The Observer in London devoted a full page on May 28, 1961, to Peter Benenson's article, "The Forgotten Prisoners." And with publication of the words of that British lawyer, a global movement, Amnesty International, was born. Now, 25 years later, the organization can claim more than half a million members in 57 nations, and no tyrant is free of its persistent campaign to free political prisoners, to resist the terrible spread of torture.
Amnesty International's concerns are global as well as local, as committed to eradicating the torture-sustained terror of the Pinochet rule in Chile as the cruelty of capital punishment in the United States. Amnesty International U.S.A. has marked the anniversary with a six-city concert tour with the theme "Conspiracy of Hope." The campaign led to the recruitment of 25,000 new freedom writers, joining thousands more whose cards and letters have led to the release of hundreds of prisoners of conscience.
Amnesty's 1985 annual report ran 360 pages, which measures two things: the pervasiveness of human-rights violations, catalogued in 122 nations, and the diligence of the organization in pursuing these matters so that prisoners are not forgotten.
"We really can't celebrate," an Amnesty International spokesman in New York told us, reviewing the quarter-century of work. "We are an organization that should not exist. We can never do as much as we should."