Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 6:07 am


Unrest in Aden -- a former British colony now part of the People's Democratic Republic of the Yemen -- in the early 1960s brought British troops into action against local demonstrators. Many were detained. Controversy surrounded a 1966 Amnesty International mission that investigated allegations of torture by British interrogators in the colony. The mission concluded in its report that specific tortures had been inflicted on many of the hundreds of detainees in custody. Subsequent protests prompted the British Government to conduct its own inquiry, which recommended changes -- eventually accepted by the government -- to protect detainees. Extracts from the report of the mission are given here.

The military authorities in Aden have not caught many terrorists throwing handgrenades or in short duels with the military. The majority of those now detained are arrested in the following way:

The house is encircled in the early morning hours when the military are convinced that their suspects are sleeping inside. They break in the door, or a window, and enter the house, immediately arresting and taking away the man whom they are looking for and search the house, it is said, without consideration for the furniture and other belongings of the family; they often leave the house in a mess. The arrested man is allowed no contact with the outside world for an indefinite period of time. After interrogation, which in many cases has taken more than 28 days, he is moved to a detention centre and can be visited by his family and relatives. The exact number of these detainees is unknown but may lie between 200 and 300 persons, according to the Adeni sources. On July 25, 1966, Amnesty International received the names of 164 Adeni citizens who were arrested under similar conditions mentioned above ...

Next comes the question of ill-treatment and torture practised as a method of interrogation. The very fact that a neutral organisation such as Amnesty International is not allowed to interview the detainees increases the suspicion of practice of torture at the interrogation centres. The ex-detainees, the relatives of the present detainees, whom I interviewed in Aden and other sources complained of the following forms of torture:

1. Undressing the detainees and making them stand naked during interrogation.

2. Keeping the detainees naked in super-cooled cells with air conditioners and fans running at the highest speed.

3. Keeping the detainees awake by irritating them until they are exhausted.

4. Offering food to hungry detainees and removing it just as they start eating.

5. Forcing the detainees to sit on poles directed towards their anus.

6. Hitting and twisting their genital organs.

7. Extinguishing cigarettes on their skin.

8. Forcing them to run in circles until they are exhausted.

9. Banning visits to lavatories so that they soil their cells with faeces and urine.

10. Keeping them in filthy toilets with the floor covered with urine and faeces.

Other forms of ill-treatment can be read in individual case reports ...

Demonstrators in Aden are rounded up by British soldiers during a protest against the arrival of a United Nations mission in April 1967.

British Army sergeant with two demonstrators in the Crater district of Aden ... April 1967.

Hashim Jawee:

Elected member of the Municipal Council of the City of Aden. Profession clerk. About 25 years. I spoke to this ex-detainee in a private house in Aden on July 29, 1966. He gave me some information spontaneously but I had to ask some questions in order to get a detailed record of his interrogation at Fort Morbut. He seemed to be deeply shaken by the interrogation and showed some feelings of shame for the humiliating treatment to which he had been subjected. There was no doubt about the truth of his description of his arrest and interrogation. I read to him what I had written about his case; he approved the report and had no objection to the publication of his case report by Amnesty International. Hashim Jawee spoke to me in fluent English:

Two hours after midnight July 6th, 1966, the entrance door to his house was broken, and the house searched by a number of soldiers. He was taken to Fort Morbut and thrown into an isolated cell. The iron door was banged by kicking at half-hour intervals. Later on his clothes were taken off and he was left naked for a while before the interrogation began, by British Military personnel. His buttocks and genital organs were examined in order to humiliate him. The examiner was not a physician and the examination was not a medical health examination. After this examination they asked for his address which they already knew and he was sent back to his cell and his clothes were returned. During the first three days the barrel of a gun was pointed at him through the cell window and Jawee was told that he was going to be shot within a short time. The cell had a temperature of nearly 100°F (37°C) which is not unusual in this climate. He was not allowed to take a cold shower. On the third day he was asked about a list of names which the interrogators suspected that he was in contact with. On one occasion he was drawn by his hair and on another occasion he was kicked. He was not allowed to receive visitors or to confer with a lawyer.

On several occasions he was taken out of his cell at night and ordered to run round the courtyard until he was exhausted. When asking for a glass of water he was spat upon in the face. Inventories of the cell consisted of an iron bed covered by hard brushy clothing and a dirty blanket which was soaked in sweat. The food he received was inedible. He was asked to clean the lavatories several times. He was released after nearly two weeks without a charge.
Muhammed Said Basharain:

28 years old. Born and raised in Aden. Ex-detainee. Arrested twice; in 1963 and 1964. I met this man on July 29th, 1966. He spoke English fluently. He gave an open and reliable account about his arrests. I read up his case story which he accepted and had no objection that the information which he gave to Amnesty International was published.

First arrest, 1963. Mr. Basharain was arrested together with 58 trade union leaders including Mr. Abdullah Al Asnag and people belonging to PSP (Peoples Socialist Party). They were all arrested in the early hours of the morning. This happened after the bomb incident at Aden airport on December 10, 1963, and immediately after the proclamation of the State of Emergency. All the prisoners were taken to the capital of the Fadhly Federal State and imprisoned there for 62 days. They proclaimed a hunger strike in protest at the inhuman treatment to which they were subjected. They were released after 62 days of detention. All of them were interrogated several times and no evidence could be produced against them for their participation in the bomb incident.

Second arrest, October 1964. After the burning of a newspaper house he was arrested at noontime and taken to Fort Morbut. His clothes were removed except for underpants before he was interrogated by British Military personnel. He was left in a toilet for 12 hours lying on the floor covered by urine and faeces. He proclaimed a hunger strike which drew attention after 24 hours. He was then removed to a separate cell. After seven days of interrogation he was released for lack of evidence.

Radiya Ihsan:

Miss Radiya Ihsan is the general secretary of the Arab Women's Society in Aden. This case is taken to exemplify that people can be arrested in Aden for purely political reasons. Miss Ihsan, who is 32 years old, has been arrested twice.

First arrest: In December 1962 she was accused of participating in demonstrations against the union of Aden with the South Arabian Federation. She was kept in prison 10 weeks. During this period another charge was brought against her and she was fined a small sum of money. On one occasion she was kept in the same room with a number of psychiatric patients.

Second arrest: In December 1963, she was arrested once more, this time under the emergency laws. She spent one week in a cell at a police station followed by 8 weeks in Aden prison. The reason for this detention was, she says, to cut off her contacts with some journalists who were visiting Aden. The Arab Women's Society demonstrated in favour of Miss Ihsan. This case is well-known in Aden.

