It was in 1961, on the London Underground, where Amnesty International was founded when Peter Benenson’s desire to demand “justice for those whose rights have been violated” was born. After reading an article in the newspaper, while on the train, about Portuguese students who had been imprisoned for minor offences, Peter and his friend Eric Baker penned an article for the Observer, ‘The Forgotten Prisoners’. The first article launched the international campaign of “Appeal for Amnesty 1961”, and Peter set up an office in Mitre Court in London.
On Human Rights Day on the 10th of December that year, a candle was lit in St Martin-in-the Fields, which became the iconic symbol of the movement.
In 1976, the first of the highly successful Secret Policeman’s Balls were held in London at Her Majesty’s Theatre. These events have evolved into a series of fundraisers for Amnesty and have been the inspiration for concerts such as Band Aid and Live 8.
Today, there are more than 3 million supporters, members and activists, in over 150 countries who campaign to ‘end grave abuses of human rights’ using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as their standard.
Every anniversary and Human Rights Day, candles are lit in London (as the birthplace of the movement) and across the globe in support of those who have not been allowed to have a voice.
“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness”
Peter Benenson (1921 – 2005)
English lawyer and founder of Amnesty International
Human Rights Day ceremony on 10th December 1961
Image Source: www.amnesty.org.nz