Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:40 am

by Amnesty International Publications
© 1986 Amnesty International Publications




Table of Contents:

1. Introduction
2. Birth of Amnesty International
3. Poet of Freedom
4. Portuguese Report
5. Gandhi of the North West Frontier
6. Action to Help Boy
7. Letters From Prisoners
8. Justice in the American South
9. Prison Conditions in South Africa
10. Allegations of Torture in Aden
11. Mass Christmas Card Mailing to Prisoners
12. Trial of Three Young Writers
13. Conditions in a Chinese Labour Camp
14. Political Trial in Greece
15. Call Over Us War Resisters
16. Ten Years On
17. Ill-Treatment in Northern Ireland
18. Human Rights Violations in Iran
19. Torture in Brazil
20. Campaign to Abolish Torture
21. Indonesia: Struggle of Prisoners' Families
22. Political Prisoners in South Vietnam
23. 'Re-Education' in Viet Nam
24. Chile: After the Coup
25. India: Detentions Without Trial
26. Political Trials in the USSR
27. Torture in Spain
28. Against the Death Penalty
29. Greek Torturers on Trial
30. African Nationalists Interned
31. Long-Term Prisoners in Cuba
32. Human Rights Violations in Uganda
33. Uganda: Evidence of Torture
34. Declaration of Conscience
35. Prisoners of Conscience in China
36. Al: Not a Do-Gooder for All Causes
37. Killings: The Youngest Victims
38. Children
39. Prisoner Testimony from North Korea
40. Ill-Treatment by Israeli Authorities
41. Amnesty International in the Eighties
42. Psychiatric Detention
43. Different Faces of Imprisonment
44. Political Killings in Guatemala
45. Doctors Urged to Shun Executions
46. The Writer and Human Rights
47. Zaire: Urgent Action
48. The Missing Children of Argentina
49. Human Rights Violations in Pakistan
50. Martial Law in Poland
51. Prisoners of Conscience in Egypt
52. Political Killings by Governments
53. Life in a Soviet Labour Camp
54. Campaign for the Abolition of Torture
55. Chinese 'Democracy Movement' Activist Jailed
56. Political Killings Cover-Up in El Salvador
57. Developing Amnesty International in Africa
58. File on Torture: Afghanistan/Philippines
59. Labour Camps in Albania
60. Human Rights Debate in Peru
61. Torture in Iraq
62. Conscientious Objectors to Military Service
63. Repression in East Timor
64. South Africa: The State of Emergency
65. 'You Have Been Present All These Years...'
66. Photographic Credits
67. Index
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:44 am


'The candle burns not for us, but for all those whom we failed to rescue from prison, who were shot on the way to prison, who were tortured, who were kidnapped, who "disappeared." That's what the candle is for ...' -- Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International



This book speaks for freedom. It tells the stories of prisoners of conscience and people facing torture or death at the hands of the state. It tells also of the countless men and women who have spoken out in their defence.

Spanning two and a half decades of contemporary history and sketching a remarkable portrait of human rights in dozens of countries, Voices for Freedom reflects the work of Amnesty International and the lives of the people it has sought to protect.

This anthology, culled from Amnesty International's publications over the years, is dedicated to those who have struggled and suffered for freedom. Shortly before his execution one of the victims, a poet, wrote:

'Upon this plain of blood roses and iron stalks
I will not stay silent ...
So hear my voice
As it sings in the slaughterhouse.'


Back cover photograph: "patience, hope, courage" ... an inscription made by detainees out of cigarette packets. This photograph was taken in Camp Boiro, Conakry, Guinea, which before the overthrow of ex-President Sekou Toure in April 1984 housed hundreds of political prisoners, many of whom died of torture or thirst and hunger.



This is a book of voices. The voices of prisoners of conscience, of political prisoners held without trial, of torture victims, of people threatened with execution and 'disappearance'. Most of all this a book attesting to the countless men and women around the world who have raised their voices in defence of those who have been silenced.

Some victims have braved repression by successive governments, speaking out consistently for human rights. One such was the Iranian poet and playwright, Saeed Soltanpour .... Imprisoned many times for his writings under the Shah and then arrested by the new Islamic government and executed after accusing the authorities of torturing people and suppressing freedom, he wrote:

Upon this plain of blood roses and iron stalks
I will not stay silent ...
So hear my voice
As it sings in the slaughterhouse.

His story is one of the thousands reflected in this anthology, culled from Amnesty International's work over the years.

This book also portrays a unique movement which has brought together people from all walks of life to work in defence of human rights under all political systems.

It started with a newspaper article, 'The Forgotten Prisoners', in May 1961 calling for action to free men and women in prison because of their religious and political beliefs. These were called 'prisoners of conscience' -- a new phrase had entered the vocabulary of world affairs.

Within a month more than a thousand people had offered to help -- 'letters came in from all quarters by the score, and offers of help from people of all kinds' recalled an early participant. Six months later a permanent international movement had been established. 'We believe that these first six months have shown that in an increasingly cynical world there is a great latent reservoir of idealism to be tapped' declared Peter Benenson, the movement's founder.

At that time -- in 1961-- trade unionists in Spain were being arrested, dissenters faced long prison terms in the German Democratic Republic, detainees in South Africa were being brutally ill-treated in custody, civil rights workers in the United States of America were being persecuted, political trials were taking place in the Soviet Union, and in many other countries people were being imprisoned, tortured or executed because their opinions were unacceptable to the ruling authorities.

The campaign has since widened in response to political arrests, torture and execution. What Amnesty International members have attempted is the seemingly impossible -- one of the 'larger lunacies' as it has been described. They have battled against official silence and political persecution using as their only weapons the publicizing of awkward facts and that reservoir of idealism.

This anthology hopes to give a flavour of the movement's work and the spirit behind it. It is not intended as a history of the organization, nor as a record of its most important initiatives. Much of Amnesty International's work is not reflected in the pages that follow, for example the material support given to prisoners of conscience and their families through relief funds, or the interventions of the organization at intergovernmental arenas such as the United Nations. Rather it is a series of 'snapshots', glimpses of the prisoners and the campaigns on their behalf over a span of 25 years. Such a compilation cannot begin to be comprehensive, nor can it hope to record all the vital work carried on by ordinary men and women in the face of apathy, ignorance and executive power. The selection ranges from letters from prison and the story of a single prisoner of conscience, to extracts from a submission to a government inquiry into ill-treatment of detainees and a survey of political killings by governments. Through these brief excerpts from Amnesty International's reports, bulletins, news releases and newsletters it is hoped that the reader will gain an idea of the range of Amnesty International's concerns and a sense of the continuing challenge of political imprisonment, torture and executions.

It will be clear from the pages that follow that Amnesty International's membership, research capacity and work have grown enormously over the decades, and that with that growth has come change. However, they do show that Amnesty International has sought to abide by certain principles from its inception. Fundamental among those principles are independence and impartiality. Amnesty International is linked to no political grouping or government. It neither supports nor opposes any government or political system. It is concerned solely with the protection of the human rights involved in each case, regardless of the ideology of the government or the views of the victims. Amnesty International always seeks and remains open to dialogue with governments to get their version of the facts and to make concrete proposals for improvements. It does not grade governments according to their human rights records or try to compare one country with another. As well as political independence, Amnesty International regards financial independence as vital. Its rules about accepting donations are strict and ensure that funds received do not affect the organization's integrity, make it dependent on any donor or limit its freedom of action. It does not accept government funds for its budget. Amnesty International works on the basis of a single universal standard: the human rights proclaimed by the international community through the United Nations and other bodies.

Amnesty International plays a specific role in the international protection of human rights. It seeks the immediate and unconditional release of men and women detained anywhere because of their beliefs, colour, sex, ethnic origin, language or religious creed, provided they have not used or advocated violence. These are prisoners of conscience. It calls for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners, and works on behalf of political prisoners detained without trial. It opposes the death penalty and torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of all prisoners.

The organization's work towards freeing prisoners of conscience, fair trials for political prisoners and an end to torture and the death penalty leads it to oppose the forcible return of anyone to a country where they might reasonably fear becoming the victim of such human rights violations. It presents information about the risks refugees face in their countries of origin to specialized refugee organizations and to governments considering applications for political asylum.

Working with the most reliable information available to it, Amnesty International seeks effective ways of helping victims wherever it is aware that those rights it seeks to protect have been violated. The techniques it uses include long-term adoption of individual cases; campaigns on particular countries or human rights abuses; mobilizing professional occupational groups on behalf of colleagues; publicizing patterns of human rights abuses; missions to talk with government representatives; or, in cases where torture or death are feared, a network of volunteers to send urgent telegrams signalling international concern. Each technique, or combination of methods, is used in the best interests of the prisoners, and therefore varies from country to country. For this reason, the whole range of the movement's work must be taken into account when assessing its overall impartiality -- particularly in an anthology such as this when only brief extracts can be included to illustrate a quarter of a century's work.

Above all, Amnesty International remains a movement of 'ordinary' people. People who accept, as a personal responsibility, the international protection of human rights. Each is responsible for the growing strength of international public opinion. Each has become a voice that speaks on behalf of those who cannot.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:48 am


Early in 1961, a British lawyer named Peter Benenson read in his morning paper of two students in Portugal who had been arrested in a restaurant and sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom.

Indignant, Peter Benenson's first reaction was to go to the Portuguese Embassy in London and protest personally, but he realized that such an individual gesture would accomplish little for the students themselves.

Government repression of dissent was a problem that had long troubled Peter Benenson. During the 1950s he had attended political trials in Hungary, Cyprus, South Africa and Spain, either as a legal observer or as defence counsel. He had also written and broadcast widely about the problem.

Now he began to wonder how oppressive regimes might react to concerted worldwide protests at acts of political injustice, rather than to the individual protest he had contemplated in the case of the Portuguese students. Gradually he conceived the idea of a one-year international campaign to draw world attention to the plight of people detained throughout the world -- under all political systems -- for the peaceful expression of their political or religious opinions.

He discussed the idea with Eric Baker, a prominent English Quaker, and other friends. Their enthusiastic reactions led to him writing the article in The Observer newspaper, entitled 'The Forgotten Prisoners.' The article and a report in Le Monde the same day announced the launching of a one-year campaign called 'Appeal for Amnesty, 1961' whose object was to obtain an amnesty for all political and religious prisoners of conscience. Part of the campaign was the establishment of an office in London to collect information about such prisoners and to publicize individual cases.

The appeal quickly attracted international support and within a few short months the groundwork was laid for a permanent organization that eventually became known as Amnesty International.


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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:49 am


Within a month of the launch of the Amnesty appeal, a fortnightly journal on political imprisonment called 'Amnesty' was being published from an office staffed by volunteers in London's legal district. Spanish poet and journalist Cristobal Vega Alvarez -- imprisoned for over 20 years from the time General Franco took power at the end of the Spanish Civil War -- featured in the November 1961 issue.

A prison camp in Spain (1965)

On 5th March, 1960, Cristobal Vega Alvarez, the Spanish poet and journalist, had already served twenty years in prison because of his liberal political views. Yet on 6th March, 1960, one day after he was due to be discharged, he was faced with a new sentence of eight years -- based, apparently, on nothing more circumstantial than having been in the possession of a newspaper of 'democratic' views. For this he was sentenced by a Military Tribunal to the eight-year term which he is today working out behind the walls of the prison of Santa Maria in Cadiz.

The long story of Vega Alvarez's arrests begins in March 1939, when he was detained at the prison in Utrera. From there he was taken to Avila, where, because of his journalistic activities under the Republic, he was court-martialed and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. In 1941 he was transferred to Astorga, and in 1942 to a penal detachment in Guipuzcoa, where the prisoners worked for a building enterprise called 'Ferrocarriles y Construcciones ABC' (ABC Railroads and Constructions).

In 1943 he was released conditionally, and he remained a free employee of the ABC Railroads. But after a short time he crossed to France where he worked on the editorial staff of Reconquista de Espalla (Reconquest of Spain), the paper of the Spanish National Union. During this period, in October 1944, he was a delegate to the Congress held in Toulouse.

At this time he was deeply interested in the activities of the 'Spanish Maquis'. He returned to Spain to live and work in this movement so that he could gain personal experience and documentation for a series of articles he was planning on the subject.

Once more he was arrested -- this time in the mountains of Navarre. This time he had neither taken part in any action of violence, nor held office or command in the military units. Legally, even if tried as an ordinary soldier, he could only have been condemned to a maximum sentence of six years and a day. Nevertheless, the sentence climbed to 12 years and a day, then to 20 years and a day, until it was finally settled at 30 years' penal servitude.

Vega Alvarez is said to have been an 'exemplary' prisoner. All the reports requested by the military and prison authorities carry the same phrase: 'His conduct is exceptionally good.' Vega Alvarez always worked in prison so as to benefit from the system of 'redemptions through work' which is in operation in Spanish prisons. In spite of this and the right to conditional freedom granted, subject to good behaviour, he had been in prison for 11 years before he could claim to be discharged conditionally on 5th March, 1960. It was then that he received his last sentence of eight years.

This last trial was, it seems, based on an incident that had happened as far back as 1946, when Vega Alvarez was found with a certain newspaper, which was then confiscated. The name of the paper is not known, but it is described as a newspaper which anybody can read freely anywhere where there is a minimum of freedom, a 'democratic' paper which was not directed at any institution or any person. Vega Alvarez could have had no idea that this would be held against him let alone that it would warrant a full court-martial. Nevertheless, a Council of War was set up and decreed a period of no less than eight years' imprisonment for an 'offence' for which any ordinary tribunal might, at most, have sentenced him to two months.

The crimes of C. Vega Alvarez, for which he has paid for so many years, seem to be that he had been a journalist before the Civil War, that he had lived with the 'Maquis' to gain material for articles, and that he had been found with an unpopular newspaper.

Vega Alvarez has been described as representing the authentic liberal thought of Spanish intellectuals. He has had several works published, the last one being a book of poems. The irony is that most of his poetic output has come from behind bars, even though he is known to his admirers as 'the Poet of Freedom'.

Published November 1961

Good news: A Christmas card sent to a prisoner of conscience in Spain is returned by the prison authorities marked 'Return to sender as consignee is free.' From 'Amnesty,' January 1962
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:51 am


When two Portuguese students were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for toasting freedom, Peter Benenson was moved to take action. Not long after, Neville Vincent, joint secretary of Amnesty International in 1962, went on a mission to Portugal to query the detention of five more people imprisoned for their political beliefs under Dr. Salazar's dictatorship. This account illustrates one of Amnesty International's ways of working -- sending delegates to talk to the authorities about the organization's concerns and to gather information. It was published in the first issue of the quarterly journal 'Amnesty'.

Few people who visit Lisbon will deny that it is among the most beautiful capitals of Europe. Its seven hills, the medieval fort of St. George, and the eighteenth-century city centre, built on the gridiron plan by Pombal after the great earthquake of 1755, are set off magnificently by the broad sweep of the Tagus dotted with sailing barges.

