As stated by their homepage: "Amnesty International (AI) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights." Founded in the UK in 1961, the organization works to highlight reported deviations from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. It attempts to garner public support, most notably in the form of letter writing campaigns, in the belief that this can exert political pressure.
It was the winner of the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize.
At the 27th International Council meeting, 2005, it was decided that:
"Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
In pursuit of this vision, Amnesty International’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights."
This manifests itself as Amnesty's goals:
- Abolish capital punishment
- Put an end to extrajudicial executions and "disappearances"
- Put an end to torture and ill-treatment
- Put an end to unlawful killings in armed conflict
- Ensure conditions in prisons meet international standards of human rights
- Ensure rapid and fair trials for all prisoners of conscience
- Ensure free education to all children worldwide
- Put an end to the recruitment and use of child soldiers
- Promote economic, social and cultural rights for marginalized communities
- Protect human rights defenders
- Protect the rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers
One topic of particular controversy is the organization's stance on abortion, as both pro-abortion and pro-life members belong to Amnesty. In August 2007, Amnesty International changed its position to pro-abortion.
Accusations of bias
Amnesty International has disproportionately criticized free democratic nations over authoritarian nations with grave human rights abuses, such as Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea. This exposes an anti-American standpoint increasingly common in liberal groups. Peter Phelps, a writer for Australia’s leading free market think tank, The Institute for Public Affairs, wrote that Amnesty International has deviated from its founding goals,
“In the midst of the Cold War, Amnesty was a beacon to prisoners of conscience languishing in the Gulags of the Soviet empire and the work camps of CommunistChina. It was an institution whose time had come. Today, its time has passed. Rather than attack real abuses of human rights, it has lost sight of its original objectives. It has become, like Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society and ACOSS, yet another self-perpetuating bureaucracy. More effort is directed into recruiting new members, whose subscription fees pay for this entrenched class of apparatchiks, than in exposing real violations of human rights.
The decline in standards has become especially apparent over the last five years. The collapse of the Soviet empire has deprived Amnesty of most of its raison d’être. In its place is an active campaign against free, democratic nations. For example, in Amnesty’s 1999 Annual Report on the Internet, 165 lines of text were devoted to criticism of Australia’s human rights. In contrast, the Communist dictatorship of North Korea had only 83 lines of critical text. Yet there is simply no comparison between the human rights records of Australia and North Korea.”
One of the main reasons for the disproportionate criticism has been Amnesty International's flawed methodology which relies heavily on the press inside of nations. This leads to a nation that is free and open, but had minor infractions, receiving much more criticism then a closed nation.
Conversely, some critics have asserted that Amnesty International is biased in favour of the interests of America and other wealthy nations. For example, Amnesty International did not condemn South Africa's apartheid regime, widely regarded as an abuse of human rights. This has been interpreted as being due to South Africa's political and economic links with the British and American governments of the time.
For all the talk of Amnesty being an organization protecting human rights, human rights does not include those children in the womb. Amnesty Intl. is coming out against the Dominican Republic's proposed protections for unborn life in its draft constitution and in the country's penal law.
There is a growing trend among so-called "human rights" bodies that seek to impose obligations on countries based on social policy rather than principles. Amnesty has criticized the Polish government for "Denial of access to abortion for eligible women." 
Just about everything Israel does to defend itself is 'illegal' in the eyes of Amnesty International. During the Israel Lebanese conflict of 2006, Amnesty was accusing Israel of war crimes. According to the Jerusalem Post's Alan Dershowitz, through restraint, Israel was able to minimize the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon, but Amnesty criticized nevertheless. Yet on Hezbollah's best efforts to embed itself in population centers and to use civilians as human shields, Amnesty said nothing. "Bigotry, pure and simple.", said Dershowitz.
Support for same-sex rights
In Uganda in 2005, the government passed laws saying that "marriage is lawful only if entered into between a man and a woman" and that it was "unlawful for same-sex couples to marry". Amnesty called on the Ugandan government "to end discrimination against people on grounds of their sexual orientation" which they claimed was "a violation of international human rights law."
Gun control and death penalty
- Amnesty International Becomes a Pro-Choice Organization. NewsMax Aug. 21, 2007
- Amnesty International takes on divided world "Amnesty International committed itself to strengthening the organization's work on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and other factors contributing to women's recourse to abortion and affirmed the organization’s policy on selected aspects on abortion (to support the decriminalisation of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion and to defend women's access to abortion, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger), emphasizing that women and men must exercise their sexual and reproductive rights free from coercion, discrimination and violence." Amnesty International 17th August 2007
- Amnesty International defends access to abortion for women at risk Amnesty International 14th June 2007
- Phelps, Peter, Amnesty Infomercial, Review, (Intitute of Public Affairs), September 1999, p.13.
- "Is Amnesty International Biased?", 2002.
- No Amnesty For the Unborn NCRegister, June 12, 2007
- Amnesty International Twists Intl Law in Dominican Republic Abortion Debate Lifenews.com, May 7, 2009
- Amnesty International drubs Poland on abortion Spero News, June 25, 2009
- Amnesty Int'l redefines 'war crimes' The Jerusalem Post, Aug 30, 2006
- Uganda: Gay and lesbian rights activists intimidated, and same sex marriage criminalised Amnesty UK, August 3, 2005