Amnesty International Campaign ManualAPPENDIX 1
This compilation includes inspirational quotations from prisoners on whose behalf AI has worked, listed alphabetically by country, as well as from organizations and personalities. The quotations are intended to be used individually: the compilation is not geopolitically balanced and is not intended for use as a collection. The quotations are arranged in the following order:
N Prisoners of conscience and Urgent Action letters / 278
N On the death penalty / 289
N World faiths / 290
N Media / 291
N United States Government / 292
N International organizations / 292
N Performing arts / 292
N Well-known personalities / 294
Prisoners of conscience and Urgent Action letters
"At last, I can enjoy the immense pleasure of writing to you as a free man. Yes! I'm a free man and feel so much pleasure and excitement about being able to kiss and hug my wife, my children, my parents, brothers, sisters, family and friends, not to mention the strangers who have welcomed me with open arms. You are part of this group of human beings who have been so intimate and dear to my family... Perhaps you don't realize how much hope you gave us, how much you helped to bring relief from the horrible nightmare. From the beginning we realized we were not alone... we, the prisoners, received your help with indescribable joy.
"Thanks to you and your people we were able to get through those years in prison in dignity."
Released prisoner of conscience
"There should be no double standard [concerning human rights], because this double standard is part of the strategy of fascists and communists alike. On this point, Amnesty International has surely been the organization that has maintained an independent position with the most courage and which has withstood most of the attacks."
Jacobo Timerman, author and released prisoner of conscience
"Your correspondence of 16 September 1988 relating to the death of Edward Charles Cameron is acknowledged and your expressed concern is noted... In an endeavour to prevent further deaths in custody the Western Australian Government has been supportive of any action designed to reduce the likelihood of further deaths. Several of the recommendations of the State Interim inquiry into Aboriginal Deaths have already been approved by the Government while the others are being further examined with a view to implementation."
Letter sent to an Urgent Action participant by Ian Taylor, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, regarding the death in detention of Edward Charles Cameron, which was the subject of an Urgent Action appeal
"I am free. I have just been freed this evening. I assure you that I owe my freedom to you. I survived thanks to you. It is true that one must never despair in life. This victory is completely yours, you who have been untiring workers. From this moment a new page in my life has been turned."
Released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to AI
"With deep gratitude and emotion we have received your message of solidarity regarding the threats against 81 of our fellow actors, directors and writers. The truth is that we lack the words to express what your support has meant to us. You have touched us profoundly, and have given us strength at a time of growing alarm. There is no doubt that you have also protected us...
"We have received thousands of messages... It has truly been a flood of affection and support. We wish we could thank you all personally, but we simply lack the hands to do so... we are in good spirits. Our trust is that 'Commando 135 _ Pacifying Action Trizano' will fall short of the sufficient viciousness to carry out its threats. But, in any case, we will not leave our country. Here we stay, with your support and that of our people."
Edgardo Bruna, President of SIDARTE (Association of Radio, Television, Theatre, and Movie Artists, Writers, and Technical Workers), in response to letters received from members of the Urgent Action network concerning death threats in Chile
"On behalf of the Chilean Nursing College, we would like to salute you for your support of solidarity expressed in the report of violation of human rights in our country and the demand which it makes upon the authorities with respect to their responsibility to cease these atrocities.
"Your letters and actions of solidarity invigorate our cause and motivate us as citizens not to give up our commitment to freedom and emancipation."
Letter to a member of the Urgent Action network from members of the Chilean Nursing College: Patricia Grau Mascayano, Secretary General; Patricia Talloni Valdes, National President; and Hortensia Arizabio Valle, a member of the International Commission
"With this greeting we wish to share the joy of freedom and express our gratitude for all the support and solidarity you gave us. Thank you!"
Dr and Mrs Ramiro Olivares, in a January 1988 card to AI members who had worked for the release of prisoner of conscience Dr Olivares
"While nothing could prevent my serving the 20-year sentence in its entirety, there is no doubt in my mind that your endeavours were a determining factor in the preservation of my life during my imprisonment."
Huber Matos, released prisoner of conscience
"After the rigorous investigations it always conducts, Amnesty International adopted me as a prisoner of conscience. They named several groups in West Germany, Holland, and Sweden to work toward achieving my freedom. I learned about the activities of the members of Amnesty International through my clandestine correspondence with [my wife] Martha. Being adopted by Amnesty International constituted a kind of protection. I believe this greatly contributed to the fact that the Cuban authorities did not physically do away with me in some violent manner. The government knew that all the world now knew that I existed, and not only that but exactly what my situation was. [Amnesty International] Group 110 in Sweden worked unceasingly for me, and in great part it is due to their extraordinary efforts that I was finally released."
Armando Valladares, released prisoner of conscience, in his book, Against All Hope
"When I say that I have read your letter from 3 August with deep feelings of emotion and gratitude, it is an understatement. In fact, I am totally at a loss what words to choose in order to express my thanks to you all...for what you did for me and for other political prisoners in Czechoslovakia. And it is not because I am writing in a foreign language; even in Czech I would be able to use only an old-fashioned phrase: 'Thank you from the bottom of my heart'."
A former prisoner of conscience
"I would like to use this opportunity to thank all the people of good will who in the last years had helped me to survive. Only my wife was allowed to send letters to me in prison, but she managed to convey the astonishing solidarity and help large numbers of people were showing to my family. There were letters from Germany, from Austria, from New Zealand, from Iceland... When I was released I could read those letters, and I was overwhelmed by the magnitude and intensity of this mainly moral help. From Norway, for instance, my family had received woollen blankets made by schoolchildren. Approximately fifty children from one school took part, each of them had knitted one woollen square, then they put them together... and now under those blankets my two young daughters sleep.
"It is extremely difficult for me to speak about those things, but I am happy to have this opportunity to let the people outside know that what they did was of immense importance to me and my family. I have got the feeling that the world is not as bad after all, if it is still possible that people are able to do for others _ and for somebody they don't even know _ what they did for me."
Ivan Jirous, poet and released prisoner of conscience
"For a number of months, I was totally cut off from the outside world, and the interrogators did their best to persuade me that nobody would give a damn if I were to disappear. And now this letter [written by an AI member from California, USA, and smuggled into his prison hospital room]... the overwhelming sensation I had been experiencing was a joyful feeling that somebody whom I didn't know at all, at least one person in the distant wide world thought that I did exist... It was immensely important for us to know that we were not forgotten, that people who mostly did not even know us, cared. And again _ I do not underestimate the more tangible results of such appeals: months later, some of my friends were released before the end of their prison terms. Nobody can be sure under which circumstances, but I am convinced that one of the reasons was the fact that their cases were being talked and written about abroad, that they had not simply vanished without trace."
Karel Kyncl, released prisoner of conscience
"I was amazed at the great number of letters sent to heads of states, parliaments, influential politicians, and other people who are in a position to intercede effectively on our behalf... I would like to express to you my sincere thanks for everything Amnesty International has done for me. Without this work I would have had to stay in prison for many months. By this action, Amnesty International saved my life and gave me the chance of a new and truly human existence."
Dr Jan Mlynarik, historian and released prisoner
"When the first 200 letters came, the guards gave me back my clothes. Then the next 200 came, and the prison director came to see me. When the next pile of letters arrived, the director got in touch with his superior. The letters kept coming and coming: three thousand of them. The president was informed. The letters still kept arriving, and the president called the prison and told them to let me go.
"After I was released, the president called me to his office. He said: 'How is it that a trade union leader like you has so many friends from all over the world?' He showed me an enormous box full of letters he had received and, when we parted, he gave them to me."
