Founded in London in 1961 by a radical lawyer, Peter Berenson, Amnesty International is one of the most influential and respected non-governmental organizations in the world. Its story reflects the changing attitudes to political prisoners and human rights throughout the first and third worlds. Always controversial, Amnesty continues to question orthodoxies. Its struggle to free political prisoners goes on, but it also recognizes the need to fight for human rights in whatever form they are denied or abused.
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Jonathan Power's weekly foreign affairs column is syndicated to over twenty newspapers throughout the world. He has published five previous books and most recently edited the official history of the United Nations.From Publishers Weekly:
In 1961, a news report about human rights violations in Portugal motivated a British lawyer named Peter Benenson to set up a group to push for the release of prisoners locked up solely for exercising their freedom of speech on political matters. Forty years later, as British journalist Power puts it in this sympathetic account, Amnesty International "has been the catalyst that has transformed, invigorated and even transfigured the debate" over human rights. A chapter in the middle of the book relates the history of Amnesty, but Power focuses more on specific countries Nigeria (where a former prisoner "adopted" by Amnesty is now the country's president), Guatemala, Northern Ireland, Chile, China and the U.S. (Amnesty opposes capital punishment). Power, an internationally syndicated columnist (and editor of A Vision of Hope: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations) strongly supports the increased attention that groups like Amnesty have brought to human rights, and he devotes a good deal of discussion to the group's "success stories" from released "prisoners of conscience" to an overall improvement in the human rights climate in countries like Morocco. To his credit, Power is willing to offer some criticisms of the group where its efforts have gone awry as in Germany, where the local branch became too close with the violent Baader-Meinhof gang in the 1970s but, even here, he includes some positive comments about Amnesty's activities. The organization "was right to intervene and insist on a decent prison regime" for members of the radical group. Some may wish that Power had more distance from his subject, but this book is a valuable addition to a growing library on the recent advances in human rights.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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