s legacy after World War II to ensure that no more holocausts and genocides would occur in the near future. The United Nations was founded in 1945, an international organization entrusted by nations around the world to maintain world peace. Two years after its establishment, the UN put up The Commission of Human Rights which gave birth to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that gave the International Community the power to directly confront countries that fail to recognize and support basic Human Rights. Although this event marked the beginning of modern day Human Rights Movement, government officials often suffer setbacks and failures in trying to uphold basic human rights (Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy: A mandate for Leadership, 1988). Tortures and interrogations are few incidences in which basic human rights are often ignored by government officials for the sake of gathering or extracting vital information against their prisoners (Rabadi, 2005). Nongovernmental or Private Human Rights organizations come into play during these incidents or circumstances. These organizations mostly deal with cases involving government officials who have performed acts that violate fundamental human rights; they stand as a private jury for their client’s family and perform legal actions that could bring the victims of human rights violations into fair and secure trials.

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The earliest and most well known nongovernmental organization that exclusively deal with issues regarding human rights violations is Amnesty International. It is an organization that campaigns for the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world; to recognize and promote fundamental human rights regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, political and religious belief, and birth status was the original mission of Amnesty International (Amnesty International, 2008). Originally, the organization was engaged in releasing prisoners in various countries but as the organization grew and its members increased, it became more involved with other issues like the abortion of the death penalty, torture and abuses done by government officials to political activists (Rabadi, 2005). Through public education, demonstrations, letter campaigns and fundraising events, Amnesty International effectively encouraged public support to pressure government officials to recognize, support and incorporate fundamental human rights in its decision making and every action that it will undertake in the near future.

A quick discussion about the history of Amnesty International would follow to show a clearer picture on how this organization evolved and how it achieved its goal during all its years of its existence. It would also help in the analysis on how the organization adapted and changed its approach during the times that criticism about nongovernmental organizations were rampant. The latter hindered not only their objectives, but correspondingly the number of people who wished to participate with their cause declined during these years. This discussion would help in forming the necessary information that would be helpful in an analysis that could determine whether this organization fits the theories of Olson, Schattschneider or Wright (Easterly, 2001).

The concept of Amnesty International was born out of protest and criticism by a British lawyer, Peter Beneson, and his colleagues against the imprisonment of two Portugal students who performed a toast for freedom in front of the public – such action is treated as a Political Opposition during those times (Rabadi, 2005). Beneson wrote an article proclaiming the violation that was done and the article immediately gained public attention and support so much so that it was reprinted numerous times in various countries. This article initiated a worldwide campaign not only for the Portuguese students but also for the release of other prisoners who were imprisoned because of their beliefs, religions, ideals or race. By the end of 1961, 1000 people pledged their support for the campaigns and this led to the establishment of Amnesty International (Amnesty International USA, 2008). The organization carried out its mission mainly through letter-writing campaigns that were meant to rally for public support and to appeal to governments who have imprisoned various individuals based on their political and religious beliefs. Early results show that the method they used was indeed effective since they were able to release various prisoners around the world (Rabadi, 2005). Amnesty International either fit into Interest group of professional or a public interest group (Bardes et al, year). Some members of Amnesty International are doctors, lawyers, psychologist, and journalist who serve the organization objectives through their own way. Through its campaign, Amnesty International has made the public more alert and concern about the numerous Human right issues that have been neglected both by the government and the public itself.

During the past 47 years of its existence, the methods that this organization used are now concentrated in gathering larger audiences and generate large amount of funds needed to support their projects. Amnesty International grew outside of its birthplace and several branches are now be found in numerous countries around the world. One popular branch is the AIUSA or Amnesty International USA. It was founded by Ginetta Sagan, a former member of the Italian Resistance Movement. Sagan accidentally experienced acts of human rights violations when she was tortured and abused by the Fascist police during World War II in Italy (Amnesty International USA, 2008). This incident drove her to become an advocate of human rights. She traveled intensively to different parts of the world and became the voice of those people who have been abused in their own countries, she not only encouraged her colleagues but also the public to support and help those people have been mistreated. The AIUSA quickly became active in rallying public support to stop death penalty in USA (USA- A lethal Ideology, 2003). They are also active in trying to stop abuses and tortures prevailing in detention facilities located throughout America and they were able to gather substantial support from the youth and other sectors of the society (Rabadi, 2005).

