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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 9. 1965.

Un-Approved Group, Here

Un-Approved Group, Here

Amnesty International has recently formed a group at Victoria University.

THIS is the first New Zealand branch of an organisation which claims to be "an impartial humanitarian movement for freedom of opinion and religion, organised internationally to work for the release and relief of 'prisoners of conscience' and their families."

The movement's standards are not those of any particular creed or ideology, but those approved by the United Nations in 1945, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

It is Amnesty's contention that these two basic freedoms are denied to many people by many governments, both Communist and non-Communist; and that the most effective way of remedying the situation is through a body of humanitarian protest, rather than protest based on political or religious belief, which is likely to lead to further conflict.

People who are physically prevented from exercising these freedoms, but who do not themselves advocate violence, are termed "prisoners of conscience."

Awareness of the growing phenomenon of the "prisoner of conscience" and the potential of public indignation as a means of fighting it, led Peter Benenson, a London lawyer, to form a group in London in 1961. Success of the movement has grown as its popularity has spread. There are now 350 groups throughout the West.

Each group is assigned three prisoners from different power blocs for whom to work. Those picked for the local group are: a Spanish worker, arrested for belonging to a clandestine Trade Union movement; a Russian priest, convicted for carrying out Christian activities; and a South African divinity student, active in student affairs at the national level, banned for five years without explanation.

Amnesty will work for the relief and release of these "prisoners of conscience" by finding out and publicising as much as possible about their plight, by appealing to embassies and authorities, and by writing letters and sending financial aid, if possible, to the prisoners and their families.

The Wellington branch of Amnesty International was co-founded by Mr. H. S. Roberts, a mathematician from the DSIR, and Mrs. Mary Bryan, a Kelburn housewife. Chairman is Mr. Roger Clark, of the University Law Faculty.