Amnesty International was founded on the belief in the power of ordinary people to make extraordinary change.
In 1961, British lawyer Peter Benenson wrote a newspaper appeal, 'The Forgotten Prisoners', calling for an international campaign to protest against the imprisonment of men and women for their political or religious beliefs.
The appeal received a tremendous response. Within a month, more than a thousand readers had sent letters of support and offers of practical help. They also sent details of the cases of many more prisoners of conscience.
Within six months, what started as a brief publicity effort, was being developed into a permanent, international movement.
The principles of impartiality and independence were established from the beginning. The emphasis was on the international protection of human rights: our members would campaign for individuals anywhere in the world.
As we grew, our focus expanded to take in not just prisoners of conscience, but other victims of human rights abuses - such as torture, 'disappearances' and the death penalty - throughout the world.
From a small group of volunteers in a tiny office in London, we have become the biggest and most trusted voluntary organisation in the world.
Today we stand not only for prisoners of conscience but also prisoners of violence, and prisoners of poverty. We campaign on a wide range of human rights issues including: violence against women, arms trade, death penalty, advocating for an adequate standard of living for refugees, and dealing with the human rights issues surrounding terrorism and security.
We have over 2.8 million members, supporters and subscribers in more than 150 countries and territories actively fighting for human rights. We also have over 7,800 local, youth, specialist and professional groups that meet in hundreds of communities across the world.
The people who support us come from many faiths, cultures, ages and occupations. And they contribute in different ways: some write to governments; some campaign in the streets; some donate money. All adds up to massive public pressure to protect human beings everywhere.
Because of this pressure, prisoners of conscience have been released. Death sentences have been commuted. Torturers have been brought to justice. Governments have been persuaded to change their laws and practices.
"Only when the last prisoner of conscience has been freed, when the last torture chamber has been closed, when the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reality for the world's people, will our work be done."
Peter Benenson, Founder of Amnesty International