When I arrived there it was difficult to believe that such a beautiful capital could be the scene of a great deal of misery. I had gone to intercede with the authorities over five doctors who were imprisoned for their political beliefs and I did in fact find that, wherever I made inquiries for them, there was an atmosphere of fear and tension.

I started off my inquiries at the office of a man to whom I had a letter of introduction and who I thought might be able to help me with news of Dr. Julietta Gandra. This woman was a well-known physician in Luanda, the capital of Angola, until she was sentenced to a year's imprisonment because of her opposition to the regime. She has in fact served her year but has also done another three in the Caxias Fortress in Lisbon because she is considered 'a bad security risk'.

When I entered the office of the man I was to make contact with, I realized he was extremely busy and offered to telephone him later. He looked at me as though I had just made a bad joke, and assured me that he had not used the telephone in connection with matters such as we meant to talk about since 1945. I had received my first object lesson in security. I fixed a later appointment with him there and then and when I met him again he told me that fear of the PIDE, the secret police, was so great that he did not dare use the telephone for things he did not want them to hear.

While I had been provided with a list of private people to see by friends in London, one of the main purposes of my visit was to see people in official positions in the hope of getting some relief for the five doctors who were my special concern. In the event I failed, for one reason or another, to make contact with the Ministers of Justice, the Interior and, External Affairs. Pressure of other engagements, I was told, or, in the case of the Minister of External Affairs, his absence from Lisbon, prevented me from seeing any of them.

I was, however, received by Cardinal Cerejeira, the head of the Portuguese hierarchy and a close friend of Dr. Salazar, with whom he co-operated in the founding of the present Portuguese regime. I was able to ask him about the fate of the African Vicar-General of the Angolan diocese of Luanda, who was arrested and brought to Lisbon during the recent African insurrection in that territory. His Eminence pointed out that a priest could exercise his ministry wherever he went and that the nine excited clergy had as many opportunities to carry out their duties in Portugal as they had had in Angola. Cardinal Cerejeira insisted throughout my talk with him that Church and State were two separate entities in Portugal, and that he did not have control over politics. When I talked with him about the case of the Bishop of Oporto, a severe critic of the regime, who has recently been given duties outside Portugal, His Eminence repeated that he had no control over the bishop's appointment, but would convey to Dr. Salazar the anxieties of the outside world regarding the treatment of prisoners in Portugal.

Having got very little encouragement from either Church or State I returned to private individuals to whom I had introductions, in the hope of getting information on the doctors whom I was trying to help.

I sought information from one diplomat who had had contact with one of the doctors in question. The scarcely credible caution that I had witnessed in the office of my first acquaintance was repeated at one of the embassies I visited. Before starting our conversation my host unplugged the telephone, a precaution against the secret police being able to take a record of our words.

A similar precaution against possible police action was taken by a lawyer whom I visited in my search for information. Before leaving we arranged that if either of us were later questioned about the conversation we should not disclose the real purpose of my visit, but say that it was merely a social call, during which I passed a friendly message from a mutual barrister friend in London.

As a result of my inquiries, I was able to visit some of the prisoners' families. I found the wife of one, together with her family of four, living in one room in the utmost poverty. Her pleasure at realizing that an outside organization like Amnesty International was working on behalf of her husband and other prisoners, made the whole trip seem worthwhile.

In addition I made fruitless attempts to see the prisoners themselves. There was no reason, I was told, why I should not visit Dr. Gandra and her companions in Caxias. The process of getting the permission of various authorities was a lengthy business. In fact permission had not arrived before it was time for me to leave Portugal.

I left Lisbon then, without seeing Dr. Gandra, Dr. Neto or any of their companions, Dr. Maria Luiza Costa Dias Soares, another woman doctor from Mozambique, Dr. Agostino Neto, true distinguished African physician and poet, or Dr. Orlando Ramos, a cancer specialist who was arrested in July, 1960, tortured and kept in prison ever since.

As I left Lisbon, however, I learnt the news that Dr. Noshir Wadia had, after many representations from his friends in his native India, been allowed to go free. Arrested on his plane at Lisbon airport at the time of the Indian invasion of Goa., he had been finally allowed to go free after having been a political hostage for two months.

At the end of February it seems as though the PIDE were working on the principle of last in first out.

Published 1962

ALBERT SCHWEITZER: An early supporter, the humanitarian Dr Albert Schweitzer, declared in 1963: 'I believe that world peace can only be achieved when there is freedom for people of all politics, religions and races to exchange their views in a continuing dialogue. For this reason I would particularly ask all those who are working in their different ways towards world peace to make their contribution, preferably by active service or, failing that, by financial contribution, to this great new endeavour called Amnesty International.'
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:59 pm

Gandhi of the North West Frontier

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan has been imprisoned in Pakistan because of his work for the rights of the Pathan people and opposition to successive governments on many occasions since 1947, most recently in 1983. An ardent admirer and close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, he persuaded his people to adopt non-violent methods of protest. The following article about him appeared in the journal 'Amnesty'.

Non-violence has its martyrs. One of them, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, was chosen by Amnesty International as 'Prisoner of the Year'. His one example symbolizes the suffering of upwards of a million people all over the world who are in prison for their convictions.

Known as the 'Gandhi of the North West Frontier', Ghaffar Khan, 72 and ailing, lies in Lahore prison, detained without trial by the Pakistan Government. He has been in prison almost uninterruptedly since Pakistan became independent in 1947.

In 1911, at 21, Ghaffar Khan was founding schools for Muslims and in 1919 joined the Satyagraha (nonviolent) Movement. Although a Muslim he became an ardent admirer and close friend of Gandhi, and persuaded the warlike Pathans, his own people, to adopt non-violent methods. Under his leadership, Pathans, who would normally kill on the slightest provocation, stood smiling under British lathi charges and shooting's. Feeling that Pathans without arms were more dangerous than those with, the British imprisoned him for three years.

Since Pakistan independence he has been continually suspect and feared by the Government for his insistence on Pathan rights. His Party, Khudai Khidmatgar (the Servants of God, known as the Red Shirt Movement) was declared illegal. In 1948 he was sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment, but was actually detained in prison until 1954.

A brief period of freedom followed, although he was not allowed to return to the North West Frontier. He was tried in September 1956 under Pakistan Criminal Procedure, again imprisoned and later freed, only to be re-arrested in April 1961 under the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. Despite appeals and review -- the last of which took place on November 25th 1962, the old man still lies in gaol.

Miss Muriel Lester, an Englishwoman, who knew and worked with him, says: 'No one but this gentle giant, strong in his humility, could have got the Pathans, conditioned from birth to border warfare, to abandon their faith in it and come together morning by morning to learn the skills of non-violence.'

Published 1963



Two-and-a-half year-old Maria Luisa and her 15-month-old brother Jorge scampered about without a care in the world, too young to realise why their mother had called the press conference. Blanca de Rosal was celebrating her own escape from the death squads. But she was also telling the world how her husband, Jorge, had been abducted exactly two years earlier. On 12 August, 1983, he had been followed by armed men from 7am until 5 pm. They seized him for no apparent reason on a rural road near his farm in Guatemala. He 'disappeared'. The truck he was driving, his money and the cargo of eggs he was planning to deliver were never recovered.

Blanca de Rosal said, 'These things happen every day in Guatemala ... you never know why people are abducted or tortured. Sometimes it is because you don't agree with the government, but Jorge was not active in politics ... he did not want to join the army ... he loved his farm ...' She became a member of a mutual support group which included the families of over 500 others who had 'disappeared'. Together, they organised a meeting with the Head of State, General Oscar Mejia Victores, petitioned the Constituent Assembly, held non-violent demonstrations and vigils and distributed leaflets:

'Brother Guatemalans ... the days go by, the nights become interminable, and the persistent question becomes even more cruel: where are our loved ones? Help us! These are brother Guatemalans who just like you have a mother, a wife, children, a brother, a father. Offer your hand in solidarity! Alive they were taken! Alive we want them back!' The authorities were deaf to their appeals: 'Our resistance grew stronger after we met with high government officials who said that the support groups were subversive ... they warned me to leave ... '

Leading members of the group began to receive death threats. One was later found dead on the streets of Guatemala City; another was killed in a suspicious car accident together with her brother and infant son; a third fled to Mexico after armed men searched his house in his absence. Blanca de Rosal also escaped: 'I came here to preserve my life and the lives of my children ... I hope to return to Guatemala someday, but I know it cannot be soon because things will be bad for a long time ...'

She has learned that her husband has been tortured, but believes that he is only alive today because of the efforts of Amnesty International. She looked plaintively at her son and said, 'The boy has never seen his father ... but I never lose hope'.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:56 pm



The group who adopted 15-year-old schoolboy Jose Silva campaigned for his release, writing to the authorities to try and obtain more information and urging them to free him unconditionally. This is still the basis of Amnesty International's work for the release of prisoners of conscience. Groups write to government and prison authorities. They also visit embassies and organize petitions and other activities to publicize the person's plight. Groups might also contact a prisoner's family and try to help with legal and medical costs.

The International Secretariat of Amnesty International announced this afternoon that it had decided to take emergency action on behalf of Jose Augusto Silva, a 15-year-old Portuguese schoolboy, who was arrested on the 21st January ...

Jose Silva, a pupil at the Pedro Nunes School in Lisbon, is one of 17 schoolboys and schoolgirls arrested during student demonstrations in the last two weeks. He is the only one under the age of 16 and consequently cannot be legally held by the political police. In order to detain him the authorities have sent him to a home for juvenile delinquents at Tutoria. He is being held in a cell there; his mother is only allowed to see him once a fortnight. He has not been charged with any offence. The case is a particularly tragic one because he himself was born in prison where his mother was at the time a political prisoner. His father, an engineer, actually died in prison.

Because it has been reported that the authorities are trying to hold him in this juvenile delinquent home until his 16th birthday on the 15th August (when he can be transferred to prison) the International Secretariat decided to take immediate steps on his behalf. Jose Silva will be straight away 'adopted' by a newly formed Amnesty group in West Berlin.

News release 12 February 1965



For thousands of people all over the world, events move with frightening speed after they are seized by the security police. In the course of a few hours, a perfectly normal life can be shattered by the personal experience of torture. For Rodolfo Romano in the Philippines, it happened on 12 February 1984 -- the day he tried to find his father-in-law, Jose Laceda, who had been detained by the security police. He went to the local police headquarters, hoping for some kind of explanation ... Instead: 'They ordered me to strip ... they punched me. I cannot count the number of blows because of the number of men who hit me. They burned all parts of my body with lighted cigarettes. I begged for mercy. But they were deaf and blind to my pleas ... ' His nightmare treatment continued all night, until, at 10 a.m., they released him after holding a gun to his head and forcing him to sign a statement and a forged letter.

Rodolfo Romano later wrote: 'In those moments ... I was not functioning as a moral person as a result of the intense tortures I underwent. I still feel pain in my body ... I wonder how I will get back that statement ... and the letter I allegedly wrote. I am concerned about my family.' After launching urgent appeals on his behalf, Amnesty International received this letter from the office of the Bishop of Sosorgon: 'Greetings of Solidarity and Justice! We have received countless letters from different groups of Amnesty International all over the world, mostly concerning the plight of Rodolfo Romano and his father-in-law, Jose Laceda.

'It has touched us deeply that all compassionately expressed sympathy to the victims and revulsion to the perpetrators of torture and cruelty. These gestures of commiseration we will remember forever. The barrage of letters you sent to our Minister of National Defence and the Acting Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces denouncing the brutalities done by their men has certainly hastened action on these cases. We are pleased to bring the good news that your efforts have borne fruit of justice: the fabricated case which was filed against Rodolfo Romano by his torturers was finally dismissed by the court.'
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:59 pm


Prisoners' letters to adoption groups published in Amnesty International's news sheet for groups.

Gonakudzingwa Restriction Area, Vila Salazar, P/B u 304, Bulawayo, Rhodesia. 23.12.64.

'I acquaint you that I have received your Christmas card with a great mixture of pleasure and surprise, being a young man of 24 years, who knows not much about practical life. Your Christmas card, Sir, is a 'landmark' in my life. It has remade me and remoulded my way of thinking.

When received your Christmas card, I had food for the thought, I asked myself a question 'why does this person think of us in Zimbabwe, does he know me, what does it profit him to worry about me?' This at length came to my mind that 'we are linked together by common humanity and human needs and sympathies and we are all vessels of different colours and shapes of God-given lives. In truth I have been made to think not only nationally but also internationally'. But I became more worried when I again realised that I cannot help somebody before I am able to help myself, so really you made me to think of creating an 'Harmonious wordly-community after our National Freedom'.

Long Life. From Master Isidore Kumire to I. Hedegaard, Vejen, Denmark.'

5307 Hetchburg 24, Near Weimar, East Germany. 4th January 1965

'Dear Miss Fitzgerald, I thank you very much for your Christmas greetings. But I didn't receive your card in jail as I was released a few weeks ago. That's too, the reason that I can give you thanks.

You cannot imagine what a joy it has been for me to get so many greetings from Ireland. It is a good feeling to know to have friends after a long time of loneliness.

As I don't know the reason for my early release (I was sentenced to eight years jail and have spent only 50 months there) it is possible that Irish activity was the cause. So I'm deeply in your debt.

With the best wishes for 1965. Sincerely yours, H. Friedrich Muller.'

Tehran (Gassra Prison). January 13th 1965

'Dear Mr. Thorsen, Thank you very much for your kind and significant greeting card. I have received it, without any paper, today, here in prison. I hope also a happy year for you, and I wish you all success.

Very truly yours, Y. Sahabi, Professor of Geology in Sciences Faculty of University in Tehran.'

'I write in reference to your letter of 24th October, regarding enquiries relating to Kalin Nedyalkov Batakov.

Further to the information sent you on June 22, 1964, we are now in a position to inform you that Batakov was sentenced to five years imprisonment for anti-State actions. The Supreme court reduced this sentence to 2-1/2 years. Later Mr. Batakov was released under an Amnesty by the Presidium of the National Assembly, on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the 9th September, 1944, that is to say, before 9th September this year.

We trust this information is satisfactory, and that you will now feel it unnecessary to have your letters to the press published.

Yours sincerely, (Sgd) G. Shkutov, Secretary to the Bulgarian Embassy.'

'We know that we are not alone in our life long battle. We owe this feeling to you ...' Winnie Mandela in a letter to the Oxted (UK) Amnesty International group in 1965.

'Dearest Mrs. Levett, I replied to your wonderful letter and requested that, if you have a minute to spare you should drop me a line, now and then ...

We have been able to face our problems with great determination as a result of encouragement from people like you. We know that we are not alone in our life long battle. We owe this feeling to you ...

Yours sincerely, Winnie Mandela.' (South Africa)

'Dear Friends, One of the most heartening things that reached me whilst in prison was your most encouraging support to Adelaide and the family. I wish to take this opportunity of thanking you from the bottom of my heart, for all that you have done.

It is actions like yours that make us feel in this bitter country, that the world still has many more good people like you, that makes our cause so noble.

It is the one of the most powerful elements, when one is under stress or strain, when an unknown helping hand stretches across the Atlantic to provide some warmth and comfort. How does one repay such kindness and understanding? I can say, your action has produced a counterreaction - to spiritually embrace all our people of this land - black, white, coloured. We have told all our friends about you. In this way more and more people here come to accept that not all White People are bad.

Needless to say we have a small and dwindling section of white people who at a great risk still manage to introduce a spark of decency into the White (foolishly called here 'Europeans') people of this country.

It is to the honour and credit of the people of the whole of the UK particularly England that for many years they have rallied to our cause. We will never forget this. One day we hope we will all dance in the streets.

Zoya has after much difficulty started school. She was hoping that she would not be accepted and that she could be with me. After a couple of weeks Tanya has got used to me. Anand appears to be aware of my presence. He cries to be rocked to sleep. Drushka (Adelaide may not have told you, Drushka is my dog) has come back to life and he refuses to come out from under the bed at night, and my beloved Adelaide has not put on any weight. Our excitement has not yet worn off. Everybody is just radiant and I too have put on weight. In our tumbled down house life is a paradise in spite of the fact that I am still under house arrest. As for my plans I hope to get started with selling clothes from door to door. I like it. It gives me a chance to meet people, to chat, laugh and make new friends. I love life and people.

Should one day one of you wish to visit this beautiful land of ours, you can rest assured a most welcome awaits. Don't worry about accommodation, it is no problem. Just tell us when, even if it is for a short while. We will move mountains for you.

So much for the time being from me. You will learn from Adelaide very soon. Presently she is at the fort visiting another prisoner still held there.

With fondest regards to all of you, I am yours sincerely, Paul Joseph.' (South Africa)

Published February 1965
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 5:16 am


British lawyer Anthony Lester spent three months in the southern states of the United States of America researching persecution of civil rights activists and blacks. His findings were published as a report 'Justice in the American South', from which this is an extract.

Law has traditionally been used in the South to preserve white supremacy. The Civil Rights Movement now invokes the Federal law of the American Constitution for the right to challenge white supremacy and establish equal civil rights for every citizen. It seeks freedom of speech and assembly, universal suffrage, and equal protection of the law. In the Deep South, these demands are revolutionary, but, because of the ultimate threat of Federal intervention and a second Reconstruction, they cannot be met with overt violence by Southern State officials. The resistance is usually more subtle and depends on massive abuse of the machinery of the law.... Some samples of the use of these laws are illuminating. Over 300 Freedom Riders arrested in Jackson, Mississippi in May and June 1961 were sentenced to $200 and four months' imprisonment for breaches of the peace, apparently only on the basis of evidence that their presence at bus and railway terminals in Jackson in racially-mixed groups put other people in a 'foul mood'. The police captain in charge neither spoke to nor arrested any people who allegedly were threatening the Freedom Riders. When the Freedom Ride cases came before a Federal court, Judge Wisdom stated in his judgment that 'we again take judicial notice that the State of Mississippi has a steel hard, inflexible, undeviating official policy of segregation. The policy is stated in its laws. It is rooted in custom. The segregation signs at the terminals in Jackson carry out that policy. The Jackson police add muscle, bone and sinew to the signs.' (United States v. City of Jackson 318 F.2d. 1 at pp. 5-6)

In May 1963, about 1,080 Negro students were expelled or suspended from public schools in Birmingham, Alabama, by order of the Board of Education because, during the civil rights demonstrations, they had been arrested for parading without permit. No hearings were held to determine the propriety of the dismissals. The students were simply told that not enough time remained in the school term to hold any hearings.

On World-wide Communion Sunday, in October 1963, three young women, two of whom were Negroes, were arrested for attempting to attend religious services together at a Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. They never entered the church. When they reached the steps they were told that they were not welcome. A policeman gave them two minutes to move on. As they started to walk away he told them that they had taken too long, and arrested them. They were indicted for trespass and disturbing divine worship. The Police Justices' Court of Jackson sentenced them to one year's imprisonment and fined each $1,000.

On December 15th, 1961, 1,500 Negroes demonstrated in front of East Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse, Louisiana, where 23 Negroes had been sentenced to imprisonment for picketing. On April 1st, 1962, Rev. B. Elton Cox a CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] field secretary was convicted of three misdemeanours arising out of the demonstrations. He was sentenced to one year's imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for impeding the administration of justice by holding a demonstration near the courthouse, and 5 months' imprisonment and a $500 fine for obstructing the pavement.

Clyde Kennard was a Negro from Mississippi, who had served in the United States Army in Korea, and graduated from Chicago University. He returned to Mississippi, and in 1959 in spite of several attempts to dissuade him, he applied to Mississippi Southern College (which was segregated) for admission as a graduate student. Kennard's application was rejected, but he intended to re-apply. Under Mississippi law, no one convicted of felony can be admitted to a State college or university. On September 25th, 1960, Kennard was arrested and prosecuted for being an accessory to the burglary of chicken feed worth $25 (in Mississippi any accessory to any felony is deemed to be a principal). Kennard was convicted largely on the evidence of an illiterate 19-year-old Negro who admitted having actually stolen the chicken feed, and was himself placed on probation. The trial had several unusual features (See generally, the Reporter, November 8th, 1962, pp. 30-34). The local white jury convicted Kennard, and the judge gave him the maximum sentence of 7 years' imprisonment. When I was in Mississippi, I examined the records of sentences imposed in one county for the past 4 years. The following are typical heavy sentences: forgery, 3 years; burglary and larceny, 4 years; manslaughter, 6 years; armed robbery, 12 years; kidnapping, 5 years; rape, 2 years plus 3 years probation. Assuming that Kennard was guilty, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the sentence against him was deliberately vindictive. Kennard served a few years, then contracted cancer, was released and died shortly thereafter.

At about 3 am on May 8th, 1963 (according to the brief of the US Department of Justice in a case now pending), unidentified white men exploded 3 fire bombs in the home of Hartman Turnbow, in Holmes County, Mississippi. Turnbow was a Negro who had previously attempted to register to vote. His house was newly decorated but not insured, and he and his family were asleep inside. When Turnbow heard the noise of the explosions, he seized his rifle and ran out of the house. One of the men allegedly shot at him and his family, and Turnbow returned the fire before they escaped. The Turnbows succeeded in putting out the fire and told a local civil rights worker what had happened. They also indirectly informed the High Sheriff. Shortly thereafter, Robert Moses, Programme Director of COFO [Council of Federated Organisations], came to the house and began to take photographs. The Deputy Sheriff then arrived, and told Moses to stop taking pictures. However, when the Sheriff himself arrived, Moses tried to take another photograph and was promptly arrested on a charge (as he was later told) of refusing to obey an officer. During that afternoon, three Negro civil rights workers, who tried to visit Moses in gaol, were arrested on suspicion of arson, and Moses was also charged with arson and impeding an investigation. Later Turnbow too was arrested and charged with arson. In their brief, the Department of Justice described these charges as 'false and baseless' and allege that the prosecutions were brought 'for the purpose of intimidating, threatening and coercing Negro citizens of Holmes County from applying for registration and from registering to vote.' The charges of arson were subsequently dismissed against all but Turnbow himself, and he himself was not ultimately indicted by the Grand Jury. The transcripts do not indicate that there was any evidence whatever that Turnbow or the civil rights workers had committed arson.

Between June and September 1964 in Mississippi there were over a thousand arrests of civil rights workers. Many of these were for alleged traffic offences or breaches of the peace. There can be little doubt that by these tactics the local law enforcement officials hoped to weaken the spirit and financial resources of the Movement. As for the civil rights lawyers, their tactics were either to attempt to transfer the cases to a Federal court, on the ground that their clients could not expect a fair trial in a State court, or to appeal from the State court's verdict. But many such cases are transferred back to the State court, by which time the accused civil rights workers, out on bail, may be back in college in the North. The civil rights organisations cannot afford continual appeals to the State and Federal appellate courts, and, in spite of the large number of lawyers who volunteered to work for the Lawyers Constitutional Defence Committee during the Summer Project, there are not enough lawyers to deal with myriad minor cases throughout the Deep South ...


Northern civil rights workers accused of crimes in the South must expect to have to raise larger sums for bail than local civil rights workers, since sterner sanctions may be necessary to secure their presence at their trials. One of the problems which the civil rights organisations have had to face is the cumulative effect of high bail. In December 1962, the cash requirements for bail bonds in the Freedom Ride cases in Jackson, Mississippi, amounted to $372,000. In June 1963, bonds for demonstrators in Danville, Virginia, exceeded $145,000. Another problem is that many civil rights workers return to Northern universities after their work in the South. If they fail to attend their trials in the South, not only will they forfeit their bail, but they will provide Southern officials with justification for increasing bail requirements in the future. On the other hand, the Northern student, after travelling several hundred miles to attend his trial, may find that it has been adjourned, that he must come again, at further expense and loss of time at university. These are problems of the legitimate use of bail, but there are still greater problems where the bail system has been deliberately used to intimidate the movement.

A survey of 'Bail and Civil Rights' was recently carried out by Louis F. Claiborne, a staff member of the US Department of Justice, for the 1964 National Conference on Bail and Criminal Justice. It found that in some rare cases, a civil rights worker had been accused of a felony in order to justify prohibitive bail, or a denial of bail. For example, in Americus, Georgia, four demonstrators were held without bail on the capital charge of 'insurrection' until ordered release on bail by a Federal court. Sometimes, bail problems are aggravated by the 'unnecessary multiplicity of charges instituted for a single course of conduct.' For example, in March 1964, demonstrators at a theatre in New Orleans were required to post $4,500 on 8 charges: 'trespass,' 'resisting arrest,' 'disturbing the peace,' 'refusing to move on,' 'criminal mischief,' 'blocking an entrance,' and two counts of 'contributing to the delinquency of a minor'.

Passengers watch their smoking Greyhound bus -- among them members of the 'Freedom Riders,' a group sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality -- after an attack by a white mob who stoned the bus, slashed the tyres and set it alight. The attack happened in Anniston, Alabama, USA in May 1961.

Another abuse, apparently confined to Louisiana, consists of 'pyramiding'. The case of the Rev. B. Elton Cox has already been referred to. When he was arrested in December 1961, after the demonstrations in front of the East Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse, bail was originally set at $2,000. When this sum was paid, bail was increased to $4,000, then on each successive payment, to $6,000 and $8,000. Eventually, after protests by attorneys, it was settled at $6,000.

Exorbitant bail is not usually set before trial though there have been exceptional cases in the South and orth. However after conviction the position is different. In Atlanta, Georgia, in one case involving a 77-year-old Californian minister, convicted of disturbing public worship, bail on appeal was set at $20,000. The Georgia Supreme Court reduced it to $5,000, but the minister spent 7 months in gaol because his tender of $5,000 in cash was refused, and he was unable to post that amount in unencumbered property, as required by the Court.

The Justice Department Survey finds that in Jackson, Mississippi, 'the bond required on appeal to the circuit court has almost invariably been set at the legal maximum: $1,500 ($500 'cost bond' plus $1,000 'appeal bond'). Bonds of $1 ,000 or more pending appeal are apparently common in civil rights cases in many Southern jurisdictions. Since the sentence is often a much smaller fine, there is a great temptation to abandon the appeal ... nor is the distinction between local residents and others observed. In Itta Bena, Mississippi, last June, some forty local Negroes were held on $500 or $750 bond pending trial de novo in the county court, on a charge of disturbing the peace, the only distinction drawn being between men and women.' There is difficulty in obtaining local property bonds, and local bonding companies are often unwilling to do business with civil rights organisations, while out-of-State companies are not accepted as qualifying locally. During the Mississippi Summer Project, it was impossible to obtain help from any of the local bonding companies.

The Survey concludes that 'in many Southern communities (and perhaps elsewhere) bail requirements in civil rights cases did much more than merely assure the defendant's appearance in court. In many instances, the net effect of bail demands was to arrest the demonstrations, by exhausting the organisation's treasury or temporarily removing the participants, or their leaders. Doubtless, that consequence was sometimes unintentional. But, in other cases, bail was obviously used, even manipulated, to achieve that end. The nature and number of the charges, the amount of the bonds, and the form of security required, in some instances were plainly intended to delay or prevent release.' ...

Southern juries

In many parts of the Deep South, Negroes have traditionally been and remain systematically excluded from juries. In recent years, the US Supreme Court has reversed a number of convictions of Negroes on the ground that such racial exclusion violated their constitutional rights to equal protection of the law. It is encouraging to note that the Georgia State courts have followed this example. However, most Southern juries are still predominantly or entirely white. The role of the Southern jury in the trial of civil rights workers has already been discussed. Its effect is equally important in the trial of white persons accused of crimes against Negroes and civil rights workers.

The right to be tried by one's peers is deeply embedded in Anglo-American law. Allegations of serious Federal or State crimes are usually investigated by a grand jury drawn from the appropriate locality to determine whether there is a prima facie case to be tried. The trial itself is by jury. Federal juries are usually drawn from a wider area than local State juries and are better educated, but they are still selected from the State in which the offence has allegedly been committed. Naturally, the Southern jury reflects white Southern opinion and, in effect, the prosecutor is faced with the task of persuading a representative group of white Southerners to punish the accused for defending their way of life. Not surprisingly, the accused is acquitted, or, more often, never prosecuted at all. The virtual impossibility of convicting the murderer of a civil rights worker is one of the most potent sources of injustice in the Deep South. Some recent examples will illustrate the problem.

Black women arrested after a protest demonstration in Orangeburg, South Carolina, USA, being marched from the county jail to the city jail -- May 1963.

Two black girls try to escape the police after attempting to board a bus taking white students to an all-white school. They were part of a picket line in Crawford, Georgia, USA; November 1965.

On the night of June 10th, 1963, Medgar Evers, Negro NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Field Secretary in Mississippi, was killed by a sniper's bullet outside his home. A few days before his death he said, in a press interview, 'If I die it will be in a good cause. I have been fighting for America just as much as the soldiers in Viet Nam.' Byron De La Beckwith, a fertiliser salesman from Greenwood, Mississippi, was arrested by FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents on June 22nd 1963, and indicted for the murder of Evers by a Grand Jury of 17 white persons and one Negro. Beckwith was well known for his racial views and had once written that a 'lot of shooting' would be required of Mississippians in the future to protect their families from bad Negroes. While Beckwith was in prison awaiting trial, he was treated as a hero and given every possible comfort. A White Citizens' Legal Defence Fund collected $15,000 on his behalf. At his first trial, in early 1964, 2 taxi-cab drivers gave evidence that Beckwith had asked 4 times for Evers' address, a few days before Evers was shot. Beckwith's car was identified by a number of witnesses as having been in the area twice before the murder and, on the night of the killing, 300 feet from Evers' house. Beckwith gave evidence that the rifle found near the scene of the crime 'could be' his, but that it was lost or stolen shortly before the murder. Beckwith had incidentally been traced by a fingerprint on the telescopic sight of the rifle found near the scene of the crime. He claimed that at the time of the murder he was 90 miles away. During the 24 hour wait for the jury's verdict, former Governor Ross Barnett and former Major-General Edwin A. Walker were at Beckwith's side. Barnett had entered the courtroom during the trial and shaken hands with Beckwith. The all-white jury was unable to agree on its verdict, so there was a mistrial. Several police officials called the decision 'a moral victory for the state'. Beckwith was tried again in April 1964 before a second all-white jury. On April 12th, 1964, the New York Times reported that 'The Ku-Klux-Klan is putting on a show of force on behalf of ... Beckwith ... Ten crosses were burned in the Jackson area last night. Today, about 75 tough-looking men, some linked with Klan activity, showed up as spectators in court.' At the second trial, one of the taxi-cab drivers testified that Beckwith 'resembled' (rather than was) the man who had asked where Evers lived. The prosecuting District Attorney later told the press that the taxi-cab driver had been beaten since the first trial. Incidentally, during the trial, the local press in Jackson gave extensive coverage to the evidence on Beckwith's behalf, but little to that of the prosecution. For a second time the jury failed to agree, and Beckwith returned home as a hero. To many people whom I met in Mississippi, the Beckwith case was shocking because a white Mississippi jury had actually disagreed, instead of unanimously acquitting Beckwith, while Federal officials regarded this disagreement as a sign of substantial progress towards justice in the State. In theory, since the case is still pending, Beckwith could be tried for a third time, but in practice it is unlikely that this will happen.

