Monday, October 17 2011
In 1961, British Lawyer Peter Benenson—outraged at the imprisonment of two Portuguese students who toasted to freedom—wrote a newspaper article calling for a mass letter-writing campaign for the release of “prisoners of conscience”—those jailed for their political or religious beliefs. Before long, Amnesty International was born and, 50 years later, the organisation has grown to 3 million supporters in 150 countries, who mobilise and take action against human rights abuses worldwide. On 6-8 October, to celebrate its 50th birthday, Amnesty held a human rights conference in Brisbane themed “Change the World”—precisely what Benenson did with his small individual action all those years ago. The conference brought together a wide range of human rights experts and activists. Speeches and workshops were divided into expert analyses of current human rights abuses, practical strategies for change, and personal stories of struggles and achievement in the face of oppressive mistreatment.