Peter Benenson signs the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UK, November 1998. © Amnesty International
In 1961 an article titled 'The Forgotten Prisioners' appeared in the Uk's Observer Newspaper.
It was written by Brisitsh lawyer peter Benenson and described his disgust at the global trend of people being imprisoned, tortured or executed because their political views or religious orientation were unacceptable to their governments.
Benenson had become outraged while reading his newspaper on the London underground. The story of two Portuguese students who were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for drinking a toast to freedom was what prompted him to put pen to paper and write an article that gave life to the vision of collective action that defines the work of Amnesty International today.
Benenson recognised that there were "several million such people in prison...and their numbers are growing."
He launched an appeal to collect, publish and distribute information about prisoners of conscience around the world. This appeal was reprinted in newspapers around the world.
"...if these feelings of disgust all over the world could be united into common action, something effective could be done."
Nothing quite like this had ever been attempted on such a scale before. The response was overwhelming.
On 10 December 1961, the first Amnesty candle was lit in the church of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, London.
In the years that followed Amnesty International was to grow from a single office in Peter Benenson's London lawyer's chambers, to the premiere human rights organisation it is today - a global human rights movement of over 3 million people in more than 150 countries and territories - holding political impartiality, independence from governments, and rigorous accuracy of information at its heart.
We've achieved countless successes, we've seen thousands of prisoners of conscience released, and we've pushed powerful governments and corporations to account for violations of human rights.
Yet many serious problems still persist. There is still much to do.