On July 11th, 1964, Lemuel Penn, a Negro schoolteacher and Army Reserve Colonel, was killed while driving through rural North Georgia by a shotgun blast from a passing car. On August 6th, 1964, 4 Ku-Klux- Klansmen were arrested, and 2 were indicted for Penn's murder. The FBI had obtained a confession from an accomplice incriminating the 2 men. They were tried before an all-white jury in September 1964. Two witnesses gave evidence that they saw the men walk into a garage 24 miles from the scene of the crime at about 5.0 am on the morning of the murder, carrying a sawed-off shotgun. The defence attorneys urged the 'Anglo-Saxon Madison County Jury' not to 'send these here boys into those cold grey stone walls' to be electrocuted, and said that FBI agents were 'carpet-baggers ... who are infiltrating our justice'. The jury acquitted the men. Federal charges of depriving Penn of his civil rights are still pending against them. If they are indicted by the Federal Grand Jury, they will be tried by a Federal jury, drawn from the State of Georgia.

On June 21st, 1964, the day the Mississippi Summer Project began, three civil rights workers, James E. Chaney, a Mississippi Negro, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, went to Neshoba County, Mississippi, to investigate the burning of a church. That afternoon, Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price arrested the three men in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and held them in gaol for several hours on a speeding charge. Price said he released them at about 10.30pm after Chaney had paid a $20 fine. Two days later, their car was found burned in a swamp a few miles from Philadelphia. After a massive search, on August 4th, the FBI found the bodies of the men under an earthen dam 5 miles from the town. In the course of the search, they also discovered 2 half-bodies of Negro men in the Pearl River, about whom there had previously been no concern or interest. The State authorities refused to release the official autopsy report on the three civil rights workers even to the coroner's jury, and, on August 25th, the coroner's jury reported that the available information was insufficient to enable it to determine the cause of death. On September 30th, the local grand jury failed to return any indictment in the case. It publicly exonerated local law enforcement authorities, stating that they had done well to maintain law and order 'in the face of drastic provocations by outside agitators.' After their report was read, Circuit Judge O.H. Barnett told the jurors that they had 'exhibited the courage of men of the Revolutionary days of this country.'

On October 2nd, a Federal grand jury indicted Sheriff Rainey, Deputy Price, two policemen, and a former sheriff, all from Philadelphia, Mississippi, on charges of violating the rights of local Negroes by unlawfully detaining and beating them. These indictments grew out of the FBI investigation into the murders of the three civil rights workers but related to crimes allegedly committed long before the murders. On December 4th, the FBI arrested Sheriff Rainey, Deputy Price, and 19 other white men in connection with the murders. The FBI alleged that Sheriff Rainey had been involved in a conspiracy, but had not been involved in the actual killings, while Deputy Price had unlawfully arrested and detained the 3 men before giving them to a lynch mob of which he was part. Nineteen of the defendants, most of them members of the Ku-Klux-Klan, were charged under Federal law with conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of the 3 dead men. Two others were charged with failing to disclose information about the crime. It was not possible to prosecute any of the accused for murder, since murder is only a State crime, and the Mississippi State authorities apparently refused to prosecute. On December 10th, the FBI disclosed in a preliminary hearing before the US Commissioner in Meridian, Mississippi, that they had obtained a signed confession from one of the defendants. The Commissioner proceeded to rule that the FBI agent's evidence about the confession was hearsay and inadmissible, and to dismiss the charges against 19 of the defendants. A spokesman for the US Justice Department later stated that 'In the experience of the Department, the refusal by a US Commissioner to accept a law enforcement officer's report of a signed confession in a preliminary hearing is totally without precedent.' The Department decided to withdraw the charges against the remaining 2 defendants, and to refer the case to the Federal grand jury. At the time of writing, 16 of the men have been re-arrested and indicted by the Federal grand jury. They are now awaiting trial before a Federal jury in Mississippi.

Published February 1965
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 5:18 am


Three reports were published simultaneously in September 1965. They dealt with prison conditions in Portugal, South Africa and Romania. Reports followed on prison conditions in Paraguay, Rhodesia and East Germany. The 'Berliner Zeitung,' an East Berlin daily newspaper, commented in 1966: '... The report on Portugal is excellent, but it is absurd to focus on East Germany, as there are no political prisoners in East Germany, anyone looking for violations of human rights in that part of the world should concentrate on West Germany ... ' The following extract is from 'Prison Conditions in South Africa'.

Robben Island, South Africa's maximum security prison, seven miles from Cape Town. Robben Island has been a penal settlement for 400 years and it is claimed that no one has survived the icy swim to freedom.

The treatment and conditions of a sentenced prisoner in South Africa are largely determined by the two factors of his race and his prison category.

Racial differences

The Regulations provide that whites and non-whites shall receive different clothing, diet and bedding allowances. Some privileges also depend on race; tobacco, for example, is allowed to white males, in category B but to no other races. White and non-white prisoners are at all times segregated; when possible they are kept out of view of each other. Where it is practicable, non-whites of different races are also separated, and also given separate diets, clothes and bedding; but these distinctions are often implemented only when there are a large number of Coloureds or Indians in a particular prison at anyone time. No allowance, however, is made in conditions for the normal living standards of a non-white prisoner, with the result that a highly educated African accustomed to living standards higher than many Europeans receives the food and clothing laid down for so-called 'primitive Bantu'.

Robben Island 'elite'

On Robben Island, however, at the present time, it appears that a small group among the political prisoners, perhaps 5%, has been allowed slightly better conditions than the others; this 'elite' consists of those individuals thought by the authorities to constitute the 'leadership' in political terms, as opposed to the rank and file. These prisoners have small cells of their own, receive better clothing and bedding and many of them are allowed to study. They are kept apart from the other prisoners and so their influence upon them is made minimal. In this group are the 'Rivonia' trialists and other prisoners whose names are known outside South Africa.

