Amnesty International: Its Image, Development and the Position of the Organization in International Relations

  • Lucie Černá


Amnesty International, the 1977 Nobel Prize winner, is one the best known nongovernmental organizations which work for the protection of human rights on the international scene. It was founded in 1961 through the initiative of a British lawyer, Peter Benenson. His efforts to draw the public's attention to the existence of political prisoners in the world have led to the formation of a broad movement, which has become international and which has gradually grown into a well organized institution.
The original focus of the organization included, above all, efforts to secure protection for people imprisoned for their opinions or persuasion, efforts to broaden the rights to asylum, providing help to political refugees, and finally efforts to form an effective international mechanism, which could secure the freedom of opinion. This limited focus has subsequently become untenable and the mandate of the organization has begun to gradually adapt to changing trends in the violation of human rights, to which the organization also responded by changing its working methods. Today, the mandate embraces such provisions as a struggle against military, security, and police transfers which may lead to a violation of human rights, provisions concerning ethnic cleansing, human rights of people afflicted by HIV/AIDS and many other concerns.
To define its mandate and to exercise its activities efficiently, the organization draws on three principal sources. It applies particular international human rights norms, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the UN International Covenants. Besides these, it draws on international humanitarian law (the laws of war - the Geneva Conventions) and on the collective moral convictions of the membership, which substantially determine the development of the organization.
To reach its goals, the organization uses methods such as adoption groups, regional action networks, urgent actions, campaigns, specialized networks, missions, and lately also crisis monitoring. One of the most important working methods is publicizing the violations of human rights in the form of annual reports and specialized studies. The organization has also been pursuing human rights education during the last decade.
Crucial for Amnesty International is also cooperation with other organizations. It works not only with international intergovernmental organizations, such as the UN or the Council of Europe, but also with nongovernmental organizations, be it international organizations (Human Rights Watch or International Federation of Human Rights), or local ones.
Amnesty International has also been active in the Czech Republic since 1991.

Author Biography

Lucie Černá