Published December 1966



Lee Shim-bom, a law student at Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea, was arrested in June 1980 and sentenced by a military court to nine years' imprisonment for organizing student demonstrations. Takento prison, he was in great pain, attributed to the beatings inflicted on him during interrogation. He was said to be unable to move his neck and one arm. The authorities, however, denied him medical treatment on the grounds that the prison did not have the necessary facilities. In protest, Lee Shim-bom started a hunger-strike.

Amnesty International learned of his worsening condition and launched a worldwide Urgent Action appeal on his behalf. He then received only minimal medical attention in prison and was not examined or treated in an appropriate hospital. Amnesty International continued its appeals for him to receive proper medical attention throughout his term of imprisonment.

The organization campaigned for Lee Shim-bom's unconditional release on the grounds that he was a prisoner of conscience, jailed for the non-violent exercise of his human rights. Under a presidential amnesty granted for Christmas 1982, he was released - having served only two years of his nine-year sentence. He now lives in the United States where he has received medical treatment by doctors connected with Amnesty International. In February 1983 he told an Amnesty International conference in California:

'During the dismal and lonesome days, international concern and support have always encouraged us greatly ... All the dictators have fantasies that they can suffocate and divide people in their own country. Under these circumstances we know what they are afraid of most is world opinion and criticism of their tyranny. Here we can see the effective role of the Amnesty International movement encouraging the oppressed.

'Your efforts and prayers saved my life and thanks to your support I can have an opportunity to live as a human being ... '
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 6:08 am


By 1967, Amnesty International was working for nearly 2,000 prisoners in 63 countries. There were 550 groups in 18 countries. Hundreds responded to a Christmas card mailing organized that year for prisoners and the following news release was issued.

Amnesty International, like other charities, produces a Christmas card. Unlike others, the Amnesty card is sent not only to friends and relations but also to prisoners of conscience in gaols all over the world.

With every order of one dozen cards goes a list of 12 prisoners, giving brief details of their imprisonment and postal instructions. 36 prisoners are listed, all of whom are now paying the price for following their political or religious beliefs. They include Eleni Voulgari, a Greek girl imprisoned since last year with her baby son, because her family sheltered a communist in 1953; Vladimir Batshev, a young Soviet poet sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for being an 'idler'; and Maoulvi Mohammed Farooq, a young Kashmiri nationalist, in prison in India since 1965 and reportedly in bad health.

Already over 13,000 cards have been sold. It is hoped that 50,000 will be sold by Christmas, most of which should find their way into prisons and camps in 25 countries. Experience has shown that although it is sometimes difficult to get ordinary letters or postcards through to a prisoner, Christmas cards are often allowed. So an Amnesty card may well be the only contact some prisoners will have with the outside world this Christmas ...


News release 7 November 1967
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 6:09 am


Amnesty International asked the Soviet Attorney General if it could send an observer to the trial of three writers in 1967. No reply was received.

Vladimir Bukovsky of the USSR was one of three writers whose trial in Moscow in August 1967 aroused international protest. He spent 11 years in labour camps, jails and psychiatric hospitals and was finally exchanged by the Soviet Government in December 1977 for a Chilean communist leader. He is shown here on his arrival in London.

Amnesty International is urgently mobilizing the 800 members of its Postcards for Prisoners Campaign all over the world to send cards to protest to the Soviet Government at the trial of the young writers Vladimir Bukovsky, Vadim Delone and Yevgeny Kushev which began yesterday at Moscow City Court. As early as February of this year, when the news of the arrests was made known, Amnesty International wrote to the Soviet Attorney General saying that it would like to send an observer to this trial and asked to be informed of the date. No reply was ever received and no warning of the trial was given.

Vladimir Bukovsky is the best known of the three men. Six years ago he was detained in a mental institution for contributing to 'Phoenix 1961', a forerunner of 'Phoenix 1966', an underground literary journal which has been the core of the present trouble. On his release four years later, Bukovsky again became active in the unofficial literary world and participated in the demonstration in Moscow in December 1965 calling for a fair trial for Sinyavsky and Daniel. He was again arrested and confined to a mental institution. His case was taken up by Amnesty International and an Amnesty member called on the Director of the Serbsky Institute of Forensic Psychiatry where Bukovsky was detained. Shortly afterwards Bukovsky was released and was free until his arrest in January this year.

In the meantime the people for whom Bukovsky, Delone and Kushev organised the January demonstration are themselves in prison awaiting trial. They are Yury Galanskov, Alexei Dobrovolsky, Peter Rodzievsky and Alexander Ginsburg (who also compiled the 'White Book' on the Sinyavsky/Daniel case). Galanskov, a dedicated pacifist, is noted for the solitary demonstration which he staged in June 1965 in front of the United States Embassy in Moscow to protest against American intervention in the Dominican Republic. He was editor of 'Phoenix 1966' and the author of an article explaining his ideas on improving the working of the United Nations, thereby improving international understanding and preserving peace.

The new Paragraph 190 of the Penal Code, sections 1and 3. The demonstration in Moscow in January 1967, apart from calling for the release of the imprisoned writers, protested against the introduction of this new law as an infringement of the rights of freedom of speech and assembly guaranteed by the Soviet Constitution. The previous month, 21 leading Soviet scientists and cultural figures, including the composer Shostakovich, had protested against this law. Briefly, section 1 of the new Paragraph forbids the writing or spreading of literature deemed to be anti-Soviet; section 3 forbids the organisation of or participation in group activities which disturb public order, i.e. any kind of unofficial demonstration or lobbying. Under this paragraph both 'Phoenix 1966' and the January demonstration were illegal and all the people involved in them are liable to up to three years detention in labour camps.

News release 31 August 1967
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 6:10 am


From 'Amnesty International Review': an interview with a former Chinese civil servant about conditions in a Chinese labour camp. He had been sent for 're-education' to a State Farm near the Soviet border. He provided a rare glimpse into labour camp life at a time when information was difficult to obtain from China following the Cultural Revolution.

Over the last 18 months the Chinese Cultural Revolution has received wide coverage in the international press. The fact that many reporters have been expelled and others, as foreigners, have been isolated from the Chinese, has prevented detailed reporting at first-hand. News-stories have thus described only the general trends and it has been impossible to know what practical effect political events have had on the lives of individuals.

