Peter Benenson, the founder of human rights organisation Amnesty International, has died in an Oxford hospital.
Mr Benenson set up the organisation in 1961 after being outraged that two Portuguese students were imprisoned for drinking a toast to liberty.
Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, said that he "brought light into the darkness of prisons, the horror of torture chambers and tragedy of death camps around the world".
Send us your comments and tributes about Peter Benenson using the form on the right. Have you been released as a result of an Amnesty International campaign?
This debate has now closed. Thank you for your tributes.
I am so sorry to hear about Peter's death. He was my godfather, and I have always been proud to have personally known the founder of Amnesty International. In my childhood, what I most appreciated were the fivers at Christmas - as a working class kid, it was wonderful, if rather mercenary! It was only in my late teens and real political insight that I actually recognised the awesome breadth of his achievement. I shall miss him.
Petra Greenwood, Bridport, Dorsey, UK
In this day and age, when there is so much infringement of human rights in the name of nationalism, race and what have you, it is hard to believe that some one as noble as Peter Benenson was a real person and not a fictitious character created by some imaginative novelist. But then truth can be stranger than fiction! May his soul rest in peace, secure in the knowledge that there are numerous other fair minded individuals around the world, who can rise above nationality, religion, race and other divisive entities to carry on his great work!
Sadashiv Shetty, Udupi, India
I never met my famous relative, but his life has been an inspiration to me and many others who have loved justice and freedom. "Right on, Peter."
Jim Benenson, Santa Fe, NM, US
Thanks to Peter Benenson, many victims of human rights abuses all over the world see the light at the end of the tunnel, and he passed on that gift of objecting to the horrible treatment of human beings to everyone who is willing to look a little further. He will forever be remembered as a fighter for human rights and a role model to many. May we always remember to light a candle for those who can not see the tunnel anymore and continue the work he started a long time ago.
Rashia Bachnoe, Paramaribo, Suriname
Millions arrive and depart this world every year and just a handful make a lasting difference to the place. Peter Benenson is one such person. What an achievement and legacy.
Liam Coughlan, Banja Luka, Bosnia
Peter Benenson was the leading light in this organisation, he was its watchtower and strength, sadly I feel many others do it as just an income and pay-packet, the emotion and feeling with the commitment is not there as it was with Peter. It is a sad day, now I fear we will see the lack of fight and teeth in the organisation. you cut the ideology and head from a body, it withers away. Peter, may you be at peace and your struggles in life remembered by them that you helped.
Garry Williams, Newbury UK
The world needs more people like him, people who actually care enough to do something.
Jan, Escanaba, MI, USA
No words can express Mr Benenson's contribution to the world, Amnesty shines as a beacon for those who are suffering incomprehensible horrors, be they prisoners of conscience, child soldiers or women suffering violence, Amnesty fights for them, for us, long after the cameras have gone and the worlds attention has moved elsewhere. His death is a loss which will be felt heavy in a world so full of pain, but his life was a light of hope and justice. Peter Benenson, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Sean Wilson, Edinburgh, Scotland
As long as the defence of human rights exists, so will the memory of Peter Benenson.
Eva Overland, Norway, Bergen
Thank you Peter Benenson; a standing ovation and salute to you for all that you have unfolded in this world! You are definitely one in a billion and I say this to you, "The only thing over the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing." You will be remembered for many, many years to come.
Anaya Kole, Kansas City, USA
A great loss indeed, but where are the Peter Benensons of today when we are facing the reduction of civil liberties in the UK, whilst in other parts of the world torture, extra-judicial executions, and "disappearances" still happen?
John B, Milton Keynes, UK
Amnesty has paid a unique role in the plight of ordinary people who stand up to tyranny, today in Africa this voice needs to be amplified as millions still suffer because of corrupt governments, mercenary interests and day light robbery of Africa's vast natural resources.
Varsha Shah, Brussels, Belgium
The will to enforce justice is part of the declaration of independence. In this tribute, I have very little to say, except as a victim of abuse myself, Peter is a beacon in a very tempestuous time.
Jasabanta, Choudhuri, India
Thank you for an interesting tribute to an inspiring person.
Rachel Forster, Cambridge
The greatest tribute to this extraordinary man and to his work, would be for the government to finally recognise Amnesty International as a registered charity.
Ana, Hartlepool, UK
A brilliant idea and one I support wholeheartedly; that's why I am proud to be a member of Amnesty.
Every time someone writes a letter about a prisoner of conscience, every time one of those prisoners is released as a result, there is a little spark of the candle which Peter Benenson began. I hope it becomes a fire.
A Legge, Leeds, UK
I worked for Amnesty International UK for over 17 years, inspired by the vision of Peter and all of the other early volunteers. It is a great shame that his early commitment to an organisation based on mass participation and individual voices has changed to something somewhat different to what he planned - an organisation happier to affect changes in governmental policy through cosy coercion with the relevant Foreign Offices of the UK and throughout the world. It is not difficult to see where that policy, different to Peter's, has got us.
Craig Methven, Tunbridge Wells, UK
Amnesty International's condemnation of the US says a lot. We have been compared to the worst mass murdering regimes around the world. Sometimes the best way to fight fire is with fire. They should focus more on the goal not the means.
Todd, Virginia, USA
Transparency is the Achilles' heel of dictatorships. And no organization has shed more light on the darkest secrets of dictatorships than Amnesty International thanks to the efforts of Mr. Peter Benenson.
Reza Ladjevardian, Houston, USA
In periods where terrorist threats seem to encourage governments in civil societies to reduce liberties of individuals, we ought to pause and think, if only for a single minute. There are examples such as this life to remind us: individuals can make a difference in the defence of decency and justice, values that shine and are understood by men of any religion or political conviction. May the example of few individuals, such as Peter Benenson, strengthen our individual resolve to engage in the defence of the inalienable rights of the individuals. These should not be trampled on the expedient excuse of common causes inspired by the convictions of politicians or other who resort to violence as means to an end.
Lorenzo Ward, London UK
Peter Benenson and the organisation he founded, coupled with the help of decent newspaper editors who can see past celebrity stuff, have given us all insight to the many injustices and threats to ordinary peoples around the world. His family must be very proud of him and all that he has achieved. It would be a fitting tribute if the Chinese government could show great strength and recognise his death by releasing Rebiya Kadeer who is currently being held in Baijiahu Jail for 8 years. Her only crime was to send a local newspaper to homesick relatives abroad. Meanwhile she continues to languish in jail with insufficient food and medical treatment. Thank you Mr Benenson. May you rest in peace. Your wonderful legacy lives on.
On the morning that Peter Benenson died, I was describing his brilliant vision to 350 secondary school students participating in a model United Nations. His inspiration will continue to be needed as long as human beings imprison, torture, and kill one another.
Wayne Smith, Chair, Amnesty International Toronto Organization, Toronto, Canada
From a child of the Punjab, a troubled land where Amnesty International was not allowed for many years, many salutes to Mr Benenson. Well played, sir, well played.
Mr K D Singh, Oxford
Humanitarians like Peter Benenson should be an inspiration to us all to get off our lazy bums and do something positive to help people in strife. Thank you Peter for inspiring so many people to care about other humans whether strangers or not. Although I did not know Peter Benenson, by his dedication to humanity he made me aware of the plight of others less fortunate than myself and inspired me to add my voice to the chorus of disapproval about injustice no matter what source. To Peter's family I send my thanks for Peter's life and kindest regards.
A great man who managed to put his point across calmly but passionately. I remember meeting Peter Benenson in Swansea University in 1987, during my opposition days against the Iraqi regime, and disagreeing with him on capital punishment, saying many perished because of pardoning Saddam Hussain in 1959 from a death sentence. Peter Benenson was adamant that death punishment if tolerated once will generate a permanent contempt to life. I disagreed then, but these days I am strongly in favour of keeping Saddam in prison than sentencing him to death. I say gladly, Mr. Benenson won his argument.
Suhaib Ahmed, UK
I applaud your thoughtful obituary of Peter Benenson but I find it regrettable that you lay all the credit for founding Amnesty on to his shoulders, ignoring his great co-founder the late Irish international lawyer, Sean Macbride SC. When they founded Amnesty in 1961, Macbride, a former Irish Foreign Minister and Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, had already founded Justice, the international lawyers' lobby group, in response to the Hungarian show trials following the 1956 uprising; it is particularly shameful that he is still often excluded from comment on Amnesty by our British media, presumably because of his known Irish Republican sympathies and the fact that he accepted the Lenin Prize for Peace as well as the Nobel - the only person ever to be awarded both. Now that Peter Benenson, too, has gone is it not time to show respect to both their memories as well as to history and to re-couple their names among the most important and successful humanitarians of the 20th century as the joint founders of the world's premier humanitarian organisation for the assistance of prisoners of conscience?