Julio de Pena Valdez, released prisoner of conscience
"My friend informed me that your organization took care of me. Because of this I feel the deep desire to thank you very much for everything your organization has done for me. I understand there exist groups all over the world who adopt particular cases and who take measures to get people free... It is my intention, after having managed to start into my new life, to actively participate in AI's work."
Dr Martin Schmitt, former prisoner of conscience from former East Germany, in a letter to AI
"My friend, what you wrote has lightened my heart, because I understand that I am not alone, as I feel, but that the solidarity of the whole world is with me, I who am just a poor, insignificant woman destroyed by a common enemy. I never imagined that anyone would cast a glance in my direction but this fills me with the will to go on." Teacher and released prisoner, in a letter to the AI group that had worked on her behalf
"...if there's lots of pressure _ like from Amnesty International or some foreign countries _ we might pass them on to a judge. But if there's no pressure, then they're dead."
"One remarkable thing was the smuggling of the Amnesty International document into the cell by one of the soldiers who felt sympathetic to us... That really was great hope... A friend of mine came and told me, 'I was going to commit suicide. It was only this paper that saved my life'."
Released prisoner of conscience
"Accept my thanks for the sensitivity, attention and justice you have shown till now on the subject of conscientious objection to military service.
"I thank you all, as well as the people of Europe who, during my 10 months' imprisonment, filled my heart with courage with their words of love and their protest against the lengthy, unjust, ignominious imprisonments in Greece.
"In particular I would like to thank Amnesty International for its decisive work and the members of the European Parliament who support me with their statements, letters and presence at my trials."
Detained prisoner of conscience
"We received your letter of 10 December 1987 and we thank you very much for your interest and concern about our son Alexandros Albanidis, who is in prison for his religious beliefs. I would like to let you know that we have another son who is also in prison. He went there six months after Alexandros; his name is Christos Albanidis and he is also in the agricultural prison of Cassandras. You understand this is a very sad situation for parents to have two children and both of them to be in jail not because they robbed somebody, not because they stole from somebody, not because they killed somebody, or not because they committed any other crime, but because their conscience does not permit them to take a gun or a weapon and to kill their fellow human beings...
"Please accept my friendly greetings and we thank you from the deepest of our hearts."
Sotirios Albanidis, father of a prisoner of conscience, in a letter to an AI member
"This year the letters from Amnesty International and your sweet words made my heart feel joyful. You gave me courage to carry on our struggle. The world today needs all of us to achieve true Peace and human rights and liberty... From my small cell, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."
Michelis Maragakis, prisoner of conscience, in a letter to an AI member
"I take this opportunity to thank you sincerely for your indispensable help which enabled me to regain my liberty and life and to bring to an end the unjust treatment which I received from the authorities of my country. I do this on my own behalf and on behalf of my family. I feel sure that my release would not have come about without your help.
"I would like to express my thanks to everyone who contributed their efforts, but I have come to realize, in these days following my release, that this would be most difficult to do. If it appears reasonable to you, perhaps you can send a copy of this letter to those persons who worked with you to help me. "I also take this opportunity to beg your pardon for not writing sooner. The days immediately following my release were hectic. Leaving Guatemala was very difficult. I thank you again for all you have done."
Released prisoner, in a letter to AI
"I would like to take this opportunity to express the profound thanks which we owe to Amnesty International for the tenacious labour you have carried out for so many years on behalf of our people. The constant reports of Amnesty International have rescued from oblivion and anonymity the right to life of so many children, old people and others who have persecuted, kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the successive military dictatorships which have imposed themselves on our people through blood and fire. These murderers have tried to wipe us off the face of the earth, to wipe us out because our love of life and our unshakeable determination to defend it is inconvenient for those who only wish to preserve their profits and privileges. Your assiduous work, your 'divine madness' have been for us a reassuring confirmation that no matter how poor or ill-treated we are, we have the right to life and to be respected, that to kill a new-born baby or an old person bowed down by the persecution of the army constitutes a capital crime that deserves the most energetic condemnation."
Leader of an Indian peasant farmers' association in Guatemala, in a letter to AI
"All the political prisoners released in the past two years have been released as a direct result of pressure from international human rights organizations."
Gitobu Imanyara, released prisoner of conscience, speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the US Section in 1992
One day Maina Wa Kinyatti was given a card which said: "Stay strong _ we are fighting for you."
"Those were very powerful words. They literally saved my life", said Maina Wa Kinyatti. "Only someone in prison knows how beautiful those words can be. They gave me courage. I wanted to hold on. I didn't want to betray those people on the outside working for me."
When Maina Wa Kinyatti arrived in the USA, he immediately contacted the AI group that had worked so hard on his behalf.
"It was incredible", he said. "It was as if I had known these people personally. It proves compassion knows no politics, no colour."
Maina Wa Kinyatti, released prisoner of conscience
"I wish to express my profound gratitude for the concern shown by you during my illegal detention from 3 December 1984 to 26 September 1985 in Liberia, West Africa. It was precisely because of this gesture coupled with the unwavering fighting spirit of my people that I am today a free man. Otherwise, I may still be held behind bars. My crime was for speaking out against the wanton abuse of human rights and the oppressive policies of my government.
"Though I was subjected to very inhumane treatment such as flogging, questioning at gunpoint, forced and hard labour, threats of elimination, etc, I was able to pull through because of the knowledge that you were expressing concerns for my release.
"Please continue such good work for there are still scores of others languishing behind bars in my country and other parts of Africa. You certainly can make a difference. For my part, I have been steeled by these experiences and henceforth remain committed to the fostering of democracy and human decency. No amount of sacrifice will make me abandon this noble objective."
Ezekiel Pajibo, released prisoner whose case was the subject of an Urgent Action appeal, in a letter to Urgent Action participants
"Today I took all the letters and cards you sent me in the past, re-read them, looked at them again, and it is hard to describe the feelings in my heart. The number of these letters and cards is not many. I know that from 1977 onwards you certainly sent me a large number of letters and cards, but I received only 10; I don't know how many of those you sent me were lost _ these things that I regard as precious jewels.
"Of the 10 items there are five that I received in 1977 or before while I was in 'the camp'. In anticipation that they might very well be taken from me, I had arranged to keep them in a place outside the camp, and so they have been preserved. There are three you sent to my sister which I was only able to see five or six years later. The other two are those you sent me at the beginning of this year. I cannot describe my gratitude towards you; as I re-read these letters I cannot control my own emotions."
Released prisoner of conscience
"I received your letter of 27 January which I am now replying to with great pleasure.
"On Saturday 8 February
I was called to the office of the directors of the prison so that they could give me an envelope, inside which was a message, simple but stimulating.
"I say stimulating because without knowing me and so far away, people like you are concerned about my freedom, driven only by interest in the respect for human rights.
"In your letter you say that you do and will do whatever is possible to achieve my freedom. I want to tell you that your most modest effort has incalculable value. I have commented with my companions on various occasions that the freedom of the political prisoners [of my organization] was and will be the work not only of our people and organization, but also of other forces opposed to injustice, as is the case with Amnesty International.
"I appreciate your writing to me and ask that you continue to do so, and I promise to reply. Give an affectionate greeting to all the members of your group and tell them I hope their concern for the respect for human rights will not wane."
Prisoner of conscience, in a letter to the AI group working for his release
"You know, before I received your last letter, I was a little unhappy and I felt absent. But as soon as I received your letter, I smiled. Shy smile in the beginning, but little by little, it became a frank and happy smile, and my mood changed wonderfully. You did me such good! For us, a letter is the outside, the forbidden! It increases the hope to see, some day in the future, unknown strands, the world of our imperfect dreams, the world of the living. When I opened your letter, my eyes went through the lines while my thought, my imagination were with you. Don't hesitate to write every time possible. I was deeply moved by your letter. You send me nice, attentive letters, full of kindness and comprehension. I congratulate myself on having you as my friends."
