May 28, 2018

Commemorating Amnesty International Day

Today we celebrate Amnesty International day. This day commemorates the day Peter Beneson decided to launch a one year campaign called “Appeal for Amnesty 1961” as well as the fact that this appeal turned into an international organisation advocating for and protecting the rights of what Beneson referred to as “prisoners of conscience” within one year.

Beneson’s term “prisoners of conscience” refers to people imprisoned for the peaceful expression of beliefs, political affiliation and religion as well as imprisonment based on race, colour or national origin. In essence, the term refers to people whose very incarceration was an infringement of their human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Beneson encouraged people to write letters to government officials calling for the release of these individuals and the campaign spread beyond the borders of London, where Beneson lived and worked.

Considering the history of South Africa, the importance of an organisation like Amnesty International cannot be understated. We are bound by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, constitution enacted to promote equality and human rights. One of the self-assigned tasks of Amnesty International is to fight injustices and promote true realisation of human rights. This organisation and its members may be considered the guardians of equality and human rights under the new South African regime. On an international level, this organisation still fights against cruelty and abuses of Human Rights despite the dangers faced by their activists.

In general, we celebrate commemoration days like these for events that took place in the past and changed the future, once. Amnesty International Day is a commemoration of a brave past event as well as a revolutionary movement, still tirelessly fighting for their cause. I believe that a cause fighting for the very freedom and rights we have come to take for granted deserves our celebration respect. Perhaps even a public holiday, as opposed to a simple observance day.

I urge everyone reading this to take a moment and be thankful for the Human Rights you obtained, by virtue of birth and due to the efforts of movements such as Amnesty International.

Challen Engelbrecht
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