Gerard Mulholland, Paris, France
Peter Benenson and the organisation he founded, coupled with the help of decent newspaper editors who can see past celebrity stuff, have given us all insight to the many injustices and threats to ordinary peoples around the world. His family must be very proud of him and all that he has achieved.
It would be a fitting tribute if the Chinese government could show great strength and recognise his death by releasing Rebiya Kadeer who is currently being held in Baijiahu Jail for eight years. Her only crime was to send a local newspaper to homesick relatives abroad. Meanwhile she continues to languish in jail with insufficient food and medical treatment.
I just wish to publicise the meaning of the symbol 'candle in barbed wire' in Peter's own words:
"The candle burns not for us," he declared, "but for all those whom we failed to rescue from prison, who were shot on the way to prison, who were tortured, who were kidnapped, who 'disappeared'. That is what the candle is for."
Peter Fernandez, Oxford, UK
At the AGM of Amnesty in Germany a few years ago, I got talking to a photographer from a local paper who - like so many people - was fairly adamant that all our efforts were futile. We would never be able to make our voices heard against the force of the world's ruling powers and media, he argued.
The riposte could not have been simpler: Amnesty began with an article in the press by a man who believed he could do something. He believed he could make a difference, and he did. And what he did was, at the start, remarkably simple - thus sending the message that such simple acts are anything but futile, that everyone can make a stand for human rights. This principle remains at the core of everything Amnesty does and is probably the reason why the organisation continues to achieve so much.
Peter Benenson will remain an inspiration to everyone in the human rights movement, and to everyone who believes that "it is better to light a candle than to complain about the darkness".
Morag Josephine Grant, Berlin, Germany
From the Royal Holloway Student chapter may we say rest in peace. You lit the candle which has brought hope to so many in times of total darkness. We, for one, shall be making sure that your legacy continues.
Jennifer, Surrey, UK
A great humanist, an apostle of peace who will be remembered along with the likes of Mahatma Ghandi
Sundar Nilavar, Urbana, Ohio, USA
Such an amazing man and he never got a knighthood!
James Wild, London, UK
The impact of the organisation that Mr Benenson founded can not be underestimated. Just last month, the Ohio State Supreme Court acknowledged the miscarriage of Justice, a victory in one of the primary campaigns among the Amnesty Student Branches. Across the world, the name Amnesty is enough to shame those who hold political prisoners into adhering to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and even in this country David Blunkett was forced to back down in a public quarrel over human rights by Amnesty. This is the respect Amnesty is held in, a Human Rights Organisation that operates across all boarders, cultures and religions. A legacy built by many, but founded by one person. A legacy that is in my opinion unassailable.
David Bourne, Aberystwyth, Wales
A great man with such good intentions. But let down by the worlds leaders.
Bumble, Dartford, UK
I was going to say our world has become much the poorer, but with his Amnesty still growing stronger, it certainly hasn't. What a man!
As long the defence of human rights exists, so will the memory of Peter Benenson.
Len Lothstein, Fisherville, TN USA
This man was truly an inspiration and a hero - one of the world's greatest humanitarians. I can't imagine what the world would have been like without him. Thank you Peter Benenson, Rest in Peace.
Benenson had the best intentions but the organisation he founded has sadly become little more than a data-gathering exercise - too frequently harnessed to political agendas that have little to do with Amnesty's original mission.
Mark Berridge, UK
I don't think that Peter Benenson's influence can be overstated. By bringing the world's attention to global injustices and inhumanities, he created an enduring awareness that has become part of our culture.
We already knew how terribly human beings could treat each other following the Holocaust, but Peter's efforts remind us that this can take place on a much smaller scale without the backdrop of war; Amnesty's work means that even individual sufferings in the most obscure locations will not go forgotten.
Rest in Peace, Peter. We are so grateful to you.
Anne-Marie, Keele, Staffs, UK
We have lost a great man, but Amnesty International will carry on his vision. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
Patricia, Toronto, Canada
From small beginnings, Peter's legacy is a massive organisation which today carries out a vital function of defence of those in need in countries as varied as Nigeria, Moldova and even the UK.
Sadly, it will be a long time before Amnesty becomes obsolete. May it long continue to make the world a better place in Peter's memory.
Tens of thousands owe their existence to him.
Peter Bancroft, London, UK