Observation and classification

On his reception in prison, a person with a sentence of over two years spends an initial period under 'observation', as a result of which he is placed in one of the four prison categories, A, B, C & D. During his observation period, he is placed in an 'observation centre', separate from the rest of the prison and may be kept in strict isolation when this is thought necessary for classification purposes. The prisoner is kept under close surveillance by trained officials with the object of determining his 'age, health, mental condition, character traits, social background, previous conduct, ability to work and aptitude ... for the purpose of classification and training'. He is then placed in a category from which he can subsequently be 'promoted or downgraded according to progress or otherwise'. It is this classification which determines the privileges he may receive, the standard of his general living conditions, the quality of his clothing and bedding, the type of prisoner with whom he lives, (very often) the general attitude of the prison authorities towards him and, sometimes, the type of work he does. The Regulations do not lay down that a low category carries with it inferior conditions, but in practice this appears to be the case.

According to the Prisons Department, the group into which most ordinary prisoners are placed is Grade B; this allows a monthly visit by two people, two letters a month, tobacco in the case of white males, certain sporting and communal recreations, two books and magazines a week. Groups C and 0, however, are allowed one three and six monthly visit respectively by one person, and a 500 word letter written and received at the same intervals; they may not smoke, or take part in any form of recreation other than reading two books which must be from the prison library and may not be sent in from outside. Study is accounted a privilege and is allowed for all grades.

Up to the present time, all persons convicted of political offences have been initially graded 'D'; a few individuals have worked their way to Grade 'C', but this has taken two or three times as long as is usual for criminal prisoners. Grade 'D' is officially stated to be for 'the type of prisoner with a previous record and/or convictions of serious crime of a daring or aggressive nature or other aggravating circumstances, such as convictions for rape, robbery or violence in one form or another, ... (he) will not hesitate to inflict serious bodily harm in order to escape or effect his criminal purposes. Initial maximum security measures or institutional safe custody, treatment and training are indicated.'

African and Indian women give the 'thumbs up' sign on their release from Durban prison after they were imprisoned for using "European only' seats in government buildings.

A group of prisoners on Robben Island building a road outside the confines of the prison. South Africa 1977.

Of the 20 white male political prisoners at present serving their sentences at Pretoria Local, all began their sentences in Grade '0', most, if not all, remain there and some are into the second year of their imprisonment; all but two are university graduates, four are university lecturers, one is a lawyer, one a teacher and one a schoolteacher.

It is reported that long term African political prisoners undergo no classification process; all are graded 'D' on their conviction and sent direct to Robben Island. For those political prisoners who are classified, the process may take up to a year, although one or two months is the usual period for other prisoners, and they report that there is no 'surveillance by trained officials' ...


The clothing worn by prisoners is determined by the Commissioner according to health and warmth requirements; it varies according to the racial group. Africans receive short trousers, a jacket, a shirt, and a sweater during winter months. They have no underwear or socks, and complaints have been received that prisoners on Robben Island have no shoes or sandals. Men performing heavy quarrying work throughout the year and living in unheated buildings with stone floors complain severely of the cold when they have to go barefoot. It also appears that the authorities' refusal to allow prisoners their sweaters except in the winter months is more of a hardship in the changeable climate of the Cape than it might be elsewhere. Indians and Coloureds have similar clothing to that of the Africans, but are allowed long trousers. Whites receive long trousers, underwear, shirt, jacket, socks, boots, sweater and pyjamas. Prisoners on Robben Island receive clean shirts once a week. Although in Pretoria Central, in the observation centre, some prisoners had to wash their clothes themselves during their exercise period and dry them in the cells.

Toilet articles

Prisoners in Grades 'C' and 'D' are allowed no personal possessions of any sort.

According to the Regulations, each prisoner, on reception, shall be allowed a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, shaving brush and razor blades; other toilet articles such as a hairbrush, shaving soap, nailbrush, etc., may be bought by the prisoner either from private funds or from money he has earned. Many instances have been reported from different prisons, but particularly from Robben Island, where non-white prisoners were not given a comb or a toothbrush. In these cases, unless they receive money from their families, they have no way of obtaining them unless they achieve a 'gratuity' post, which can only happen when they are in Grades 8 or A. Prisoners on Robben Island may spend 10/- every six weeks on toilet articles.


Certain punishments are officially laid down for breaking the regulations, and for misdemeanours ranging from disobedience, the use of indecent words, singing, whistling, speaking without permission, to causing discontent, excitement or insubordination, or acting in any way 'contrary to good order and discipline'. If the prisoner admits the offence, the head of the prison may summarily remand him and deprive him of all privileges and gratuities for up to a month, or of one or more meals for a day. If he denies it, he is charged and tried by either a magistrate or a commissioned officer; he may have his legal adviser present. After trial by a commissioned officer, punishment may be imposed of corporal punishment of up to six strokes, solitary confinement with or without spare diet for up to six days, with or without light labour for up to IS days of which 10 may be on a reduced diet. After trial by a magistrate, the court may impose a sentence of up to six months imprisonment or solitary confinement with or without light labour for up to 42 days, 28 of which may be on a reduced diet. There is no appeal for a prisoner against a sentence for disciplinary contravention, although appeal may be made against a sentence imposed by a magistrate for an offence under the Prisons Act. Corporal punishment may only be administered after the medical officer has examined the prisoner, the head of the prison must be present, and more than ten strokes may not be inflicted at one time. Solitary confinement may not exceed two months without a special order from the Minister of Justice, and a person in solitary confinement must receive 30 minutes exercise twice a day. A prisoner undergoing either solitary confinement or spare diet must be visited daily by the head of the prison and as often as possible by the medical officer. A prisoner on spare diet shall do no work and must receive normal diet once in every three days; spare diet is defined as 8 oz. of rice or mealie rice boiled in four pints of water without salt a day for men and 6 oz. for women. A reduced diet may also be imposed, consisting of half the normal daily ration, without jam, treacle or curry.

The most usual forms of punishment imposed in practice appear to be depriving a prisoner of meals for one or two days. In practice, the times of meals make this a harder penalty than is specifically laid down. 'When punished by missing three meals, we were allowed nothing but water. Normally breakfast on Saturday is at 8.30 am, lunch at 10.30am and supper at 2.00 pm. So the punishment, which was always on a Sunday, meant no food from 2.00 pm Saturday to 7.00 am Monday.' This punishment appears to be imposed for failing to work hard enough either in the quarries or on mailbags. On one occasion a group of 175 prisoners on Robben Island had their meals withdrawn for a day for making too much noise.

Sentences of segregation or solitary confinement are also imposed. On Robben Island there is a block of single cells used as a punishment block; although built for IS, it is reported to hold up to 50 prisoners at anyone time. Prisoners are kept in solitary confinement; they are made to sew mail bags and if more than a certain number (Strachan says three) are unsatisfactory, they lose their meals for a day. Prisoners are not allowed to talk, they exercise at a distance of five paces from each other, lose all privileges during their punishment and receive the lowest quality clothes. It is not known whether, or for what offences, political prisoners have been put in segregation for long periods.

Prisoners state that they have been put in isolation or deprived of meals for complaining about assaults, bad food, bad work conditions and also for reporting sick; it would also appear that punishment is imposed summarily by some warders without an enquiry being made into his alleged offence.


Searching of prisoners appears to take place in public. Prisoners are made to remove their clothes whenever they come into their section from outside. An officer examines a prisoner's body for smuggled tobacco or money with apparently little regard for the prisoner's dignity. The 'tausa' dance is still used as a method of searching; in it the prisoner is made to remove his clothes and leap into the air, turning round and bending to expose his anus. The Lansdowne Commission recommended that as soon as possible this method should be abandoned and at Leeukop criminal prisoners returning from work are now searched with an electric eye. The Regulations themselves say: 'Searching shall be conducted in a seemly manner and as far as possible without injury to self-respect ... A prisoner shall as far as possible not be stripped and searched in the presence and sight of other prisoners'. One prisoner has described searching as the 'greatest humiliation' of prison.

Published September 1965
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