This is an interview with a former Chinese civil servant who worked in a Peking ministry until the late nineteen-fifties when he was sent to a State Farm near the Soviet border, in the north-east of Heilunkiang Province. Although the experience he describes ended some six years ago, the farm is still believed to exist.

Q. Why were you sent to this camp?

A. Because during the Hundred Flowers movement in 1957, I criticised the Chinese Communist Party during a meeting. I was accordingly declared a rightist counterrevolutionary. I was never officially arrested, but simply told that I would be sent to a camp for labour and reform (re-education). My family was told in advance and given my address ... I was never officially charged or tried or sentenced, nor was I officially regarded as a prisoner.

Q What were the general conditions of your imprisonment?

A. We were sent to a part of Manchuria that had previously been uncultivated and virtually uninhabited, and imprisoned in a State Farm to cultivate the land. The State Farms are modelled on the military pattern, each farm being equivalent to an army division. My 'company' consisted of 100 men who, like myself, had all been in government service when arrested. We were still theoretically government officials, not prisoners, and continued to receive our government salaries while we were in the camp. The conditions of our imprisonment were therefore considerably better than those of real prisoners.

We were not given bed-clothes or toilet articles, but we could bring what we needed from Peking. We could also receive necessary articles from our families or buy them in the prison shop. There was no heating whatsoever and we suffered terribly from the cold, since the temperature went down to -16°C indoors in the winter. None of us was allowed to take a bath for the first several months. The toilets consisted of simple holes in the ground, and this resulted in considerable hardships during the winter months.

Q. Did you receive an adequate diet?

A. At first it was quite good. Each prisoner received 90 catties of food a month (1 catty= 1.3 lb), including rice, Chinese bread, quite good meat and fish. Because our working hours were long, we received 4 or 5 meals daily. During the Great Leap Forward, however, our ration was cut progressively from 90 to 50 to 45 to 36 to 21 catties a month. We no longer received any grains, only a type of feed normally given to pigs. There was no longer any hot food, and we had only two meals a day. We all began to suffer from malnutrition, which resulted in swellings and other forms of illness. We tried to supplement the regular diet by eating leaves, dead birds and field rats that we found on the ground, etc.

Q. Were visits allowed?

A. No, our camp was too far away and visiting permission was never granted.

Q. What punishments were given to prisoners?

A. We were occasionally refused meals if other prisoners had reported us as being counter-revolutionary. We were all encouraged to spy on our fellow-prisoners and to report any suspicious remarks to the authorities. We received no corporal punishments of the type that were inflicted on 'official' prisoners.

Q. How did your treatment compare with that of criminal prisoners?

A. No real distinction is made in China between criminal and political prisoners. All crimes (including theft) are regarded as basically political (anti-government, anti-Party, etc.).

Q. Did you have any contact with 'official' prisoners?

A. No, but there was a camp fairly near ours in which political prisoners who had been officially sentenced by a court were kept. These prisoners had usually received sentences of at least ten years and some were in prison for life. They were guarded by soldiers with guns, they were flogged for various offences such as trying to escape (at night we could hear screams and shouts from their camp); and their diet was considerably worse than ours; they had no prison shop, could not receive parcels from outside, etc. These men were regarded as active counterrevolutionaries, while we were simply considered to be 'rightists', 'bad enemies' or 'historical counterrevolutionaries', i.e. as men who had worked for the Kuomintang government but who were nevertheless not responsible for current counter-revolutionary activities in China.

Q. What work did you do?

A. Mostly digging ditches to drain water. In the winter the earth was frozen three feet deep, in summer we were immersed in water as we dug. We also did some planting and harvesting soy beans, and built roads and houses. We worked between 14 and 16 hours a day. During an extremely bad period at the time of the Great Leap Forward we worked for 10 days and nights at a stretch with virtually no rest at all.

Q. Was there a 'norm' to be fulfilled?

A. No, but there was a competitive system between groups. Rewards and special titles were given to the hardest workers. We were told that this was very effective in expediting our release from the camp, that in fact it was the only way to become free. So we all worked as hard as we possibly could.

Q. Would you complain about your working conditions?

A. Yes, we were forced to work far too hard. As a result, many of us fell ill, some seriously so. Of the 100-odd people in my original group about 20 died from illnesses which resulted essentially from over-work and malnutrition. There was no adequate hospital facility for those who became ill. When I myself was released and returned to Peking, I was too weak to walk upstairs.

Crowds in a Shanghai street, October 1966, listen to Red Guards publicizing points of the Cultural Revolution.

Published November 1967


One year after the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968, laws restricting freedom of expression and assembly and limiting the rights of detainees were introduced. The imprisonment of Czechoslovak citizens for the non-violent exercise of their human rights was to remain an Amnesty International concern throughout the years that followed. The organization has worked for the release of numerous prisoners of conscience and published details about their prison conditions. Amnesty International delegates sent to observe trials of prisoners of conscience in Prague have been refused entry to the courts or barred from entering the country.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 6:11 am


Within months of the April 1967 military coup in Greece thousands of political prisoners were detained.

Over the next seven years, Amnesty International adopted many of the victims as prisoners of conscience and its members flooded the authorities with appeals for their release.

The trial report here illustrates a frequently used technique: sending observers to political trials to establish first-hand whether internationally recognized standards for a fair trial are being met. Stelios Nestor, one of the defendants in this case, was later to become a leading member of Amnesty International.

In 1968 Amnesty International published evidence that torture was a systematic practice in Greece. A report by the European Commission of Human Rights - concluding that torture was an administrative practice of the Greek Government-was adopted in 1969 by the Committee of Ministers, setting a historic precedent for the principle of international responsibility for the protection of human rights.

Derek Page, Labour MP for Kings Lynn, attended the trial in Salonica of six lawyers and professional men charged with resistance to the Greek Government. He has given the following report to Amnesty International.

The main prosecution evidence was that the accused had printed and distributed opposition leaflets and had been in contact with Democratic Defence, the illegal Centre Union resistance organisation. The six defendants were found guilty and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 16 to 10 years.

Amnesty regards these savage sentences as quite disproportionate to the evidence brought by the Prosecution. Moreover the allegations of torture give rise to particular concern in view of the case now before the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg; Sweden, Denmark and Norway have charged the Greek Government with contravening Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which categorically forbids the use of 'torture, inhuman and degrading treatment'.

