The Info List - Peter Benenson

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Peter Benenson (31 July 1921 – 25 February 2005) was a British lawyer and the founder of human rights group Amnesty International (AI). Benenson refused all honours but in his 80s, largely to please his family, he accepted the Pride of Britain Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2001.[3]


1 Life and career 2 References 3 Sources 4 External links

Life and career[edit] He was born in London as Peter James Henry Solomon, to a large Jewish family,[4] the only son of British-born Harold Solomon and Russian-born Flora Benenson; Peter Benenson adopted his mother's maiden name later in life. His army officer father died from a long-term injury when Benenson was aged nine, and he was tutored privately by W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
before going to Eton. At the age of sixteen, he helped to establish a relief fund with other schoolboys for children orphaned by the Spanish Civil War. He took his mother's maiden name of Benenson as a tribute to his grandfather, the Russian gold tycoon Grigori Benenson, following his grandfather's death. He enrolled for study at Balliol College, Oxford
but World War II interrupted his education. He served in the Intelligence Corps at the Ministry of Information where he met his first wife, Margaret Anderson. Benenson then worked at Bletchley Park, the British codebreaking centre, in the "Testery", a section tasked with breaking German teleprinter ciphers.[5] After demobilisation in 1946, Benenson began practising as a barrister before joining the Labour Party and standing unsuccessfully for election at Streatham in 1950 and for North Herts constituency till 1959. He was one of a group of British lawyers who founded JUSTICE
in 1957, the UK-based human rights and law reform organisation. In 1958, he fell ill and moved to Italy to convalesce. In the same year, he converted to the Roman Catholic Church.[6] In 1961, Benenson was shocked and angered by a newspaper report of two Portuguese students from Coimbra
sentenced to seven years in prison for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom[7][unreliable source?] during the regime of António de Oliveira Salazar, the Estado Novo. In 1961, Portugal was ruled by the authoritarian Estado Novo regime, and anti-regime conspiracies were vigorously repressed by the Portuguese state police and deemed anti-Portuguese. He wrote to David Astor, editor of The Observer. On 28 May, Benenson's article, entitled "The Forgotten Prisoners", was published. The letter asked readers to write letters showing support for the students. To co-ordinate such letter-writing campaigns, Amnesty International
Amnesty International
was founded in London in July 1961 at a meeting of Benenson and six other men, who included a Conservative, a Liberal and a Labour MP.[8][9] The response was so overwhelming that within a year groups of letter-writers had formed in more than a dozen countries. Initially appointed general secretary of AI, Benenson stood down in 1964 owing to ill health. By 1966, Amnesty International
Amnesty International
faced an internal crisis and Benenson alleged[citation needed] that the organisation he founded was being infiltrated by British intelligence. The advisory position of president of the International Executive was then created for him. In 1966, he began to make allegations of improper conduct against other members of the executive.[citation needed] An inquiry was set up which reported at Elsinore
in Denmark in 1967. The allegations were rejected and Benenson resigned from AI. While never again active in the organisation, Benenson was later personally reconciled with other executives, including Seán MacBride. He died of pneumonia on 25 February 2005 at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, aged 83, having been a resident of the nearby village of Nuneham Courtenay.[10] References[edit]

^ "Peter Benenson". benensonsociety.org.  ^ Philip Steele (2011). Activists (20th century lives). ISBN 978-1-44-883292-7.  ^ "Lifetime Achievement, Peter Benenson, Founder of Amnesty International". Pride of Britain Awards. Archived from the original on 2012-09-07.  ^ " Peter Benenson hero file". Moreorless : Heroes and killers of the 20th century. Archived from the original on 18 February 2006.  ^ "GCHQ, Atlas and Virginia Tech: Jack Good". Computing at Chilton: 1961–2003. Retrieved 12 October 2011.  ^ "Peter Benenson" (PDF). Pax Christi. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 September 2011.  ^ " Peter Benenson – Biography". Amnesty International. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013.  ^ Tracy McVeigh (29 May 2012). " Amnesty International
Amnesty International
marks 50 years of fighting for free speech". The Observer.  ^ Childs, Peter; Storry, Mike, eds. (2002). "Amnesty International". Encyclopedia of Contemporary British Culture. London: Routledge. pp. 22–23. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (28 February 2005). "Peter Benenson, Founder of Amnesty Group, Dies at 83". The New York Times. 


Pincock, S.: Peter James Henry Solomon Benenson (obituary). Lancet, 2 April 2005; 365: 1224.

External links[edit]

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Peter Benenson

Obituary, BBC
News "The forgotten Prisoners" 1961 article (abridged)

Non-profit organization positions

Preceded by None President of Amnesty International 1961–1966 Succeeded by Eric Baker

v t e

Gandhi Peace Award
Gandhi Peace Award


1960 Eleanor Roosevelt / Edwin T. Dahlberg 1961 Maurice Eisendrath / John Haynes Holmes 1962 Linus Pauling / James Warburg 1963 E. Stanley Jones 1964 1965 1966 A. J. Muste 1967 Norman Thomas / Jerome Davis / William Sloane Coffin 1968 Benjamin Spock 1969 1970 Wayne Morse / Willard Uphaus 1971 1972 U Thant 1973 1974 1975 Dorothy Day 1976 Daniel Ellsberg 1977 1978 Peter Benenson / Martin Ennals 1979 Roland Bainton


1980 Helen Caldicott 1981 Corliss Lamont 1982 Randall Watson Forsberg 1983 1984 Robert Jay Lifton / Kay Camp 1985 1986 Bernard Lown 1987 John Somerville 1988 1989 César Chávez 1990 Marian Wright Edelman 1991 George McGovern 1992 Ramsey Clark 1993 Lucius Walker 1994 Roy Bourgeois 1995 Edith Ballantyne 1996 New Haven-León Sister City Project

Alan Wright Paula Kline

1997 Howard / Alice Frazier 1998 1999


2000 2001 2002 Michael True 2003 Dennis Kucinich 2004 Karen Jacob / David Cortright 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Ehud Bandel / Arik Ascherman 2012 Amy Goodman 2013 Bill McKibben 2014 Medea Benjamin

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 112060074 LCCN: n89635196 ISNI: 0000 0000 8409 303X GND: 129884502 SELIBR: 345886 SUDOC: 056755171 BNF: cb12922359c (data) BIBSYS: 99000