Amnesty International

Amnesty International is an independent world-wide movement. Its activities focus on prisoners and the "disappeared".

  • A.I. seeks the release of prisoners of conscience. These are people detained everywhere for their beliefs, colour, sex, ethnic origin, language or religion, who have not used or advocated violence.
  • A.I. works for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners.
  • A.I. opposes the death penalty and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of all prisoners without reservation.

Who Supports Amnesty International?

A.I. has an active world-wide membership of over one million people in over 150 countries.

Is Amnesty International Political?

A.I. is carefully impartial. It does not support or oppose any government or political system. Nor does it necessarily support or oppose the views of the prisoners whose rights it seeks to protect. It is concerned solely with the protection of human rights involved in each case, regardless of the ideology of the government or the beliefs of its victims.

Where Does Amnesty International Get Its Money?

A.I. relies on donations from its members and supporters. Its financial independence is as vital to its work as its political independence. It does not seek or receive government money for its budget.

How Does Amnesty International Get Its Information?

A.I. attaches great importance to impartial and accurate reporting of facts. Its activities depend on meticulous research into allegations of human rights violations. The International Secretariat in London (with a staff of 250, comprising some 40 nationalities) has a Research Department which collects and analyses information from a wide variety of sources.

In September, 1995, Miriam Ortega, from Chile, visited Christchurch. She had been tortured and jailed for ten years and ten months under the Pinochet regime. Amnesty International had taken up her case when they learned of her being held incommunicado, because that is when people are most at risk of torture. She said to us, "Even if only one letter of the thousands that you write gets smuggled into the jail, that one letter gives one hope to carry on."

Under many regimes in the world today, if you join other women in a demonstration demanding a basic living wage for the ten or twelve hours a day that you work; if you produce a leaflet on your typewriter criticising the brutality of the military regime that controls your life; if you belong to an organization that supports the families of the "disappeared" and demands that legal means be employed to find the bodies and bring the killers to justice; or if you merely want a better life for your children; then you are labeled subversive, or communist, or capitalist or a supporter of guerrillas, or anything else that gives those who label you thus, permission to torture, "disappear" or kill you or your family.

Although A.I. never claims credit for the release of those on whose behalf it writes - credit is always given to the government concerned - approximately 50% of the cases taken up result in the setting free of hundreds of innocent people.

These actions take the form of - reporting - investigating - processing the information in Head Office in London - who then send cases to various country Section Offices - who organise the distribution to the individual A.I. groups in their countries in such a way that many cases are handled simultaneously. The result - literally thousands of letters from around the world focusing on each case, arriving on some government official's desk - from ordinary people like you and me giving the message that we know the details of this case, that it violates the U.N Declaration of Human Rights, or that we appeal for fair trial, or that we respectfully urge the government to initiate investigation proceedings, etc. as the case may be.

A.I sends its legal experts to observe trials, to search for prisoners and for people who have been 'disappeared" and publishes annual reports on human rights violations in those countries where it has concerns. Such reports are submitted to the relative governments before being tabled in the United Nations.

Find out more about Amnesty International

Contact phone numbers:

Wellington Section Office 04 499-3349
Sue Taylor
03 389-8689;
Alex Watson 03 322-7805;
Tony Maturin 03 323-7758 - Email: