ANNUAL REPORT – HISTORY & FAQ
Annual report content
Amnesty’s annual report, also known as the Amnesty International Report, presents the state of the word’s human rights. It covers a full calendar year, from 1 January to 31 December, with individual entries on around 150 or so countries (the exact number varies from year to year), plus global and regional analysis of key human rights concerns.
It aims to offer a broad and impartial overview of the state of the word’s human rights. Country entries feature specific concerns and other human rights developments during the calendar year that the report covers and are organized by theme. Regional overviews draw out the key themes at a regional level, and our global analysis focuses on a selection of significant trends spanning different regions. See our map to understand how we divide up coverage of countries into five regions: Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa.
Amnesty’s annual report is a unique free source of reference on human rights across the world and aimed at a wide audience. Journalists use it for background on the human rights situation on countries on which they are reporting, lawyers use it to support asylum claims for refugees, human rights advocates use it as a tool to pressure governments, academics use it to analyse human rights trends over decades and diplomats use it to inform foreign policy discussions. In fact, anyone with an interest in human rights at home or internationally will find Amnesty’s annual report a useful resource.
What I find most useful about this rich resource is the clear and simple language, which is a breath of fresh air compared to many academic writings on the same subject. The unbiased and well-referenced details are helpful in building a background picture of the situation in any country.”PhD student
History of the annual report
Amnesty published its first annual report in 1962. During the 1960s and 1970s, annual reports primarily provided an overview of the organization’s activities over a financial year, generally covering the period from June to the following May, rather than a calendar year. Those activities focused in the earliest years largely on the adoption of prisoners of conscience and letter-writing on their cases, as well as fundraising. Over the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, successive annual reports reflected Amnesty’s progressively broader mandate in the field of civil and political rights, such that country entries grew to cover not only prisoners of conscience, but also unfair trials of individuals prosecuted for acts of a political nature, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, the death penalty, the situation of refugees, weapons transfers and abuses by armed groups. From the 2000s, the annual report’s themes expanded further to mirror Amnesty’s move to a mission covering the full spectrum of not only civil and political, but also economic, social and cultural, rights
All annual reports are available in PDF format. Individual country entries in the most recent annual reports are also available as HTML web pages.
Until 2018, Amnesty published and distributed printed copies of the annual report in book format. It no longer does so given the preference of most readers to access the information digitally and the high cost of limited print runs. We are no longer able to provide copies of previous editions that were printed, though it may be possible to purchase some editions from private sellers online.
We are always keen to receive feedback on the annual report. We are interested to know in what way you may have found the annual report interesting or useful. We would also appreciate receiving any suggestions for how it can be improved. Please get in touch by emailing [email protected] with your comments, thoughts, memories or information on this topic.
Although we use the term “annual report”, this annual publication is neither a report of its financial statements and accounts nor a report focused primarily on Amnesty’s own activities. The annual report on the affairs of the Amnesty International Charity together with its financial statements and auditors’ report can be found at amnesty.org/en/documents/fin40/4744/2021/en
How does Amnesty ensure the content of its annual report is accurate?
Amnesty has a reputation for conducting independent, impartial and rigorous research and documentation. All of the content published in the annual report goes through a strict review and approval process involving regional, thematic, legal and policy specialists.
Does Amnesty provide a list of the countries with the worst human rights record?
Amnesty does not rank countries in order of human rights records. Comparing countries is fraught with complications and would require judgements on the relative importance of human rights violations. For example, one country may largely respect civic freedoms but engage in widespread denial of health services to minorities whereas another may not do that but restrict any protests against the government.
Why are some years missing?
No annual report was produced covering 2013 as Amnesty underwent some internal changes (although some key events from 2013 are mentioned in the 2014/15 edition, which focuses on 2014). No annual report was produced covering 2018 either, for similar reasons. In 2019 we explored other ways to report and published six regional annual reports covering 2019, instead of one global one. We returned to the usual format for the 2020/21 edition, which covers 2020.
What happens if I can’t find a country listed on this page?
If you don’t find a country listed, it could be that it was not featured in the latest annual report. However, we may have engaged on human rights in the country you’re looking for in other ways. We recommend checking the country page of amnesty.org and/or using the search function to look for information related to the country in regional or thematic outputs.
Why does coverage vary?
Our operational capacity fluctuates due to, among other things, budget, staff resources and the challenges of responding to a large and rapidly changing set of human rights concerns, meaning that there are gaps where we were not able to report on issues in a country during that year. The absence of a country from the report simply means that Amnesty was not able to cover it and does not indicate an absence of human rights concerns.
Why are some entries so short?
The length of an entry varies from year to year according to our capacity to cover that country and the amount of information available to inform the report. To ensure that we are able to deliver our annual report to schedule and provide multiple translations, we have to restrict word counts and deadlines, meaning that we do not have the capacity or space to cover all issues in depth.
In what languages is the annual report available?
For many editions of the annual report there are complete versions in English, Arabic, French and Spanish freely available via our downloads page. Additionally, for more recent reports there are often partial translations into many other languages. The downloads page for each specific year will show the translations we have available.
Our annual report is our most translated output. For example, for the 2020/21 edition, key extracts were translated into over 30 different languages. The original language is English, but there are full French, German, Italian and Spanish versions. Significant portions of content are available in a wide range of other languages including Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Turkish and shorter extracts are available in other languages including Korean, Polish and Swahili. Our language department coordinates the translations, many of which are done in-house, with many others being provided by different Amnesty national sections.
Where can we find complete data on the death penalty for every country?
While the annual report contains summary information on the death penalty for relevant countries, we release a separate annual report with statistics and analysis on the use of the death penalty in the world later in the year, generally in April. Link to the 2020 DP report
Does Amnesty’s inclusion of a country in its annual report mean that it recognizes it as a state?
No. Amnesty has no mandate to recognize states. It takes no position on issues of sovereignty, territorial disputes or international political or legal arrangements that might be adopted to implement the right to self-determination.
How then does Amnesty choose which countries should have distinct entries?
Amnesty organizes its information on human rights in the world, including in its annual report, primarily according to the division of independent states that are accountable for the human rights situation on their territory. These are generally UN member states, but not exclusively so. For example, Amnesty considers that Kosovo, the State of Palestine and Taiwan, while not UN member states, enjoy significant formal or informal recognition as independent states and have accountability for the human rights situation on their territories and have shown their acceptance of that accountability with reference to international law and standards. For practical purposes and to highlight where accountability for the human rights situation lies, Amnesty therefore has distinct annual report entries for these countries.