Report to Amnesty International

On November 5th, 1 flew to Athens and thence to Salonica in order to attend the trial of six men accused of being members of the resistance organisation Democratic Defence, At Athens the passport control officer checked each person arriving against an extensive card index. At Salonica, 1 was met by the British Consul General, Mr Little, and taken to the Mediterranean Palace Hotel where he had booked a room for me, The Consul General and an interpreter also accompanied me to the trial which started on the morning of the 6th. About this time, I noticed two plain-clothes men taking turns in following me and this shadowing continued throughout the visit.

The trial was by court martial, although the prisoners are civilians. They were: S. Nestor (36), lecturer in law, S. Dedes (39) lawyer, P. Zannas (40), former director of the Salonica Trades Fair and film executive, N. Pyrzas (30), English teacher, A. Maltsides (31) civil engineer, and C. Sipitanos (31) businessman. Also present in court were a civilian prosecutor and one lawyer for each prisoner. Five officers were acting as judges, the President of the court being Colonel Karapanos. The charges as read out, comprised the setting up of a resistance group for treasonable purposes, the printing and publishing of subversive leaflets and the distribution of newspapers from Democratic Defence in Athens. The trial was held under Law 509.

The President initially put on a jovial, fatherly tone and said that this court was not going to be conducted in a rigid manner, that there must be a free exchange of ideas and discussion to clarify the facts. During the proceedings he repeatedly interrupted, prompted witnesses, suggested evidence to them, argued with lawyers and prisoners, sometimes in friendly, sometimes in hectoring tones. On various occasions, the court became somewhat disorganised, with people moving about and policemen smoking.

Stelios Nestor, a law lecturer, stood trial with five others in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1968. All of them were found guilty of being members of a resistance organization and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 16 years. (Stelios Nestor was released in 1973). He is now a lawyer in Thessaloniki.)

I learned that three of the prisoners had been seriously maltreated and tortured, both physically and mentally, during interrogation. One had been hung up by the feet and beaten on the soles with wire mesh until his heart gave trouble. One prisoner's toe had been broken. Another was beaten heavily on the head and chest. Threats of summary execution were made with guns pointed at the man. One prisoner's fourteen-year-old son was beaten by police for attempting to smuggle Le Monde into the prisoners' cell. The police had threatened to bring the wife of one prisoner to him, with the statement that unless an admission was forthcoming, she would be made to suffer as he had. The six prisoners were kept together for four months in a single cell measuring three metres by three, from which they were allowed out for ten minutes per day. The cell contained no furniture and the prisoners slept on mattresses on the floor. I also learned that some thirty members of another resistance organisation, the Patriotic Front, had been particularly badly treated. Their trial is expected in the near future.

The prosecution's witnesses consisted of security officers. The first such witness, Karamitsou, made a long general statement as to the nature of the group and their activities. This evidence was largely composed of rather nebulous allegations but it soon became clear that the tactic was to link the group with the Patriotic Front in Salonica and' with the Democratic Defence in Athens, with the implication that the latter were linked with the Patriotic Front. The communists, it was alleged, wanted to use the association of these prominent men to give an air of respectability to anti-government activities. One of the defence lawyers got in one good point when he asked the witness whether it was not contradictory to allege this and also that the accused had taken care to keep anonymous. This witness, together with a second security officer, Bitsios, called in corroboration, occupied all the first day.

On the second day of the trial, the first witness called was a civilian named Melpos who was both the original instigator of the group and the person who gave them away, fear being the probable motive. This man is now free. He made a large statement admitting his part in forming the group. He went on to say that the group had no contact with the Patriotic Front until he himself made a contact with them and was offered cooperation. He discussed this with the others who decided not to cooperate except to the extent of using Patriotic Front equipment such as typewriters and duplicators. It was also denied that the Salonica Democratic Defence was under the direction of their colleagues in Athens. He himself was the only one to run contacts with the Patriotic Front, the group as a whole had not. This change in tone from what must have been his previous statements to the authorities caused some acrimonious exchange's with the prosecutor and judge, but he stuck to his story as he said it in court.

During the lunch break I learned that a telegram had arrived addressed to the President of the court from Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and other prominent film actors protesting at the trial.

The short final session that day was taken up by two character witnesses for the defence who said that they had been invited to join the group, had not done so, but said that they were never given the impression that the group was treasonous. When asked by a defence lawyer how the group could overthrow the regime, the President of the court interjected with a joke 'By getting tanks, of course! .. ', then apparently realised this this showed the ludicrous nature of the treason charge and added that their activities would provoke a spirit of resistance.

The trial was expected to go on for about two days more and I had to leave that evening to return to London.

The atmosphere frankly is much worse that I had thought possible. Prisoners' relatives, while grateful for the visit, were fearful of being seen with me. The allegations of torture are plainly well founded, but the oppression is such that proof is unlikely to be obtained in a form to suit normal courts. The people on this trial, as well as some two hundred others who are reliably reported to have been tortured and then released, are extremely cautious of even being seen with a foreigner and are unlikely to sign affidavits 'or present themselves as witnesses. The sight of civilians before a court martial is in itself revolting and a condemnation of the regime. In many years of travel to foreign countries, I have never seen a country where such fear of the authorities exists, with the possible exception of East Germany and even there, the blatant brutality is not to be compared.

During the time that the trial was in progress the town was doing a roaring trade outside the courtroom, due to a courtesy visit of the US Sixth Fleet. Whilst the Democrats were in no way anti-American it was felt that the acceptance of the junta in Nato military circles left a great deal to be desired.

National Police force officers in Athens.

Published November 1968


Friday 9 June 1978 remains etched into the memory of Shahid Nadeem, a Pakistani television producer and trade unionist imprisoned four times for his union work and student political activities. It was a day of searing heat which saw one of his fellow prisoners die of heat-stroke, with eight others collapsing in the factory at the notorious Mianwali maximum security prison situated in a semidesert region of the Punjab. It was also the day a letter brought him hope.

Shahid Nadeem, now abroad, recounts how at about 6.00 pm on 9 June 1978 a fellow prisoner arrived in his cell just before locking-up time with a piece of paper he called 'your letter from the USA'. It was a copy he had made of a letter in the possession of the prison superintendent, who was studying it, suspecting it contained a secret coded message. Addressed to Shahid Nadeem the letter said: 'You are not alone; don't lose heart. We pray for you. If there is anything you need, don't hesitate to ask.'

In spite of the intense heat, Shahid Nadeem said, 'Suddenly I felt as if the sweat drops all over my body were drops from a cool, comforting shower ... The cell was no longer dark and suffocating.' Soon the whole prison knew about his letter from an Amnesty International adoption group member in San Antonio, Texas. 'My colleagues were overjoyed and their morale was suddenly high.'

That evening the deputy-superintendent summoned him. 'He was so friendly and respectful I was shocked ... He explained his dilemma as a God-fearing jailer who had to obey orders and follow the rules .. .' The head warden also began to 'behave himself'. Taking their cue the junior staff changed as well. After a week the original letter was handed over to Shahid Nadeem.

As he puts it now: 'A woman in San Antonio had written some kind and comforting words which proved to be a bombshell for the prison authorities and significantly changed the prisoners' conditions for the better.'

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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 6:12 am


In 1966 the movement's annual International Assembly (forerunner of the biennial International Council Meeting of delegates elected from Amnesty International sections which is the movement's supreme governing body) decided to give prisoner of conscience status to those who refuse to fight in specific wars, in addition to those who refuse to fight in all wars. The following appeal to the United States Government on behalf of Vietnam war resisters comes from the' Amnesty International Review'.

Amnesty International appeals to the American Government to keep faith with its tradition of freedom of dissent by declaring an amnesty for all those imprisoned, awaiting trial, or in exile because of their refusal, on grounds of principle, to participate in the Vietnam war.

Few, if any, localised wars have provoked as much international debate and concern as the present war in Vietnam. Amnesty's concern here is not the rights and wrongs of the war as an international or political issue, but with the crisis of conscience which it has created for so many young Americans.

In the United States a unique combination of freedom to express dissent, side by side with conscription for an unpopular war and the absence of recognition of the right of selective conscientious objection (i.e. moral objection to participation in a particular war) has affected the lives of not hundreds, but thousands, of young American men between the ages of 18 and 26.

The dimension of the problem has not been fully publicised or appreciated. If all those directly affected are taken into account, including those currently indicted or in prison - as civilians or inside the army - those previously indicted or imprisoned, and the large numbers in hiding or in exile as deserters, the total figure would be in the region of 10,000 (Amnesty International is preparing a report which is to be published before the end of the year). Since the Civil War there has been no issue which has so divided the American people or resulted in imprisonment - in some cases sentences of as much as 10 years have been imposed for so many only because of their moral objection to government policy.

These young men are constantly and openly told by many of the most respected and respectable members of their society: churchmen, writers, professors, doctors, ex-ambassadors, even generals, that the war in Vietnam is immoral or illegal, suicidal for their country and murderous for the Vietnamese. On the other hand they are forced by the Selective Service Law to join the armed services, where they run the risk of fighting in a war that outrages their deepest moral beliefs.

The men in gaol, or indicted and awaiting trial, are not draft-dodgers in the sense of wanting an easy evasion of an unpleasant task. Many of them have given up their student deferments. Most of them are of above average education and intelligence. Men with these advantages have excellent opportunities of avoiding the draft within the law and without social stigma.

The indicted draft-resisters and some of the deserters in exile form a reservoir of potential prisoners of conscience who may populate the gaols of America long after there is no Vietnam war unless some form of amnesty is granted. The great majority of exiles are anxious to return, but see no profit to themselves or their country in surrendering their liberty while the war continues.

Jefferson County sheriffs drag a protesting anti-war demonstrator to a waiting jail bus. He was one of hundreds of students from the University of Colorado, USA, attacked with tear-gas and batons, 1968.

Men in the army who object to the war on conscientious grounds have very little chance of release. Because they are not normally accused of any specifically political crimes, the numbers involved are difficult to ascertain but it is certain that hundreds, and probably thousands, of objectors to the war are deserters or imprisoned in military stockades.

Amnesty International has recently had reason to write to, among others, the Italian, Norwegian, Spanish and Yugoslav governments about their policy in relation to conscientious objection. We now appeal to the American government, by declaring an amnesty, to confirm its long established stand as a champion of liberty of conscience and by introducing legislation to to cover selective conscientious objection to ensure that young Americans will never again be faced with imprisonment because of their courageous decision to make a stand about what they believe, rightly or wrongly, to be an immoral policy.

Published November 1969
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 6:13 am


Extracts from the 'Amnesty International Annual Report', nearly 10 years after the movement's launch. The first is from the introduction by the Secretary General, Martin Ennals, the second is a message from Sean MacBride, Chairperson of the International Executive Committee.

As Amnesty International approaches the end of its first decade it is confronted with the problems of growth both in size and recognition. The number of Amnesty groups adopting prisoners of conscience has increased from 640 to 850 and is still going up.New Amnesty committees are being established in countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa ....

Inevitably Amnesty International is a controversial organisation. The publication of criticism always produces retaliation. Criticism does not always need to be public and great care is taken to avoid publicity if reasonable progress seems possible without it. But publicity is one of the few weapons in the armoury of a human rights nongovernmental organisation and from time to time it is bound to be used. The extent of the publicity depends of course not on Amnesty International but on the press and television.

The political balance and committed neutrality which is the hallmark of Amnesty International's work does not mean that every action must immediately be balanced by another. Action taken must reflect the interest of the prisoners as much as the interests of the organisation. The balance must be seen and understood but it must not be contrived for effect. It is encouraging that both Soviet and American dissidents have used Amnesty International's channel of contact to the United Nations for the delivery of petitions to the Human Rights Commission ....

The aims of Amnesty International are clear and limited. There is always a temptation to expand them to cover allied topics where other organisations exist and are active. To concentrate our limited resources on the areas where we are known to be specialist is a policy which the Executive and Council have maintained since the new statute was approved in 1968.

The great advantage of Amnesty International is that it is practical and provides a real programme for individuals and groups. Its specialisation is within the reach of anyone provided with the basic information about the prisoners. There is no one else with precisely the same function. It would, I believe, be ill-advised to throwaway these advantages. There are many bodies who pass goodwill resolutions or who condemn governments in the field of human rights. We are unique in concentrating on practical work and therein lies much of our effectiveness.

As a voluntary international organisation Amnesty is a team of people each with a specific contribution to make. No one activity is adequate on its own. The groups who write the letters prepare the ground for the international executive who send the representatives to talk to the governments who receive the letters. It is interesting that talks with governments frequently start with discussions of the contents of cards and letters which have never been answered but are on the desk of the minister or in the hand of the ambassador who denies that he takes any notice of Amnesty correspondence.

Published 1970

Message from Scan MacBride, SC, Chairperson of the International Executive Committee

When you read of people being imprisoned for having expressed views that displease an authoritarian government or of prisoners being tortured you are shocked, but you feel helpless. You are anxious to do something to help but you do not know how. Instead of feeling helpless, you can help by supporting Amnesty International. It has the courage and ability to act for you - and to act effectively. Amnesty acts as the voice of the human conscience in these matters and can translate your sense of helplessness into concrete action that will protect Prisoners of Conscience. You can help Amnesty International by joining an Amnesty Group, or by forming one among your friends or by sending a subscription.

One hopeful feature of the present period of world history is that public opinion is now becoming more powerful. Because of the mass media of communications there is a growing awareness of world happenings. This growing awareness leads to the formation of public opinion on a world-wide basis. In turn, Governments can no longer act in secret: they are dependent on their own image both nationally and internationally and therefore must heed world public opinion. In this situation Amnesty International is becoming more potent and Governments can no longer ignore it.

We are glad to register a growing reaction against the brutality and arbitrariness which disgraces this era. Amnesty International can well take credit for having aroused world opinion on this issue. The expulsion of Greece from the Council of Europe and the world-wide exposures of tortures of prisoners in Brazil have been some of the immediate results. Many more such cases in other areas of the world will need the attention of Amnesty. We welcome in this connection the recent call made by the Christian Churches at Baden (Austria):

'No one, who respects the principles of Christianity, the sacredness of human life and the inherent dignity of the human personality, can fail to be alarmed by the mounting violence and brutality of our times. Massacres, tortures, summary executions and arbitrary imprisonments have become such common currency that the natural reaction of horror tends to be blunted. Thus a degradation of human values is taking place. This is a serious problem which demands the untiring and fearless efforts of all Christian Churches. Neither a sense of helplessness nor the violence of the age should be permitted to dull the sense of horror and indignation which acts of brutality, hostility and cruelty arouse.'

Sean MacBride
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 6:15 am


Following the introduction of internment in Northern Ireland in 1971, Amnesty International investigated allegations that suspects were being subjected to ill-treatment by security forces. A fact-finding mission concluded that the medical evidence was consistent with the claims made by former detainees interviewed. Amnesty International published its findings and made recommendations to a government inquiry. The torture techniques -- which in some cases caused long-term psychological harm -- were dropped. Six years later the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the interrogation methods violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'. The first of the following extracts comes from Amnesty International's 1971 submission to the government inquiry into interrogation techniques (the Parker Committee). The second is from 'Torture in the Eighties' (1984) and examines the situation in Northern Ireland in the late 1970s.

It is said that the physical ill-treatment described in the Compton Report [report of a government Committee of Enquiry into allegations of ill-treatment] is less severe than the methods of ill-treatment used by other regimes in other countries. But this should not serve to disguise or blind us to the true nature of the procedures described in the Compton Report. There is a danger that even by considering the procedures at length we become anaesthetized to the degree to which they constitute an offence against the person. It is a form of torture to force a man to stand at the wall in the posture described for many hours in succession, in some cases for days on end, progressively exhausted and driven literally almost out of his mind by being subjected to continuous noise, and being deprived of food, of sleep, and even of light.

But the moral impropriety of these techniques principally derives not from their physical effects at all, but from the fact that they constitute a grave assault on the human mind. It is clear that the purpose and effects of these techniques is to disorientate and break down the mind by sensory deprivation. If we regard the physical ill-treatment as merely a means to achieve the same effect as would be achieved by the forcible injection of an hallucinatory drug or of a drug designed to break down and disorientate the mind, we begin to appreciate the true nature of the moral offence committed. It is because we regard the deliberate destruction of a man's ability to control his own mind with revulsion that we reserve a special place in our catalogue of moral crimes for techniques of thought control and brainwashing.

Case History: Patrick McKavanagh Age: 24 years

1. The Commission heard oral evidence from Mr. McKavanagh and read a medical statement by Conor J. Gilligan, MB, FRCS, Mater Infirmorum Hospital, Belfast. The case was presented by Mr. Francis Irvine, solicitor.

2. Mr. McKavanagh says that he, his brother William, and Edward Rooney, met a military patrol on Catherine Street at about 2 a.m. on 11 August 1971. They were ordered to halt but William McKavanagh turned to run, was shot and died some minutes later. Mr. Patrick McKavanagh and Mr. Rooney were placed under arrest. An army vehicle arrived at about 6.30 a.m. and they were taken to Hastings Street Barracks. The body of Mr. McKavanagh's brother was taken in the same vehicle.

Mr. McKavanagh was later taken to the Police Office on Townhall Street and charged with theft (he had taken up a rivetting tool, a pair of boots and some socks that were lying on the street during the disturbances -- and kept them) and appeared in court on 12 August 1971 and was released on bail. No other charges were preferred against him. He was examined by Mr. Gilligan on 12 August.

3. Mr. McKavanagh alleges the following: He was struck in his face by a baton or a rifle butt when he entered the army vehicle. His glasses were smashed and a soldier trampled on them deliberately. Both McKavanagh and Rooney were verbally abused and they were also threatened that they would be beaten up and shot. Mr. McKavanagh was further beaten with batons and rifle butts.

In the barracks he was made to stand spreadeagled against a wall, finger tips against the wall and legs forced back and out. He was hit repeatedly. This went on for about twenty minutes. After this he was forced to do exercises and was hit on the head and elbows. An empty sand bag was put over his head for about half an hour and he found it hard to breathe. When he was interrogated later he was tapped from behind on the back of the head. He was first given the diabetic medicine, which he should take three times a day, at about 8 p.m. on 11 August.

4. On examination, Mr. Gilligan found a bruised swelling on the bridge of the nose with the skin broken in centre. There were tender swellings close to the left ear, on the right parietal area, on the right arm and in the neck. There were several extensive areas of swelling and bruisings on the limbs. There was especially extensive bruising on the right thigh and the skin was broken, which could have been caused by an instrument or a weapon with a sharp point. there was evidence that he had been struck repeatedly over different parts of this body by a blunt weapon, used with considerable force.

In Mr. Gilligan's opinion, the injuries he observed were consistent with Mr. McKavanagh's account of how they were inflicted.

5. Conclusion: The Commission finds no major inconsistencies in Mr. McKavanagh's testimony and his account is essentially corroborated by the evidence from Mr. Rooney regarding experiences when the two were together. The Commission, having considered the evidence given by Mr. McKavanagh and Mr. Gilligan, accepts the substance of Mr. McKavanagh's allegations.

Published March 1912


In January 1976 the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg concluded that the authorities in Northern Ireland and the British Government were responsible for practices in 1971 amounting to torture and inhuman treatment of detainees under interrogation by the police, in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. [1] In the meantime, the British Government gave the British Parliament in 1972 and the European Court of Human Rights in 1977 unqualified undertakings that the most objectionable techniques of interrogation would not be used again. Yet despite this declared concern, (which led the European Court to state in 1978 that it was hardly plausible that practices in breach of Article 3 would continue or recommence), complaints of assault during interrogation in early 1976 in Northern Ireland were increasing.

Castlereagh interrogation centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, one of the places where political suspects were tortured.

The Maze prison, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

A pattern recurs

Between 1976 and 1978, one in 11 detainees arrested under emergency legislation in Northern Ireland filed official complaints of assault by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). [2] Prior to May 1977 almost all such complaints came from members of the Roman Catholic community, detained as 'Republican' suspects. Starting in May and June, with the advent and collapse of a Protestant-led strike, 'Unionist' detainees also began to file complaints.

The 443 complaints of assault during interrogation filed in 1977 represented a 101 per cent increase over 1976, although fewer suspects were detained. An Amnesty International mission to Northern Ireland in late 1977 investigated 78 cases, both 'Republican' and 'Unionist'. It found that ill-treatment by the RUC had taken place. The alleged methods included such physical and psychological abuses as beatings, bending of limbs, prolonged standing, burning with cigarettes, threats of death and threats to the suspect's family. [3]

It is important to ask why the preventive measures taken and assurances given by the British Government, following the exposure by Irish and British journalists (and by Amnesty International) of the torture of 14 detainees and the ill-treatment of hundreds more in 1971, did not prevent the assault of suspects from becoming a frequent and tolerated practice in Northern Ireland from late 1975 or early 1976 until early 1979 and to examine what steps were taken to reduce the number of complaints so significantly by 1980.

The law and interrogation

Northern Ireland security needs in 1972, in the British Government's view, dictated a review of arrest and trial procedures. The officially appointed Diplock Commission recommended changes that became law in the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973, which altered the rules of evidence for the admissibility of confessions. In English and Northern Ireland common law a judge can allow in evidence only a voluntary statement made by the accused, 'in the sense that [it has] not been obtained from him by fear of prejudice or hope of advantage, exercised or held out by a person in authority, or by oppression'. [4] The Diplock Commission concluded that this common law test was 'hampering the course of justice in the case of terrorist crimes', [5] and the 1973 Act altered the test of voluntariness. Whereas the common law test renders inadmissible confessions obtained by 'oppression', section 6 of the 1973 Act had the effect of disallowing confessions only if the accused 'was subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment'. [6] Since the 1973 Act applied only to Northern Ireland, the police in the province became exempt from restraints applying elsewhere in the country. Although the Diplock recommendations and the new act did not specifically make physical violence or psychological coercion lawful, they did imply that a confession previously disallowed by judges due to police misconduct in obtaining it might henceforth be admitted in evidence. Furthermore, Lord Diplock recommended that the law prohibit the threat of physical violence, but this prohibition was not included in the 1973 Act. The omission could only encourage the view that a degree of coercion would be tolerated.

Until late 1975 this change in law did not significantly alter police interrogation practices. Prior to this time the security strategy of the government was based either on executive internment without trial or on quasi-judicial internment regulated by commissioners. either system required a high level of proof to ensure a suspect's continued detention. Indeed, the purpose of these systems was to put suspected terrorists or their sympathizers out of action even when there was not sufficient evidence to convict them in a court of law. As internment was phased out gradually during 1975, however, evidence became essential to the conviction of terrorist suspects in the trials that Lord Diplock had recommended to replace internment. In Northern Ireland forensic evidence is difficult to obtain in hostile areas. Witnesses are subject to fear and intimidation. Intelligence information, whether from informers or detainees, until recently has rarely been used in court. Under these circumstances, the RUC came to rely almost exclusively on confessions as evidence against the accused. For example, during the first half of 1978, 75-80 per cent of all convictions for politically motivated offences were based solely or mainly on confessions. [7]

Between 1972 and 1975 there were allegations of ill-treatment during interrogation, but the numbers were few and no pattern emerged. The need to get confessions for convictions in court, however, brought changes in 1976. The RUC took over from the army in all but the most hostile neighbourhoods. New RUC crime-squads were formed to specialize in interrogation. Centralized police interrogation centres were opened or planned at Castlereagh police station in Belfast and Gough Barracks in County Armagh. In July, the new Chief Constable, Kenneth Newman, issued an internal directive that made an important distinction between the 'interview' of a suspect, which would lead to a specific criminal charge and to which common law protection of the Judges' Rules on admissibility of evidence would apply, and the 'interrogation' of suspects, which was for general questioning and gathering intelligence. By implication, because this more general questioning need not lead to a charge for a specific offence, the Judges' Rules need not apply. Since available evidence indicates that approximately two-thirds of those arrested in Northern Ireland under emergency legislation at that time were released without charge, [8] this relaxation (or implied suspension) of the Judges' Rules and of the protection they afford suspects had special significance for 'interrogations'. During 1976 complaints of assault during interrogation increased by approximately 85 per cent over 1975, whereas arrests increased by only 49 per cent.

The government's view of interrogation

Successive British governments throughout the 1970s had a common policy on interrogation: to protect police discretion to question a suspect in private for extensive periods without the intrusion of the courts, lawyers or any other independent person. One consequence of this policy was the failure to safeguard suspects' rights and physical integrity. Besides relaxing the rules governing the admissibility of confessions in court, the government gave the police new powers in 1973 to hold persons suspected of politically motivated crimes incommunicado for up to three days (increased to seven days under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1974).

A prominent factor in the rapid decline in police standards was the prolonged failure of government ministers and senior RUC officers to intervene with interrogators, directly and forcefully, to show that assault and illegal coercion would not be tolerated. On the contrary, the increased number and seriousness of complaints in 1976 and 1977 came when the government was pressing the police for confessions to use in court. Since the 1971 Compton Committee (which actually justified the use of the interrogation techniques subsequently identified as torture by the European Commission of Human Rights), no government-initiated inquiry has specifically investigated allegations of ill-treatment in Northern Ireland. All such inquiries have dealt with legal or police procedure, not with individual allegations of brutality. No British government took any decisive action before 1979 to halt the abuses that had begun to increase three years earlier, and to this day (to Amnesty International's knowledge) no government minister having responsibility in this area has accepted that ill-treatment took place in the late 1970s.

