Martin Ennals – England (1927-1991)

Linked with International Alert.

He was not only the first Secretary General of International Alert, he was the source of Alert’s early energy, inspiration and development. His untimely death in 1991 was a severe blow to the organisation – and a great loss to the field of human rights.He was a British human rights activist.

He says: ”Without peace, there is little hope for human rights”.

Martin Ennals - England.jpg
Martin Ennals – England (1927-1991)

As a pioneer of the human rights movement, Martin Ennals inspired many with his tireless devotion and life-long commitment to individual justice. Throughout his career, he was involved with a wide range of activities in his search for peaceful solutions to conflict and his defence and promotion of equal rights for all. He was instrumental in the founding or early development of many noteworthy organisations including Amnesty International, HURIDOCS, Article 19 and International Alert.

As Secretary General of Amnesty International from 1968 to 1980, Ennals saw the organisation grow in a manner which could not have been dreamed of at its inception in 1961. During his stewardship, Amnesty was awarded the Erasmus Prize, the UN Human Rights Award and the Nobel Peace Prize – recognition of its credibility and authority throughout the world.

Ennals was a founding member of International Alert and its first secretary general from 1986 to 1990. From his vision – to address the widespread violations of human rights inherent in violent internal conflicts – Alert embarked on its path to become one of today’s leading peacebuilding NGOs. Friends say it was Ennals’ modesty, boundless energy, and contagious commitment that attracted support to his projects and allowed them to succeed. ‘He infected people with his own enthusiasm, harnessing others to his beliefs’, recalls Leah Levin, a long-standing board member.

Sadly, International Alert would be one of Ennals’ last contributions to the field. He died of lung cancer in 1991, aged 64, leaving many in the human rights community shaken.

Two years later, the Martin Ennals Foundation was established to honour his legacy and, since 1994, the Martin Ennals Award has been distributed in recognition of human rights defenders who share Ennals’ vision and drive. Through the award that bears his name – and through the work of so many organisations he shaped and supported over a life-time – Ennals will be remembered. (Read all on International Alert).



Amnesty International, USA.

Comments are closed.