Letter from a prisoner to the AI group working on his case
"Whatever your religions, origins, colours, cultures... you, men or women, young or older, and even so younger children, you wrote me softly your wishes, strengthening me to have and keep more and more hope. Even there are some people among you who had the touching idea to light up a small candle for me. And your action is just unforgettable... I'm so affected by its tenderness, that [I am] unable to express correctly my mind... it was just unexpected for me to receive all this testimony of friendship and love. I'm cheerfully pleased that I don't feel any loneliness now, and thanks to you, even in this [precarious] condition... I passed a wonderful time. These last days of 1987 and early 1988, and like you did, I lighted up a candle thinking of you with wishes of love, peace, and happiness. Then, once more, I'm grateful to you for the [assurance] you gave me, that there are people in the USA who are concerned of lot [about] other human beings across the [ocean], and who don't forget those who struggle for freedom, justice, and peace... these words [are an] answer to all [the] cards I received."
Mghagha Mohamed, prisoner of conscience, writing to thank AI members who had sent him cards in December 1987
In Nigeria, the Military State Governor of Kwara State commuted the death sentence imposed on a 17-year-old boy for armed robbery. In a statement issued on 23 February 1988, the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions said that the Governor's decision was "in response to an appeal by Amnesty International".
Addressed to Shahid Nadeem, imprisoned for his union work and student political activities, the letter said: "You are not alone; don't lose heart. We pray for you. If there is anything you need, don't hesitate to ask."
In spite of the intense heat at the maximum security prison in the semi-desert, Shahid Nadeem said: "Suddenly I felt as if the sweat drops all over my body were drops from a cool, comforting shower... The cell was no longer dark and suffocating."
Soon the whole prison knew about his letter from an AI local group member in San Antonio, Texas, USA. "My colleagues were overjoyed and their morale was suddenly high."
That evening the deputy-superintendent summoned him. "He was so friendly and respectful I was shocked... He explained his dilemma as a God-fearing jailer who had to obey orders and follow the rules." The head warden also began to 'behave himself'. Taking their cue the junior staff changed as well.
As Shahid Nadeem puts it now: "A woman in San Antonio had written some kind and comforting words which proved to be a bombshell for the prison authorities and significantly changed the prisoners' conditions for the better."
Shahid Nadeem, former prisoner of conscience
"When Amnesty International adopted me as a prisoner of conscience, the newspapers started talking about me, I got better treatment in prison, and I was given a proper hearing in the courts. There had been a complete blackout on my name and case. That was blasted when Amnesty International took up my case."
Mukhtar Rana, teacher and released prisoner of conscience
"Faith in your efforts and concern sustained me throughout the horrible period of my imprisonment. Without hope I think I would have died."
"The Panamanian Committee for Human Rights expresses its gratitude for the great interest Amnesty International has shown in the critical situation of the Panamanian prisoners of conscience. "We are pleased to inform you that all the persons who were unjustly arrested have been released after having received cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. There is no doubt that Amnesty International's intervention and the hundreds of letters that were sent to President Eric Arturo Delvalle and to General Manuel Antonio Noriega contributed to the freedom of the Panamanian political prisoners."
The Panamanian Committee for Human Rights, writing to AI on 27 November 1987 about the cases of 15 Panamanians which had been the subject of an Urgent Action appeal
"For years I was held in a tiny cell. My only human contact was with my torturers. For two and a half of those years I did not experience the glance of a human face, see a green leaf. My only company was the cockroaches and mice. The only daylight that entered my cell was through a small opening at the top of one wall. For eight months I had my hands and feet tied.
"On Christmas Eve, the door to my cell opened, and the guard tossed in a crumpled piece of paper. I moved as best I could to pick up the paper. It said simply, 'Constantino, do not be discouraged; we know you are alive.' It was signed 'Monica' and had the Amnesty International candle on it.
"Those words saved my life and my sanity. Eight months later I was set free."
Constantino Coronel, released prisoner of conscience
"I have been able to recover my human rights. I consider this to be an important victory in the worldwide movement for human rights. This was directly due to the enormous number of letters and protests that arrived from inside Paraguay and from many parts of the world... I have kept a great pile of letters and cards that I received and which the postal censorship didn't dare seize. Without doubt, Amnesty International's documents and calls for urgent action contributed to this mobilization, unprecedented in Paraguayan history... I would ask Amnesty International to pass on my personal and profound gratitude to all those people who responded to Amnesty International's appeals on my behalf... Please accept my warm gratitude and my sincere hope that the noble cause of Amnesty International may continue to achieve success."
Maria Margarita Baez de Britez, released prisoner whose case was the subject of an Urgent Action appeal
"Early this morning I was taken out of my cell for the first time in three months and taken to the station's commanding officer's quarters. There he handed me a sealed envelope; it contained a copy of your letter dated 27 July to President Stroessner in which you express your concerns about my case and a brief message at the bottom of it. This simple act, normal in a democratic country like yours, is extraordinary here and it also has a very special meaning for me since it is the first time in the past six and a half years that mail sent directly to me has reached my hands. It's not easy to explain how I felt this morning when I was handed your letter. I can't tell you how I feel 10 hours later, but of one thing I'm sure: it's good to know I'm not fighting alone and I thank the Lord, for as long as there are persons like you, this crazy world will have hope and people like me will have a chance to have justice done."
Alejandro Mella Latorre, Chilean photographer detained in Paraguay, whose case was the subject of an Urgent Action appeal
"I am writing to thank you for Amnesty International's support during my detention earlier this year in Peru. I was at the time vaguely aware of your organization's interest in my problem and since my release have had the opportunity to see the Urgent Action memo issued on August 12th and to hear directly from friends of the assistance your offices provided. "I am most thankful to you all for your efforts in my protection... I am aware of the weight which surely carries any expression of concern from an organization as widely recognized and highly regarded as is Amnesty for its seriousness of purpose and its professionalism. I feel very fortunate indeed that my case came to your attention...
"With many thanks for your assistance to me and with heartfelt wishes for the continuance of your help to others."
Cynthia McNamera, whose case was the subject of an Urgent Action appeal during her detention in 1988, in a letter to AI
Carlos Taype was working for the Confederation of Peasants when he was arrested on 17 March 1984, taken to the barracks of the Civil Guard in the provincial capital, Huancayo. From prison, he wrote:
"Before, we knew nothing about Amnesty International. Until we were hunted, captured, tortured, some murdered, and imprisoned, until all of our human rights were violated. We have measured with our very bodies the valuable and important role that Amnesty International plays in the defence of human rights. Apart from us, how many more have there been in my country alone? How many more in the rest of the world? Now we can understand the great task you face. Being in the worst of conditions, the very fact of learning that those who defend human rights already knew of our detentions gives us great hope. It lightens the burden to know we are not alone, that there are others, like Amnesty International, who care about us. To you we owe a great deal. Because of the intervention of Amnesty International, some people have ceased to be persecuted, others were only half tortured, others won their release from prison, and others were not killed. All of this we owe to you."
After his release on 26 January, he said:
"I owe my freedom to the poor people of my country, to Amnesty International and all your groups... to all the institutions and personalities who fight against human rights violations... to those who energetically protested against my unjust confinement to the Peruvian government and authorities, in events, meetings, marches, in newspapers, in letters to Peruvian Embassies in other countries. In this way the Peruvian Confederation of Peasants received 565 copies of protests sent to President Belaunde from 29 countries demanding my immediate release... the only way I in particular can repay you is to keep fighting for the defence of human rights for my people and the peoples of the world. If we have to give up our lives to do this, then we will do so gladly."
