Why Today's Human Rights Day Is So Special

Dec 10, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

Today is a special Human Rights Day. It marks the beginning of Amnesty International's 50th year celebration. That's 50 years of working together to demand freedom and justice for all.

The shameful imprisonment of writer Liu Xiaobo and China's refusal to allow him or his family to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo earlier today is a powerful reminder that we must sustain global pressure to achieve basic rights.

Like Liu Xiaobo, millions of people worldwide live in fear of persecution by repressive governments or armed factions and millions more suffer extreme deprivation. But we are not powerless against this injustice.

Amnesty International has proved for 50 years that collective action is a powerful force for change. Just look at the last month where the world witnessed the joyful release of the world's most famous political prisoner, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, after 15 years of house arrest in Myanmar.

In 1961, British lawyer Peter Benenson ignited a worldwide campaign when he published an article in The London Observer titled "The Forgotten Prisoners." Benenson wrote: "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." Amnesty International was born that year with an appeal to free six prisoners of conscience.

Over the next 50 years, we've shown that collective action is a powerful force for change. Today Amnesty International is the largest grassroots human rights organization in the world with nearly 3 million members worldwide. We've helped win the freedom of tens of thousands of individuals jailed for expressing beliefs or defending basic rights, shut down torture chambers, halted executions, and established laws and treaties to protect the freedom and dignity of people around the world -- and in the United States. And we won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.

We hope that on this human rights day you'll join us and our global human rights movement. Take action. Donate. Invite your friends. Help us give the gift of human rights to countless others around the world (watch our video below for a taste of what we can achieve when we work together).