The American Amnesty veteran Linda Rabben
wanted to find the answers to these questions and started to search for the ancestors of the Amnesty activists.She
presents some of them and what they engaged in in the book "Fierce Legion of Friends".
"As we know the story, Amnesty International
emerged spontaneously when the British lawyer Peter Benenson in 1961 wrote a letter in a newspaper encouraging people to write letters to heads of state around the world and ask them to release prisoners of conscience.But what a lot of people does not know, is that Benenson and his
friends continued a popular movement with roots hundreds of years back and with forerunners on all continents," reveals Linda
The thought that letters can change injustice, Linda
believes comes from the abolitionist work in England during the 18th and 19th Centuries.
"In 1785 the young gentleman Thomas Clarkson stated that he
wanted to dedicate his
life to the struggle for the liberation of the slaves, the letter was one out of a variety of methods he
employed.During 40 years he
corresponded with more than 700 people in England, the US and in Europe.He
held speeches, lobbied, did research and published books.He
also encouraged others to write letters to the authorities and to sign petitions, and in 1833 slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire."Linda
emphasises that Clarkson was not alone struggling for abolition; thousands of people joined his
"It is rather fantastic and surprising that the abolitionist campaign succeeded in such a short time span."Linda
I am sure there were Norwegians among those sending letters of protest to the US," Linda
believes.Huge campaigns against the death penalty often attracted international attention, but they seldom succeeded.Neither did the campaign for Sacco and Vanzetti, the two Italians were executed in 1927."But there is no reason to give in.The victory over the inhuman slavery shows that our struggle works," says Linda
, who herself has been a human rights defender for several years.During 1990-1991 she worked as Brazil researcher at Amnesty's International Secretariat in London producing 54 so-called action files with campaigns for individual persons victims of grave human rights violations.
Also Norwegian groups work with cases brought up by Linda
.Some cases have been solved, others are still going on.
"All the cases were about people who had been killed and where the government did little or nothing to punish those responsible," Linda
concludes Linda Rabben
Read more on the Internet:http://www.amnestyusa.org/about/roots.html