Carlos Taype, released prisoner of conscience
"Greetings of Solidarity and Justice! We have received countless letters from different groups of Amnesty International all over the world, mostly concerned with the plight of Rodolfo Romano and his father-in-law, Jose Laceda.
"It has touched us deeply that all compassionately expressed sympathy to the victims and revulsion to the perpetrators of torture and cruelty. These gestures of commiseration we will remember forever. The barrage of letters you sent to our Minister of National Defence and the Acting Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces denouncing the brutalities done by their men has certainly hastened action on these cases. We are pleased to bring the good news that your efforts have borne fruit of justice: the fabricated case which was filed against Rodolfo Romano by his torturers was finally dismissed by the court."
Office of the Bishop of Sosorgon, Philippines, 1984.
"Amnesty International saved my life... "I found out [that I had been adopted by AI] in prison, from somebody in the next cell. I didn't see the person; my cell was dark; I was not permitted to see other persons or be seen. He asked me quietly if I was Carmen Popescu...
"He told me 'don't be frightened, don't be discouraged. You have friends over the seas: they know about you...'
"The message from many Romanians who know your wonderful work for prisoners of conscience around the world is to say thank you for your wonderful work."
Carmen Popescu, released prisoner of conscience, in a talk to a high-school group in California, USA
"I believe that without Amnesty International our world would have been more of a tyrannical and unhappy place to live. Apart from the day-to-day worthy achievements, obvious for all to see and generally appreciated by all men of good will everywhere, inspiring confidence and a hopeful future in the hearts of many who have sadly lost their freedom, tasting the painfulness and the bitterness of tyranny and repression, I believe the efforts of Amnesty International create a healthy and restraining effect on many unjust governments in this world."
Released prisoner of conscience
"It is with great pleasure to tell you that I am free at last from detention.
"How grateful are we with all the help from you and friends. May God be with you throughout your lifetime. We are grateful indeed."
Released prisoner, in a letter to the San Francisco Bay Area AI group in the USA that had worked on his behalf
"Those letters made the Minister of Police actually visit the prison, show his face. The government doesn't ever want to admit they released somebody because of the pressure. But they do, they do. They would say, 'Who are these people writing letters? Why can't they leave us alone?'"
Released prisoner of conscience
"Some of the letters reached me in the hospital where I was treated for a heart attack resulting from torture. Knowing we are not alone in our struggle strengthens the courage and determination of myself and my people. We are hopeful. We cannot afford not to be optimistic."
Released prisoner of conscience
After describing AI as a "social scourge", Transkei Security Police Chief Colonel Martin Mgceba showed prisoner Fikile Bam a large collection of telegrams and messages of concern about him from all parts of the world. Mr Bam was then released unconditionally. No charges were ever brought against him and the authorities have given no reason for his detention without trial. Mr Bam, a lawyer, expressed his thanks to AI and to all who appealed on his behalf.
"I am a black Lutheran minister in South Africa and Amnesty International just helped win back my freedom...
"I want to express my deepest thanks to you for your generous commitment to easing the plight of literally thousands of prisoners of conscience.
"And if you ever wonder if your support of Amnesty International USA really matters, feel confident it does. Bless you...
"I owe you and Amnesty International my life." Dean Reverend T. Simon Farisani, released prisoner of conscience
"Don't stop writing. Each individual can have an effect. If you give us moral support, we will do the rest."
Kim Dae Jung, opposition leader and released prisoner of conscience
"During the dismal and lonesome days, international concern and support have always encouraged us greatly... All the dictators have fantasies that they can suffocate and divide people in their own country. Under these circumstances we know that what they are afraid of most is world opinion and criticism of their tyranny. Here we can see the effective role of the Amnesty International movement encouraging the oppressed.
"Your efforts and prayers saved my life and thanks to your support I can have an opportunity to live as a human being."
Lee Shim-bom, released prisoner of conscience
"Thank you for your letter. When in prison, especially, I could not fail to forget your encouragement, which created my courage and power. Thanks to God and you, I have safely returned home from imprisonment of 54 months. Only looking at the blue sky, I have the pleasure of flying into the sky. I don't know how much I am delighted to be free. Up to now, I have treasured the pair of socks made of wool which you gave me in prison, which keep my feet as well as my heart now warm. I thank you from the bottom of my heart again."
Park Chong-suk, teacher and released prisoner of conscience, writing in November 1987 to the Dutch AI group that had worked on his behalf
Former Soviet Union
"While I was in Severodonetsk I received New Year's greetings cards from Austria, but without any sender's address. Now I understand that they came from an Austrian group of Amnesty International...
"It is difficult to imagine where I would be and in what condition I would be if it were not for your work. There were not only your letters addressed officially to the CPSU Central Committee, the Procurator General and the director of the camp, but there were also the letters which you addressed to me personally _ especially a greeting card for my birthday, which touched me deeply.
"The administration subjects the prisoners to a very great moral solitude. Many efforts can be undertaken to defend [the prisoner]: demonstrations, petitions, letters to the authorities, etc... but the prisoner himself cannot know about these in the midst of rot and stench. And if by chance he does learn of this, a break in space and time is created. Everything that happens, everything that is done on his behalf happens in a completely different world, on a different level, it seems to the prisoner...
"And the guards learn ...that there is a certain V. in the zone who is receiving letters from abroad. And these guards will be a little cautious regarding me, because an ordinary citizen is suspicious about everything foreign. Because of this I will be protected from the gratuitous cruelty of this petty administration, which is characterized by aggressiveness: I won't be beaten, I won't be put in a punishment cell, etc... Of course if the higher authorities give certain orders to the guards, 'the machine' will take its course and I will be beaten anyway, put in a punishment cell and denied food. But I will have 80 per cent protection from all that. And all thanks to an envelope!"
Released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to an AI group
"When you are in confinement, you have no contact with friends, or anyone. You feel completely cut off, deprived of the outside world. Suddenly I got the letters [from Amnesty International members]. It is difficult to explain what that meant. These two letters I got gave me hope. I understood how important this human rights support, and the defence from the West was for me, because only thanks to it did I keep my mind and my brain alive."
After he was freed, Viktor Davydov was called into the office of the KGB colonel who had first investigated his case. The official pointed to a stack of letters sitting on the desk. "I want you to write to them and tell them you are free so they stop sending these letters", he said. The letters were from AI members and had been written to the Soviet authorities, to appeal on Viktor Davydov's behalf.
"The only reason why I am not in a psychiatric hospital, why I was not arrested again, is the activity of human rights organizations and other activity in the West in defence of Soviet human rights."
Viktor Davydov, dissident
and released prisoner of conscience who had been held in a special psychiatric hospital because of his "socially dangerous acts"
"Thanks to the strong and persistent efforts of Amnesty International, I am now a free woman and my husband Ivan Kovalyov, a prisoner of conscience, is also free...
"In September 1977
I joined the Helsinki Monitoring Group _ a private group created to monitor Soviet compliance with the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords...
"Because of my human rights work for the Helsinki group, I was arrested in 1980 and convicted a year later of 'anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda'...
"During my long imprisonment, my husband and I were not permitted to see each other. For me the worst part of my confinement was the terrible isolation. My feeling of being forgotten, cut off from contact with my husband, my family and the outside world.
"Because of our human rights work, we knew of Amnesty International and hoped that they knew of our plight. And then I began to hear that Amnesty groups were working on my case and others. To know that we were not alone and not forgotten gave us a tremendous feeling of hope. When one is shut off from the rest of the world, I cannot even begin to express how very precious and powerful the gift of hope is.
"To encourage ourselves and to demonstrate solidarity, we recreated the AI universal symbol of the candle and barbed wire in our labour camp. This was easy to do because we had the candles in our camp and of course plenty of barbed wire...
"As a former prisoner, I want to stress how very important it is to continue the work of Amnesty International. For some prisoners in Soviet camps, it is a matter of life or death. You and other Amnesty members must never give up your fight for human rights until every prisoner is released. Never underestimate your collective power.
"The very fact of being named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and having one's case publicized restrains the Soviet authorities _ and acts as a powerful deterrent to more serious abuse.
"I know this is true from personal experience. Although other prisoners were severely beaten, I'm convinced I was not beaten only because my name and the circumstances of my imprisonment were known and vigorously publicized by Amnesty International...
"From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you again for your commitment to the life-saving mission of Amnesty International. And I hope that your work on behalf of many other political prisoners will be just as successful as your work on behalf of my husband and me."
Tatyana Osipova, human rights activist and released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to members of AI
"I am very happy to inform you that thanks to the efforts of many people like you and your friends from your Amnesty group, I am a free man now, residing with my relatives in Canada...
"I beg you to convey my sincere gratitude to all your friends whose persistent and unyielding pressure on the Soviet authorities played an important role in overall efforts, which finally resulted in this happy conclusion.
"Thank you all and may God bless you."
Danylo Shumuk, released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to an AI group
"I am eternally grateful that for the first time in my life I can meet the honoured members of Amnesty International. I was fully aware of Amnesty International's work even before my arrest...
"After I arrived in the camp, the news from newcomers or loved ones about the work of Amnesty International, particularly about individual cases, gave us much joy... We thought the work of Amnesty International was of supreme importance to prisoners of conscience, although due to the political realities of the USSR, we didn't always come into direct contact with the fruits of your labour. And the slanderous attacks on Amnesty International in the [Soviet] press only reaffirmed our commitment to Amnesty's goals. About a year ago when we began to see signs of amnesties for political prisoners, we were convinced this was the result of pressure from Amnesty International groups.
"Having come to know many prisoners in the Mordovian and Perm camps, I extend the greetings of many many others who truly value the work of Amnesty International. It is very difficult to survive in a labour camp if there is no one paying attention to your particular case. Your situation was much easier if you knew that there was someone out there caring for you, lobbying on your behalf."
Vytautas Skuodis, released prisoner of conscience, in a talk to a New York AI group in the USA
"I was very glad to receive your letter as not all letters from overseas friends and helpers reached me and my family. What is important is that these letters are very useful even if they don't reach us. Sometimes in the camp, the camp authorities and guards started to be especially polite to me and avoided in my presence to ill-treat other women prisoners. I guessed something had put them on their guard. Later on, just by accident, I found out that a letter from the West came for me and caused this change in behaviour. Any letter or postcard addressed to a political prisoner, their family or to official places in the USSR plays an important role in the life of a dissident and improves his position even if the letter doesn't reach his hand, so again and again I repeat, be patient and persistent in writing your letters to save these people, if you possibly get disappointed, if you see no results for your work _ your writing is still productive...
"One time they weren't careful at the Post Office and I received Christmas greetings from Spain. I don't speak Spanish but this postcard I always carried in my pocket and sometimes in the severe Siberian frost this card gave me a drop of Spanish sun."
Julia Vosnesenskaya, writer, poet, and released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to AI
"At last I can write to you from home. I am now a free man...
"I cannot find words to express my thanks to you in Amnesty International, for your solidarity, your sympathy and your struggle for my release. Without your help, without the feeling that other people in the world are defending our freedom and helping us and our people, life would have been so hard and difficult. Please convey my thanks and best wishes to your friends."
Sidgi Awad Kaballo, released prisoner of conscience
Swaziland "I was on the verge of total collapse and desperation before I was introduced to you, but you gave me strength and courage to go on."
Relative of a released prisoner of conscience
"During my four years in prison... your action and warm concern helped us to continue believing in the value of human beings with firmness even when we were in the coldest jail. I certainly have no regrets for losing freedom just because of my thoughts and ideals."
Released prisoner of conscience
"I can never forget how I was moved to tears when unexpectedly I was handed in a solitary cell a brief letter from Amnesty International."
"Eleven years ago, the Taiwanese people, even privately, were not bold enough to receive former political prisoners. Now though, they dare to hold warm welcome parties _ openly and publicly. There are many reasons for this change, but the painstaking efforts and the influence of Amnesty International may be one of the most important factors. Therefore, we Taiwanese have to be all the more grateful to [AI]."
Released prisoner of conscience
"I am Mr Snan Wongsuthee. I would like to thank you for everything. I have already been released from the prison on 3 February 1988. By help of Amnesty International I have got the freedom. I would like to thank you very very much again."
Snan Wongsuthee, released prisoner whose case was the subject of an Urgent Action appeal, in a telex to AI
"It is with great joy that I send you my first letter in liberty, out of prison, to express my deep gratitude for the efforts made by you and your friends."
Abderraouf ben Romdhane, released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to an AI member who had corresponded with him in prison
"I write to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you did for me and my baby when we were both in custody... These letters were a great consolation to me and mother... I believe these letters influenced the Uganda Government authorities when they decided to release me on 19 September 1984."
Letter to AI from a released prisoner whose case was the subject of an Urgent Action appeal
"I myself perhaps owe my life, and with absolute certainty I owe my freedom to the action that you took at the moment I was kidnapped in my country in November 1980. This is the reason why I have great confidence in what you
Released woman prisoner whose case was the subject of an Urgent Action appeal
"It gives me the greatest of pleasure to communicate with you and establish a dialogue in writing, in which I want to express my gratitude for all the support that has been extended to my family, to my people, and to me personally. The gratitude that all the Uruguayans feel for the moral and material assistance which all of you extended during these dark years we had to face is so great that it is difficult for me to find adequate words to express this feeling. Therefore, I only will say that I send you in these lines my most affectionate acknowledgement of your attitude, wishing that you will never need our support, but if fate should put you in circumstances requiring our help, count on it unconditionally from then and forever."
Released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to the AI group that had campaigned for his release
"You have been present during all these years with a constancy and dedication which have accompanied me in the worst moments, giving me strength and joy.
"I remember clearly the emotion I felt on returning to my cell after one of the fortnightly visits, the only time I talked to anyone, having learned about your letters. The solidarity that is expressed over oceans of distance gives strength and faith in one's solitude, and helps one confront the repressive apparatus by keeping one's human integrity and its essential values intact."
Lilian Celiberti, released prisoner of conscience, in an letter to the AI group that had worked on her behalf
"We feel very insignificant _ in comparison with all the effort and 'lobbying' that you have put into helping us. As people, we feel proud to be members of the human race when we come across people like you. I don't know whether you have ever considered this, but probably the best thing you have done for us is to maintain our morale and restore our faith in human nature. I am really astonished at how much you have done, how many people, and how much time, all without my knowing anything at all... From our hearts, our profoundest thanks for everything and we hope that this letter is not the last time we have contact."
Brenda Ines Rovetta Dubinsky and Antonio Morelli, released prisoners, in a letter to an AI group
"For my mother as well as for my family, I want to tell you how important it was for me to know that outside my family and across the seas there were people whom I did not know, but who fought on my behalf and were near to me. When I read the letters that you sent me or my mother, my heart bursts with emotion as it does also when I learned of the financial help you gave my family, which was essential for them to survive.
"The most important thing is that...between us, human beings, it has been proved that borders are absurd, languages are surmountable, that distances can be overcome, because the heart is big...and people like you keep the hope of a new dawn alight."
Maria Cecilia Duffau Echevarren, released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to an AI group
"We could always tell when international protests were taking place... the food rations increased and the beatings were fewer. Letters from abroad were translated and passed around from cell to cell, but when the letters stopped, the dirty food and repression started again."
Released prisoner of conscience
"I have recommenced my life as a free citizen, with below-average health and several physical weaknesses _ the consequences of three years of detention, deprivation and ill-treatment. I want to express my thanks, to you personally as well as to the members of your organization for all the efforts and interventions which you have made to free me. Perhaps I have to thank your interventions for my remission of two years (three years in prison, instead of the five to which I was sentenced)."
Released prisoner, in a letter to AI
Former Yugoslavia "This letter gave me much courage. I feel like a different person. Just the thought that there is someone like this group that intervenes for human rights... It is nearly two years since my husband was locked up and no one from the government has asked me how I am living. I love my homeland and want to be a good citizen, but we have been pushed aside without a thought. Therefore a letter such as the one from Amnesty International gives a person strength and makes you feel human again. The very fact that you have written to us means a great deal to me, and I will not forget it."
Wife of prisoner of conscience, Anto Kovacevic, prisoner of conscience, in a letter to the AI Dutch group working for Anto Kovacevic's release.
"Greetings to Amnesty International. I have come home from prison and am very, very grateful... Mainly I owe my early release to you and to your work on my case... Thank you for all your support."
Anto Kovacevic, released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to AI and the groups that had worked for his release
"My only crime was my concern for humanity... I was treated in a very brutal manner because I had the courage to demand an amnesty for prisoners of conscience in Yugoslavia. I wrote a petition and collected some signatures. Then I sent it to the Yugoslav Presidency...
"During that time of persecution and suffering, I came to know your generous hearts, full of sympathy, full of solidarity, fraternal affection and ideal support. Your constant care for my fate and the efforts you took to publicize this...did not permit injustice to triumph. I passed 271 days in solitary confinement, often without the right to read or rest. Because of that my eyes have become weak. However for me that is all nothing in comparison with the great happiness of being able to feel authentic human solidarity and to gain, in you, such devoted friends. I pray that God enables you to feel my great gratitude and friendship. We are united by the same ideal: to do well for all people. You defend human rights, for me this is the greatest duty of every person."
Dobroslav Paraga, released prisoner of conscience, in a letter to AI
On the death penalty
"Retribution or vengeance seems difficult enough for a government to justify where adult offenders are involved and vengeance against children for their misdeeds seems quite beyond justification... The spectacle of our society seeking legal vengeance through the execution of children should not be countenanced."
American Bar Association report
"State-authorized murder is no more right that some of the heinous crimes committed by individuals."
Donald Avenson, House Speaker of the Iowa Legislature, quoted in the Des Moines Register, 25 January 1989, USA
"The death penalty has been a gross failure. Beyond its horror and incivility, it has neither protected the innocent nor deterred the wicked. The recurrent spectacle of publicly sanctioned killing has cheapened human life and dignity without the redeeming grace which comes from justice meted out swiftly, evenly, humanely."
Pat Brown, Governor of California (1959 to 1967)
The death penalty "is undeniably a murder which arithmetically cancels out the murder already committed; but it also adds a regularization of death, a public premeditation of which its future victims are informed, an organization which in itself is a source of moral suffering more terrible than death..."
"The Observer opposes capital punishment, period. The statistical evidence of racism in its application is overwhelming. And anyone can be wrongly convicted of a crime _ and wrongly executed for it. That is the horror of capital punishment. Nor do we think that executions either promote public regard for the value of life or deter potential murderers any more than the threat of life imprisonments would."
The Charlotte Observer
"The murder rate has always varied widely from nation to nation, presumably due to the differing cultural attitudes to violence and the availability of weapons. Nothing else could explain why the US murder rate has held steady at about 60 times the British rate, both before and after the two countries stopped executing people."
Gwynne Dyer, San Francisco Chronicle
"If you cast your eyes around the world and want to know the most infallible way to judge whether a nation is free or oppressive, all you have to know is whether that nation imposes the death penalty.
"What nations lead the world in executions? The Soviet Union and South Africa. What totalitarian or authoritarian nations have abolished the death penalty? None. What democracies impose capital punishment? With the exception of the United States, none...
"What does this suggest?
"In my view, it tells us that, even though liberals tend to oppose the death penalty, the most powerful argument against it is conservative in nature: The state should not have the ultimate power over any individual, no matter what.
"This is a far less sweeping, far more modest argument against the death penalty than those usually made.
"In my view, it has the virtue of being right."
Jeff Greenfield, syndicated columnist and ABC News analyst, in a column which appeared on 30 January 1989 in the Dallas Times Herald
"Injustice is still alive and well and equal opportunity is still denied black Americans even in death."
The Reverend Jesse Jackson
"As one whose husband and mother-in-law have both died the victims of murder-assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by legalized murder."
Coretta Scott King
"The old law of an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."
Martin Luther King, Laureate of the Nobel Prize for Peace
"The death penalty is no more effective a deterrent than life imprisonment... While police and law enforcement officials are the strongest advocates of capital punishment, the evidence is overwhelming that police are no safer in communities that retain the sanction than in those that have abolished it. It also is evident that the burden of capital punishment falls upon the poor, the ignorant, and the underprivileged members of society."
US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall
"If you can prove to me that in any state that has the death penalty that there is a reduction in (crime rate) I'd be supportive of it. But I've yet to see the death penalty in any shape, manner or form reduce the crime rate for violent crime in any state."
Governor Rudy Perpich of Minnesota, quoted in the Star Tribune of 10 December 1988
"I regard the death penalty as a savage and immoral institution that undermines the moral and legal foundations of a society. I reject the notion that the death penalty has any essential deterrent effect on potential offenders. I am convinced that the contrary is true: that savagery begets only savagery."
Dr Andrei Sakharov, released prisoner of conscience from the former Soviet Union
"It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind."
George Bernard Shaw
"Capital punishment deserves no standing in our criminal justice system.
"Most countries that presume to the description 'civilized' have long since abandoned state killing, with no increase in what previously had been capital crimes. If the death penalty were a deterrent to crime, there could be an argument for it. But it is not. It is just an unworthy act of social vengeance, and there's worse still: It may actually incite violence, serving perversely as a socially approved demonstration that killing is a legitimate way to solve a problem."
Tom Teepen, editorial page editor, Atlanta Constitution
"He who destroys one life is as though he destroys a whole world."
"We believe it to be the task of the Jew to bring out great spiritual and ethical heritage to bear upon the moral problems of contemporary society. One such problem, which challenges all who seek to apply God's will in the affairs of men, is the practice of capital punishment... We believe there is no crime for which the taking of human life by society is justified, and that it is the obligation of society to evolve other methods in dealing with crime... to prevent crimes by removal of its causes, and to foster modern methods of rehabilitation of the wrongdoer in the spirit of the Jewish tradition of tshuva (repentance)."
Resolution of the 1959 Union of American Hebrew Congregations General Assembly
"I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
"To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house."
Isaiah 42:6,7, the Bible (Kings James version)
"Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
"Open thy mouth righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy."
Proverbs 31:8,9, the Bible (Kings James version)
"...in its humanitarian concern, the Holy See strives to recommend clemency, even pardon, for those condemned to death, above all when these have been condemned for political reasons, which can moreover be very changeable, tied to the personality of those in power at the moment."
His Holiness Pope John Paul II
"We can choose death for offenders. If we do, we must be prepared to kill some by mistake, others arbitrarily, and all at very high cost, without making society safer. At best, we give ourselves a false sense of security."