As years went by, Amnesty International was able to carry out its goal by increasingly releasing prisoners from countries like Greece, Romania and Egypt. However, the organization itself was not exempted from various setbacks and obstacles that targeted the group’s credibility. It was in late 1960’s when Amnesty International was involved with issues regarding accepting funds from various government departments like the CIA and releasing biased reports about Human Rights issues (Rabadi, 2008). Even the former head of Amnesty International, Sean MacBride was accused by the public in conspiring with the IRA or Irish Republic Army. She was criticized by not letting the organization take a look into the rumored abuses and mistreatment done by the IRA to its people (Amnesty International, 2008). Because of such bad publicity, both funds and members declined during these years and the organization suffered many setbacks and failures in their operations.

Martin Ennals came in as a new secretary general of Amnesty International during the year 1968 and brought new policies and methods that helped the organization to recover from incidence that they just suffered. He quickly proposed a new method in dealing with cases regarding human right issues. It indicates that the members of the organization should only pick cases outside of their country (Amnesty International, 2008). They argued that, members who investigated cases that occurred in their country could be influenced easily by personal judgment and could immediately be dismissed by the local government (Aceves & Colucci, 2006). By not dealing with cases in their respective countries, members could focus more on their objective without worrying of consequences brought by personal dilemma and by their tumultuous surroundings.

Throughout the years, the organization learned new ways on how to achieve not only their objectives but also to increase their members and the organization’s treasury. Amnesty International started to recruit the help of the church, labor unions and business groups in fighting for their cause (Amnesty International, 2008). Not only has their manpower increased in this approach but also their capacity to deal with other human rights issues as well. The AIUSA in particular initiated fundraising events and concert tours around the USA to gather members and generate money needed for their projects (Amnesty International USA, 2008). AIUSA’s aim was to rally the youth to participate in their various campaigns against human rights issues prevailing around the world. They are also active in investigating various cases of abuse and torture performed by U.S. officials during interrogations (Dart, 2005). Moreover, they hold public education seminars and news conferences in different colleges and universities, that aim to educate the youth about the importance of human rights and the social problems of the day that needed to be responded to. The concert tours and fundraising events yielded good results in the form of increasing members especially in their youth (Dart, 2005).  Creating public Pressure in order to enforce or alert concerns institutions regarding certain issues is a common technique used by different organizations or interest groups nowadays to attain their goals (Bardes et al, 240). With the current status of media and satellite connection, Amnesty International was able to alert not only the public but various governments throughout the world about issues regarding Human Rights.

Since Amnesty International deals with cases involving mistreatment and abuse, incentives are usually directed to lawyers or law students who handle numerous cases of human rights violations. The incentives come in the experience of dealing with various cases such as physical and mental abuse, mistreatment in prison facilities and other cases regarding human rights issues (Rabadi, 2005). Considering how vast and extensive the network of Amnesty International, it could be considered as a training ground for those lawyers who wish to specialize in human rights issues and to increase their knowledge in the field of international law.

Additionally, organization like Amnesty International offer companionship and the pleasure of meeting new people from different part of country and to some extent different parts of the world. It is one of many organizations that create an environment in which its member could mature as a person through socializing with different kinds of people. The so called Solidary Incentives become the main reason why most people join organizations and interest group nowadays (Bardes et al, 223- 225). Usually, it’s the youth who commonly use this kind of reasoning in joining various organization or interest group.

Since Amnesty International deals with cases involving mistreatment and abuse, incentives are usually directed to lawyers or law students who handle numerous cases of human rights violations. The incentives come in the experience of dealing with various cases such as physical and mental abuse, mistreatment in prison facilities and other cases regarding human rights issues (Rabadi, 2005). Considering how vast and extensive the network of Amnesty International, it could be considered as a training ground for those lawyers who wish to specialize in human rights issues and to increase their knowledge in the field of international law.

Additionally, organizations like Amnesty International offer companionship and the pleasure of meeting new people from different part of country and to some extent different parts of the world. It is one of many organizations that create an environment in which its member could mature as a person through socializing with different kinds of people. The so called Solidary Incentives become the main reason why most people join organizations and interest group nowadays (Bardes et al, 223- 225). Usually, it’s the youth who commonly use this kind of reasoning in joining various organization or interest group.

