Martin Ennals

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Martin Ennals "(1927-1991) was instrumental to the modern human rights movement. A fiercely devoted activist, he creatively pursued ideas ahead of his time as the first Secretary-General of Amnesty International and was the driving force behind ten other organisations. His deep desire was to see more cooperation and solidarity among NGOs...

"Martin Ennals devoted his whole life to human rights and nothing else. His dynamic dedication may have taken different forms, and may have been channeled through a variety of human rights organisations - whatever the vehicle used, there was always a single orientation: human rights. As a colleague noted: "He moved mountains, doing impossible things. Martin was always ten years ahead of his time."

"The enormous creativity of Martin, the pursuing of ideas ahead of his times is best illustrated in Mark Twain’s words: "A crank is a man with an idea..... until it catches on." He was behind the creation or growth of at least ten organisations which span the full spectrum of human rights, each specialising in their own mandate, be it the development of a strong machinery for protecting the rights of individuals through Amnesty International (AI), the prevention and solution of conflicts through International Alert (IA), freedom of expression through Article 19, the use of appropriate information technology through HURIDOCS, or general standard setting within the United Nations.

"When Martin became Secretary General of AI in 1968, AI was an organisation with 7 staff and an annual budget of £17'000. Twelve years later, the staff had grown to 150 with an annual budget of £2 million. Martin represented an era where AI became a human rights organisation of global concern, and an international player in the human rights field. It is no coincidence, then, that AI was awarded the Erasmus Prize in 1976, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, and the UN Human Rights Award in 1978. But Martin, known for his modesty, had others accept the prizes on behalf of AI...

"He was active in the creation of both SOS Torture (today the World Organisation Against Torture) and Defence for Children International. From there, he moved to establish Article 19, and his last creation, International Alert (IA). He remarked that it was fitting to go full circle from AI to IA - from an organisation focusing on the individual, to one that emphasises events." [1]

His brother was David Ennals.

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  1. biography, HURIDOCS, accessed August 14, 2007.
  2. United Nations Items-in-Secretary-General's Statements, organizational web page, accessed May 4, 2012.