Howard Zehr, Mennonite Central Committee's Office of Criminal Justice
"Save those who repent before ye overpower them. For know that Allah is Forgiving."
"The extermination of the root (of existence) (namely of man) is not to be countenanced; that by no means constitutes the eternal dharma. Indeed proper expiation can be made without killing."
"War, capital punishment, the taking of human life, cruelty of all kinds whether committed by the individual, the Sate or society, not only physical cruelty, but moral cruelty, the degradation of any human being or any class of human beings under whatever specious plea or in whatever interest,... are crimes against the religion of humanity, abominable to its ethical mind, forbidden by its primary tenets, to be fought against always, in no degree to be tolerated."
"All men tremble at punishment. All men fear death. Likening others to oneself One should neither slay nor cause to slay. Who so, himself seeking happiness Inflicts punishment upon beings who also desire happiness He will not attain happiness hereafter."
"Hatred does not cease by hatred; hatred ceases only by love; this is the eternal law."
"Where there is Divine Knowledge there is Righteousness; where there is Falsehood there is Sin. Where there is Greed there is Death but where there is Forgiveness there is God."
The Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib
"Strictly speaking from a Mahayana Buddhist point of view, taking of life generally is prohibited and the practice of compassion an essential ingredient..."
"Deep down we must have real affection for each other, a clear recognition of our shared human status. At the same time we must openly accept all ideologies and systems as means of solving humanity's problems. No matter how strong the wind of evil may blow, the flame of truth cannot be extinguished."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso
"Amnesty is to be commended for its care and tenacity in documenting the 'ugly picture' of what governments are still doing to their people 40 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty does not recognize a world broken into blocs and makes no distinctions between the human rights abuses of 'our side' and 'their side,' nor does it reduce violations to some sort of rankings whereby one country might claim justification in coming off numerically better than a rival. Rather, the reports are given straightforwardly, with a simple, implicit challenge that the government responsible clean up its act...
"Amnesty, with its reports and with its quiet, polite, but splendidly obstinate letter-writing campaigns on behalf of individual political prisoners, is helping to move the world to a single standard of human rights. Time and again we see that ostensible support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has not prevented abuses. But worldwide political pressure can be effective in pushing a nation from nominal to real support for that standard. And Amnesty has been an effective agent of that pressure."
Christian Science Monitor editorial, 5 October 1988
"The world's foremost human rights organization."
Peter Jennings, ABC News, speaking of AI
"For 25 years they have shined the light of conscience on the jailers and the torturers. Amnesty International fights for the freedom of political prisoners with cards and letters. And the amazing thing is, it works."
Ted Koppel, on a 1986 ABC News Nightline show focusing
"For the world's prisoners of conscience, Amnesty International is a beacon of hope...
"No group has worked more visibly or effectively than AI to end [human rights] abuses."
Christopher Ogden, in the cover story on AI in the international edition of Time Magazine, 17 October 1988.
United States Government
"Twenty-five years ago, British barrister Peter Benenson founded Amnesty International, an organization dedicated to investigating cases of imprisonment, torture, and execution of prisoners of conscience around the world. When it first began, Amnesty International _ or AI _ comprised a handful of volunteers in a small London office. Today it has more than 500,000 members, subscribers, and supporters, and 3,400 affiliates in more than 55 countries of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
"Through the years, AI has monitored, reported, and protested abuses of prisoners' rights in virtually every country on earth, from psychiatric confinement of political dissidents in the USSR to police attacks on black demonstrators in South Africa; from tortures of civilians by government security in Zimbabwe to banishments of political opponents in Chile; from forced denationalization of ethnic Turks in Bulgaria to police mistreatment of suspected terrorist sympathizers in northern Ireland. Since it began its activity, more than half of the prisoners of conscience have eventually been freed. AI does not take credit for their release, although many have written or phoned their thanks to Amnesty members. In 1977, a full measure of appreciation was finally accorded when Amnesty International was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
"Amnesty International's greatest asset is its objectivity, and no country is immune from its scrutiny. It receives no funds from governments or politically-motivated interest groups, giving it a credibility enjoyed by few other organizations. Certain regimes, especially in totalitarian countries, invariably fare poorly in Amnesty's yearly reports, and top the list of human rights abusers worldwide. Some, like the Soviet Union, only publicize Amnesty reports that support their own propaganda objectives. When Amnesty's criticism focuses on their own transgressions, a few have resorted to fabricating attacks on Amnesty itself. In 1981, after an AI report described mass executions in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini accused the organization of 'collaborating with the conspiracy of superpowers to suffocate the Islamic republic.' The Ayatollah forgot about 1978 Amnesty charges of secret police tortures during the previous reign of the Shah.
"Because of Amnesty International's dedicated work, more and more people are concerned about human rights. Because of the publicity accorded Amnesty's investigations and reports, governments that violate human rights are more sensitive to international censure, and may often think twice before incarcerating, torturing or executing prisoners of conscience. Amnesty International's symbol is a lighted candle entwined by barbed wire. After a quarter century of defending the rights of the persecuted around the world, it has become the essence of that symbol _ a candle of freedom and hope in the dark face of repression.
"That was a VOA Editorial, reflecting the view of the U.S. Government."
Voice of America editorial, broadcast on 28 May 1986, the 25th anniversary of AI's founding
"Through its activity for the defence of human worth against degrading treatment, violence and torture, Amnesty International has contributed to securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world."
Nobel Prize Committee, upon awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to AI
"In our day and age people should not have to suffer for their conscience, their beliefs, or their opinions... In drawing attention to this issue, Amnesty International has once again rendered a valuable service to the entire international community. Your previous campaigns against torture, the death penalty, arbitrary and summary executions, and now against political imprisonments have served to focus world opinion on these problems in a very special way."
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
"Amnesty International is making effectively good the rule that 'eternal vigilance is the price of liberty'."
Jorge El Illueca, President of the United Nations General Assembly
"It's a worn cliche, but if Amnesty did not exist, it would have to be invented. It is simply unique."
Jean-Pierre Hocke, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
When Amnesty began 25 years ago, the subject of human rights didn't even come up between governments. Now, partly because of the work of Amnesty, it's really impossible for governments to discuss their agendas with each other without having to discuss human rights and their violations, and the facts of torture, detainment, no trials, etc."
"It's been a double pleasure. As an attorney and as a Latin American, I know how important Amnesty International has been in terms of saving lives in Latin America and throughout the world, and also how important it is that people become aware that the problems that we confront on this earth are common and the solution to these problems should be, and will be, also a common one. And it is a tremendous opportunity to have all these different people, all this different music in a city like New York, which is very befitting as a rallying point to make people aware of the need to confront these issues together and to resolve them together as well." Ruben Blades, at the Meadowlands, USA, during the 1986 AI "Conspiracy of Hope" concert tour
"Amnesty inspires us to play. The music cuts through to people, and the message is clear: You can write a letter or send a postcard. And the more you give, the more you get back.
"It's a success story, and it's good to be part of a success story. There's so many tears shed over world hunger and the like, but these are tears of joy when it comes to Amnesty International, because a thousand people a year get out of prison."
Bono of U2
"I believe this tour is very important because it will make people aware of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I hope their consciousness will be raised, that people will become aware of their rights as individuals and exercise those rights, and that they will then go on to urge their governments to comply with this document. It is clear to me that we as individuals are not free until we are all free."
Tracy Chapman, in Montreal, Canada, during the AI 1988 "Human Rights Now!" concert tour
"We're Amnesty members, and we believe in the cause."
