One of the oldest Amnesty groups in the UK
Brighton Amnesty group is one of the oldest most established Amnesty groups in the UK, recently celebrating its fortieth year of activism. Just eighteen months after Peter Benensen founded Amnesty International, Brighton residents set up their own local group within the city.
Generations of activists
Today the group meets every month to talk about cases and listen to speakers from other local projects. A number of people in the group are the parents of ex-Brighton sixth-formers who actively campaigned for human rights while at college. Just before the students went on to university, they encouraged their families to continue the work in Brighton – not wanting to see it cease entirely – which they agreed to do, and continue to do today.
The group sends money to Amnesty headquarters each month to support the very urgent cases that they wouldn’t have the time to start properly campaigning for. They try to take on about one or two cases at a time to support over a long term period. A recent case was one of an Ethopian Prisoner of Conscience who had been imprisoned for ten years. The group supported him for the last eight years of his imprisonment and towards the end of that term they put together a dossier which they then took to the Ethiopian Embassy – a few days after their visit the man was released. Maybe the group contributed towards that decision.
Differences of opinion
Sometimes there can be debate among the group about which cases they should support – as there was for their current case, a group of Cuban dissidents, now Prisoners of Conscience. While some were happy to support the prisoners from the start, others weren’t so certain, feeling there was reason to believe the Cuban group had been infiltrated and not as innocent as they seemed. When this kind of thing happens members who do want to support a particular case, go ahead and do so, and those who don’t, whatever their reasons, support another case instead. At the moment, that other case is Omar Deghayes, the British resident being held in Guantanamo Bay.
Raising money and raising awareness
Mainly the Amnesty group in Brighton organises events to raise money for the wider work of Amnesty International, spread the word about local campaigns and raise awareness about human rights in general. They have support from other people in the community, from the Friends Meeting House, to local churches, and Infinity Foods organics shop. They put up stalls around Brighton whenever they can – at community fairs, popular local events like Gay Pride (including the procession), and the Brighton Festival (holding an Open House and putting up stalls outside relevant events). Every year they hold a 24hr Letter Writing Vigil and are always on the lookout for new ways to raise awareness in the community and join up with people to talk about and support human rights.