Theories of Olson, Schattschneider and Wright

Mancur Olson argues that people participate into interest group or other activities because of the incentives that it gives the person who wish to involve in it (Easterly, 2001). Mostly it is true that incentives are usually the main reason why organizations keep their offices running because of the influx of new members. In the previous statement, it is clear that Solidary Incentives is an unseen incentive for Amnesty International (Bardes et al, 224). Youth who join Amnesty International often disregard the organization mission and focus on meeting people and associating themselves in this society. It is unclear whether Amnesty International fit with E.E. Schattschneider theory but as we have mention in previous statements, Amnesty International in regards whether IRA scandal is true or not,  could be affected by people who holds power over the organization leaders. Amnesty International after all, is an organization which functions through donations and funds contributed certainly by rich people who have their own private agenda. Lastly, Amnesty International certainly co-exists with John Wright theory about how political disturbance influence the beginning or creation of interest group or organization. The concept of how Amnesty International was born was directly influence by political actions and that is not happening in a single country but also in other parts of the world during that time. Amnesty International supported or strengthens the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and became as a pioneer for modern day Human Rights movement since its founding.

Conclusion

In its 47 years of existence, Amnesty International has served the public as the private jury for cases involving human right issues. They have deal with more than 40,000 cases and have already free thousands of prisoners from various countries around the world. They were able to educate and informed million of people around the world the importance of human rights and the value that it has for each one of them. By freeing the so called prisoners of conscience, they have somehow strengthened the value and importances of freedom of speech especially in countries were demonstrations and public gatherings are prohibited. They started a worldwide campaign that decrease the numbers of POW or prisoners of war being tortured and abuse by interrogators (Rabadi, 2005). Through their lawyers and the cases that they have won, they were able to strengthen Human Rights law in the eyes of the public as something that cannot be trampled easily by anyone. Although abuses and other form of violations are still rampant in various part of the world, the fight to end this mistreatment has improved over the past decades and its growth seems impossible to stop.

References:

Aceves, Williams and Colluci, Vienna. “Fulfilling the Legacy: International Justice 60 years after Nuremberg”. Gonzaga International Law of Justice 10.1. (2006). 2-5

Amnesty International USA. Company Home Page. 2008. 19 April, 2008. <htt://www.aiusa.org>

Amnesty International. Company Home Page. 2008. 21 April 2008. <htt://www.amnesty.org>

Bardes et al. “People and Politics”.  N.d. 223-247

Dart, Bob. “Amnesty International wants U.S. officials arrested and investigated”. InformationClearingHouse.com. 2005. InformationClearingHouse. May 26, 2005 <http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8956.htm>

Easterly, William.” Mancur Olson: Power and Prosperity: outgrowing communist and capitalist dictatorships”. Worldbank.org. 2001. World Bank Organization. 2001 <http://www.worldbank.org/html/prddr/trans/May-Aug2000/pg50.htm>

“Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy: A mandate for Leadership”. ThirdWorldTraveler.com. 1988. Third World Traveler. February 1988. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/ Human%20Rights%20Documents/Amnesty_USHumanRightsPol.html

Rabadi, Samer. “A familiar Path to Torture”. Southvalleypeacecenter.org. 2006. South Valley Peace Center Organization. April 26, 2006. http://www.southvalleypeacecenter.org/Articles/AFamiliarPathToTorture.pdf

“USA – A Lethal Ideology”. Amnesty International. 2003. Amnesty International, December 9, 2003. <http://www.twincitiesamnesty.org/USA_900.pdf.>

References:

Aceves, Williams and Colluci, Vienna. “Fulfilling the Legacy: International Justice 60 years after Nuremberg”. Gonzaga International Law of Justice 10.1. (2006). 2-5

Amnesty International USA. Company Home Page. 2008. 19 April, 2008. <htt://www.aiusa.org>

Amnesty International. Company Home Page. 2008. 21 April 2008. <htt://www.amnesty.org>

Dart, Bob. “Amnesty International wants U.S. officials arrested and investigated”. InformationClearingHouse.com. 2005. InformationClearingHouse. May 26, 2005 <http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8956.htm>

Easterly, William.” Mancur Olson: Power and Prosperity: outgrowing communist and capitalist dictatorships”. Worldbank.org. 2001. World Bank Organization. 2001 <http://www.worldbank.org/html/prddr/trans/May-Aug2000/pg50.htm>

“Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy: A mandate for Leadership”. ThirdWorldTraveler.com. 1988. Third World Traveler. February 1988. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/ Human%20Rights%20Documents/Amnesty_USHumanRightsPol.html

Olson, Mancur. “The Logic Of Collective Action”. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard

University Press, 1979.

Rabadi, Samer. “A familiar Path to Torture”. Southvalleypeacecenter.org. 2006. South Valley Peace Center Organization. April 26, 2006. http://www.southvalleypeacecenter.org/Articles/AFamiliarPathToTorture.pdf

“USA – A Lethal Ideology”. Amnesty International. 2003. Amnesty International, December 9, 2003. <http://www.twincitiesamnesty.org/USA_900.pdf.>

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