Bob Dylan, who with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, appeared in Los Angeles, USA, in the "Conspiracy of Hope" concert tour for AI
"The work that I have done with Amnesty is very important to me. I was very moved to meet some of the people that had been rescued from torture and unjust imprisonment, for whom Amnesty had been the only line of hope. Although there is still so much that needs changing, there is no doubt that Amnesty, in its 25 years, has changed the attitudes of governments on human rights all around the world. Through the simple tools of letter writing and the embarrassment of publicity, Amnesty has been surprisingly effective.
"It is part of a process that is making ordinary people aware of the power and responsibility they have in improving our world.
"I ask you to get involved."
"It's necessary that people know what Amnesty does. It's an international body that infiltrates the pits of madness and horror."
Bill Graham, organizer of the 1988 "Human Rights Now!" concert tour
"We are free citizens, and it's our responsibility to share that freedom with the rest of the world."
Madonna, speaking from the stage in Los Angeles, USA, during the "Conspiracy of Hope" concert for AI
"We are asking the governments worldwide to put the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in practice. I want my audience to understand my message directly through my music and the rhythms of Africa. My message is the dignity of all human beings."
Youssou N'Dour, in Montreal, Canada, during the AI "Human Rights Now!" concert tour
"It's difficult for the Neville Brothers to afford this tour, financially. But morally and spiritually, we couldn't afford not to do it."
Aaron Neville of the Neville Brothers, speaking of their participation in the "Conspiracy of Hope" concert tour for AI
"Rock 'n' roll, to me, is a statement about energy and freedom. Therefore, it has a direct relationship to Amnesty _ the most astonishing group I've ever been involved with."
"The moral outrage that you feel about some of the things that happen, you can actually do something [about] with Amnesty International. I think people should be aware of that. It really does make a difference."
"Amnesty International is an extremely important (what an understatement!) human rights organization that helps to free prisoners of conscience (people imprisoned for speaking out and standing up for what they believe in!), ensure fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners, and end torture and executions _ worldwide. Their 25 years of hard work, care and dedication has helped bring hope and, in most cases, life to thousands of people throughout the world.
"You too can help, and it's easier than you probably think.
"Amnesty International provides members with human rights news and suggestions for letter-writing activities. Yes, just by writing a letter to a government official who can authorize each prisoner's release, you are helping to let them know you're watching, and this has been quite an effective method in helping to stop senseless torture and death."
"We believe in the dignity of all human beings. We wholeheartedly support the work of Amnesty International in defence of all those who are imprisoned or tortured because of their peacefully held beliefs. So should you!"
"At the moment I don't think there's a more important organization in the world than Amnesty International. That's why I'm here."
Bruce Springsteen, in London, United Kingdom, during the "Human Rights Now!" concert tour for AI
"As a child I got a sense of many things from rock' n' roll music _ a sense of life, a sense of fun, a sense of human possibility, a sense of sex. But I think that what I got most of all from the records that first inspired me was a sense of freedom. One of the greatest challenges of adulthood is to hold on to your idealism after you lose your innocence. Whether you are young or old, if you believe that a single human spirit can be a very powerful thing, Amnesty International, in a very tough, pragmatic, and realistic way, gives you a way to put your ideals into service in a world in which they are so badly needed."
Bruce Springsteen in Montreal, Canada, during the AI "Human Rights Now!" concert tour
"It can be fun to write to people who lead authoritarian or repressive regimes, have a dictator as a pen-pal, and be a complete nuisance to him by sending him these letters."
"One postcard might seem very insignificant, but when you multiply that by thousands upon thousands these governments are embarrassed as hell to receive them, and it really does work."
Sting, speaking of the AI postcard campaign during the "Conspiracy of Hope" concert tour for AI
"The people who are looking for a better future are the people that Amnesty International must protect, whether they are working for the environment, political reform, better working conditions, wages, housing or health. These things affect all of us. These are real people with families and addresses. I hope that this tour will reinforce Amnesty International where it is most needed. I think Amnesty International is one of the most civilized organizations in the history of the world. It strives for justice through the work of ordinary people. I am proud to be a part of it and this tour."
Sting, in Montreal, Canada, at the AI "Human Rights Now!" concert tour
"What after all has maintained the human race on this old globe despite all the calamities of nature and all the tragic failings of mankind, if not faith in new possibilities and courage to advocate them?"
"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. There are several million such people in prison _ by no means all of them behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains _ and their numbers are growing. The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust all over the world could be united into common action, something effective could be done."
"Pressure of opinion a hundred years ago brought about the emancipation of the slaves. It is now for man to insist upon the same freedom for his mind as he has won for his body."
The Forgotten Prisoners, the article in The Observer, in which Peter Benenson announced the founding of AI
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
"We must realize that we cannot escape the common lot of pain and that our only justification is to speak on behalf of those who cannot."
"Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.
Benjamin Nathan Cardoza
"The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression."
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois
"Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world, in thousands of rooms like this one, would do this, it would change the earth."
"The strong and the weak have alike a right to Justice."
"In poor Basque villages even teenage boys spoke of Amnesty International (perhaps the only English words they knew), and a returned political prisoner explained how much it meant to them, in jail, to feel that this organization existed and that they were not forgotten by the world."
Martha Gelhorn, US writer and wife of Ernest Hemingway, after a visit to post-Franco Spain
"When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas _ that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment."
"If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought _ not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate."
US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
"The spirit of truth, and the spirit of freedom _ they are the pillars of society."
"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
"There can be nothing more dreadful than that the actions of a man should be subject to the will of another."
"The rights of all men are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened."
John F. Kennedy
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Martin Luther King
"I firmly believe that I am a spokesman for justice and freedom and equality _ a man moved by the plight and pain of my oppressed brothers and sisters."
Don Mattera, poet, journalist and former prisoner of conscience from South Africa on whose behalf AI has worked
"In Germany they first came for the Communists; I did not speak because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews; I did not speak because I was not a Jew. Then they came to fetch the workers, members of trade unions; I was not a trade unionist. Afterward, they came for the Catholics; I did not say anything because I was a Protestant. Eventually they came for me, and there was no one left to speak."
Pastor Martin Niemoller, a Protestant minister imprisoned during Germany's Third Reich
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
William Pitt, 1783
"Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little."
"We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind. This Universal Declaration of Human Rights may well become the international magna carta of all men everywhere... Man must have freedom to develop his full stature and through common effort to raise the level of human dignity."
Eleanor Roosevelt, advocating for the USA the approval of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 9 December 1948
"Disavowed _ sometimes very quietly _ but systematically practised behind a facade of democratic legality, torture has now acquired the status of a semi-clandestine institution."
"The purpose of torture is not only the extortion of confessions, of betrayal: the victim must disgrace himself, by his screams and his submission, like a human animal. In the eyes of everybody and in his own eyes. He who yields under torture is not only to be made to talk, but is also to be marked as sub-human."
"I believe that world peace can only be achieved when there is freedom for people of all politics, religions and races to exchange their views in a continuing dialogue. For this reason I would particularly ask all those who are working in their different ways towards world peace to make their contribution, preferably by active service or failing that, by financial contribution, to this great new endeavour called Amnesty International"
Dr Albert Schweitzer, 1963, Laureate of the Nobel Prize for Peace
"Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison... the only house in a slave state in which a free man can abide with honor."
Henry David Thoreau
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
"Liberty of thought is the life of the soul."
"He who helps in the saving of others, saves himself as well."
Hartmann Von Aue
"The greatest evil today is indifference. To know and not to act is a way of consenting to these injustices. The planet has become a very small place. What happens in other countries affects us."
Elie Wiesel, Laureate of the Nobel Prize for Peace
Amnesty International Campaign Manual