LONDON – Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International (search), has died, the human rights organization said Saturday. He was 83.
The cause of his death on Friday night at John Radcliffe Hospital in the city of Oxford was not immediately given.
Benenson set up Amnesty International in 1961 after reading an article about the arrest and imprisonment of two students in a cafe in Lisbon, Portugal, who had drunk a toast to liberty.
He initially set up Amnesty, which is based in London (search), as a one-year campaign, but it went on to become the world's largest independent human rights organizations. Currently, it has more than 1.8 million members and supporters worldwide.
"Peter Benenson's (search) life was a courageous testament to his visionary commitment to fight injustice around the world. He brought light into the darkness of prisons, the horror of torture chambers and tragedy of death camps around the world," said Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary-general.
"This was a man whose conscience shone in a cruel and terrifying world, who believed in the power of ordinary people to bring about extraordinary change and, by creating Amnesty International, he gave each of us the opportunity to make a difference," she said.
"In 1961 his vision gave birth to human rights activism. In 2005, his legacy is a world wide movement for human rights which will never die."
Amnesty was to hold a public memorial service in his memory.