Committed Islington and Hackney Amnesty volunteer Lise Rossi on 50 years campaigning against the death penalty

PUBLISHED: 17:19 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:22 30 August 2018

Lise Rossi taking part in an Amnesty Action for the 100 days of Trump, protesting in front of the US Embassy.

Lise Rossi taking part in an Amnesty Action for the 100 days of Trump, protesting in front of the US Embassy.


Lise Rossi tells Emma Bartholomew about being a member of Hackney and Islington Amnesty for 34 years and how she came to join the human rights organisation nearly 50 years ago

Lise Rossi taking part in an Amnesty Action for the 100 days of Trump, protesting in front of the US Embassy. Lise Rossi taking part in an Amnesty Action for the 100 days of Trump, protesting in front of the US Embassy.

Lise Rossi is so committed to human rights organisation Amnesty that the day after her wedding she held a stall against the death penalty with her American husband.

“My parents thought we were mad that we weren’t going on a honeymoon,” she said. “We didn’t have much money anyway.”

Born in Paris, Lise is one of Amnesty’s longest standing members, joining nearly 50 years ago in Germany.

“I had just read a book by Jean-Paul Sartre and there was a lot of torture in it. It upset me so much, and I came across an Amnesty stall on the street. It was a revelation,” said Lise who was working for the European Southern Conservatory at the time, after a job at the European Space Agency.

“I thought: ‘Right. That’s the organisation I want to be with’, and I haven’t looked back. My father said, “You are going to end up in prison”, but then when Amnesty got the Nobel Prize for Peace he phoned me and said congratulations.

“In those days torture was very important, but also the death penalty. We did a lot of campaigning and eventually it was abolished in Europe.”

In 1984 Lise moved to the UK with her husband and joined Amnesty’s Hackney and Islington branch. She was in a film celebrating 50 years of Amnesty last year. Now 70, she is country coordinator for north America, where she deals with the death penalty, US military prison Guantanamo, and whistle blowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. As she spoke to the Gazette she had just sent Amnesty members a notification someone had been executed there.

She said: “Guantanamo was one of my pet hates. I really disagree with it. When you are passionate about something it directs you.”

She is also passionate about jazz accordion, having inherited a love for jazz from her father, a professional jazz pianist. She plays in several bands including Band of the Wall, a street band which performs in Hackney and Islington.

“I’m an eternal optimist,” said Lise.

“My dad used to say “You can’t change the world. You are a dreamer”, and I said “If there weren’t any dreamers, women wouldn’t have the vote”.”

The Amnesty group meets at the Human Rights Action Centre in New Inn Yard, Shoreditch, on the second Wednesday of each month from 7-9pm.

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