Peter Benenson

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Peter Benenson (born Peter James Henry Solomon; 31 July 192125 February 2005) was a British lawyer and the founder of human rights organisation Amnesty International.


  • Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government … The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust could be united into common action, something effective could be done.
    • Benenson (1961), in: The Observer, 28 May 1961.
    • Opening of article, which gave birth to Amnesty International.
  • Pressure of opinion a hundred years ago brought about the emancipation of the slaves'.
    • Benenson (1961), Quoted in: Paul Gordon Lauren (2011) The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen, p. 251
  • Forty years on, Amnesty International has secured many victories. Its files are full of letters from former prisoners of conscience or torture victims thanking the organisation for making a difference. Torture is now banned by international agreement. Every year more countries reject the death penalty. The world will soon have an International Criminal Court that will be able to ensure that those accused of the worst crimes in the world will face justice. The Court's very existence will deter some crimes.
    But the challenges are still great. Torture is banned but in two-thirds of the world's countries it is still being committed in secret. Too many governments still allow wrongful imprisonment, murder or "disappearance" to be carried out by their officials with impunity.
    Those who today still feel a sense of impotence can do something: they can support Amnesty International. They can help it to stand up for freedom and justice.
    • In: Amnesty International (2002) The Amnesty International Report. p. 22

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