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Peter Benenson

Peter Benenson
A smiling bespectacled 70-year-old man lights a candle
Benenson lighting a candle in 1991
Born Peter James Henry Solomon
(1921-07-31)31 July 1921
London, England
Died 25 February 2005(2005-02-25) (aged 83)
Oxford, England
Nationality British
Known for Founding the global Amnesty International
Spouse(s) Margaret Anderson (?-1972; divorced; 2 children)
Susan Booth (1973[1]-2005; his death; 2 children)[2]
Parent(s) Flora Benenson
Harold Solomon

Peter Benenson (31 July 1921 – 25 February 2005) was a British lawyer and the founder of human rights group Amnesty International (AI). In 2001, Benenson received the Pride of Britain Award for Lifetime Achievement.[3]


  • Life and career 1
  • References 2
  • Sources 3
  • External links 4

Life and career

He was born in London as Peter James Henry Solomon, to a large Jewish family,[4] the only son of Harold Solomon and 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 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 Italy in order 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 Amnesty International was founded in London in July 1961 at a meeting of Benenson and six other men, who included a Tory, 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 faced an Elsinore in Denmark in 1967. The allegations were rejected and Benenson resigned from AI.

While never again active in the organization, 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.[10]


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  9. ^ Childs, Peter; Storry, Mike, eds. (2002). "Amnesty International". Encyclopedia of Contemporary British Culture. London: Routledge. pp. 22–23.
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  • Pincock, S.: Peter James Henry Solomon Benenson (obituary). Lancet, April 2, 2005; 365: 1224.

External links

  • Obituary, BBC News
  • "The forgotten Prisoners" 1961 article (abridged)
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
President of Amnesty International
Succeeded by
Eric Baker
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