Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

Stories to inspire

The people, the faces, the stories – 50 years of defending rights

Bo Lindblom, Sweden

Bo Lindblom, 81, is a Swedish teacher and human rights activist.

© Amnesty International

“If your adversaries don’t open the door, try the windows.”

Bo Lindblom, 81, Sweden.


Bo Lindblom, a Swedish teacher and writer, joined Amnesty International in 1969. He has worked to free many people, sometimes using original methods.

  • Bo Lindblom has spent four decades fighting bureaucracy, cowardice and lies.
  • His activism has taught him never to give up, even if it means bending the rules.

"In the 41 years that I have been a member I have worked on a great number of cases. I feel that the most interesting ones were where we navigated the fine line between doing what was needed and the established rules of Amnesty International."

Polite letter writers

"In most cases we behaved very well, obeying all the rules and writing polite letters. For more than a decade we worked for Vladimir Rozhdestvov in the Soviet Union before he was released. Now we work for the Shan leader, U Khun Htun Oo, sentenced to 93 years in a Burmese prison for holding a peaceful meeting in his home. But other times we have broken the rules to do what we thought was right.”

Bending the rules

“Hans Kleeman was a young man who had used dynamite to make a hole in the wall between East and West Germany. The International Secretariat (of Amnesty International) told us to drop the case. We didn’t. We started a Club Kleeman, contacted a foundation that was willing to pay the state to release him (which was also against the rules), and he was released.

“Nelson Mandela was excluded from adoption (as a prisoner of conscience) because the African National Congress (ANC) gave up its non-violence policy. Amnesty International never acted on his case, not even concerning the prison conditions on Robben Island. But some of us acted in our private capacity. We used the tools of Amnesty International but did not harm the organization’s reputation.

“Lidia Falcón is a Spanish lawyer and later co-founder of the Spanish feminist party. She was arrested in 1974 as an alleged accomplice in ETA’s (the armed group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) assassination of Carrero Blanco, Franco’s appointed successor. We were convinced that she had not cooperated with ETA. We acted within hours, without asking for permission, and at least succeeded in getting her out of solitary confinement in a death cell. Three months later, Amnesty International made her an investigation case. One year later she was cleared. We are still friends.”

Never stop trying

“The main challenges I’ve faced as an activist are bureaucracy, within the movement; cowardice, around the movement; and mendacity, from our adversaries. And the most important lesson that my activism has taught me is: never give up. Never abandon a case before it is solved. If your adversaries don’t open the door, try the windows.”

For over 50 years we have been fighting for freedom of expression. The world has changed, but violence and imprisonment are still used to silence people who defend human rights and criticize the powerful. By calling on millions of activists and supporters worldwide, we can jam the fax machines of governments and send them a message they can’t ignore. Speak out against repression – deliver a message directly into the hands of those in power.
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