The extension of police discretion

Nor did the RUC command intervene despite the increasing evidence of misconduct by plain-clothes detectives in the middle and lower ranks. In April 1977, a senior police surgeon wrote to one of the government authorities, complaining that although police surgeons forwarded reports on a prisoner's injuries to the appropriate police station, 'no senior officer has ever seen fit to ring up to see me or my colleagues about the injuries noted.' [9] Several police interrogators were found at fault in civil proceedings, and the Police Authority chose to settle other claims out of court. In some instances these complaints were of serious assault and the damages paid were substantial. Yet no police officer ever admitted ill-treating a suspect, and no internal disciplinary proceedings were brought against any police officer.

The RUC took the position that allegations against its officers were part of an orchestrated campaign to sully the reputation of the force throughout the community, thereby damaging its aim of gaining acceptance for its law-enforcement role, especially by the Roman Catholic community, and thus reducing its effectiveness against paramilitary groups. In the official RUC view the injuries sustained by prisoners were either self-inflicted or resulted from attacks made by the detainee on police officers, who then had to restrain the suspect. Chief Constable Newman asserted in June 1977 that the increasing number of allegations of police brutality were a sign, not of police misconduct, but of growing police success in combating terrorism. He also pointed out, correctly, that suspects had strong motives to file false complaints of assault against their interrogators. They might need to justify their confessions to their own paramilitary groups, and their only defence in court was often to claim that their confessions had been extracted under torture, or inhuman and degrading treatment. If the confession could be ruled inadmissible on that statutory ground, under section 6 of the 1973 Act, the accused would probably go free since it was usually the only evidence available.

The legislation earlier in the decade had increased police powers without providing for corresponding safeguards to protect the rights of suspects. The RUC sought (and were allowed) to increase police discretion over the interrogation process, violating the common law principle of access to a lawyer and undermining the machinery for the investigation of complaints against the police. None of the 78 people whose cases of alleged ill-treatment were examined by the Amnesty International mission in 1977 had been allowed to see a lawyer while in police custody. The majority of them had specifically requested to see a lawyer soon after arrest. The Judges' Rules state that 'every person at any stage of an investigation should be able to communicate and to consult privately with a solicitor (lawyer) ... provided that in such a case no unreasonable delay or hindrance is caused to the process of investigation ...', but this latter proviso was invariably interpreted by RUC officers so as to deny access to a lawyer. Detainees spent as many as seven days in incommunicado detention. It appears that the discretion assumed by RUC investigating officers to exclude lawyers was not the practice at this time elsewhere in the United Kingdom. [10]

Concerning complaints machinery, the RUC frequently pointed out, correctly, that it was more elaborate in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. However, the oversight role of the independent Police Authority does not cover complaints of criminal assault, which are referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Furthermore, the DPP does not have an independent investigative staff, and all complaints against the police are investigated by the RUC itself. Chief Constable Newman often argued that the DPP's decision not to prosecute a police officer was an indication that the allegations were false. In fact, the DPP himself reminded the Chief Constable in November 1977 that the failure to bring a prosecution against a police officer did not indicate that the complaint itself was untrue. In a review of 300 complaints from the first nine months of 1977, wrote the DPP, he had found some evidence of assault in about half of them, some of which were medically documented. But he had found a level of evidence high enough to make conviction possible, and therefore to warrant prosecution, in only one case.

The government-appointed Bennett Committee found that from 1972 until the end of 1978 only 19 police officers were criminally prosecuted for ill-treating terrorist suspects out of the hundreds of complaints that had been filed. Of these 19, only two were convicted, and both these convictions were set aside on appeal. In five of the cases resulting in acquittals, civil proceedings in respect of the same incidents resulted in the police paying damages to the complainants. [11]

The main reason for this low number of prosecutions was that in order to bring a prosecution, the DPP must be satisfied -- beyond reasonable doubt -- that the assault was committed by an identifiable police officer and can be proved in court. Nevertheless, Chief Constable Newman continued to maintain that the general lack of prosecutions cleared the RUC of allegations of misconduct. In other words, no crime had been committed because the officers responsible could not be convicted.

The judiciary

In ordinary circumstances one would expect judges in the United Kingdom to provide a measure of protection to suspects by their rulings on arrest and interrogation procedures. Given their independence as well as the degree of discretion allowed judges in English and Northern Ireland common law, it is fair to ask why cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment took place in spite of the role and authority of the Northern Ireland judiciary.

The primary role of the judiciary in the UK, according to the Judges' Rules, is to 'control the conduct of trials and the admission of evidence ... ; they do not control or in any way initiate or supervise police activities or conduct.' Nevertheless, the courts' decisions do influence police practices indirectly by indicating, after the fact, what kind of conduct by the police makes evidence inadmissible in court. In Northern Ireland interrogating officers attend trials of terrorist suspects regularly in order to give evidence, and they do take note of the attitude of the courts. The Bennett Report cites the evidence of an officer who testified in a civil proceeding that because the courts had accepted confessions made after 'interviewing hours on end with no sleep', he continued to interrogate prisoners in this way. [12]

One means of protecting detainees' rights during interrogation left unused by the courts is to disallow confessions obtained during incommunicado detention. Principle (c) of the Judges' Rules, cited earlier, protects the right of access to a lawyer. Although it can be argued that section 6 of the 1973 Act negated this principle in Northern Ireland, Mr Justice Bennett, citing police practice and court precedents elsewhere in the United Kingdom in 1977, implied that discretion was still available to Northern Ireland judges to exclude confessions obtained after the police had denied a prisoner's request to see a lawyer. In no case in Northern Ireland involving people charged under emergency legislation did judges exercise this discretion. 13 In effect, judges did not help to ensure the detainee's right of access to a lawyer, which they could have done by disallowing evidence obtained during incommunicado detention, some of which was allegedly the result of ill-treatment.

More extreme assaults, especially if medically documented, presented judges with little difficulty in disallowing the confession of the accused. But in less clear-cut cases the Northern Ireland judiciary seemed uncertain of their authority to intervene positively. Several Northern Ireland judges attempted to interpret the degree of judicial discretion over disallowing from evidence confessions obtained by coercion that in their view was short of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment (the language of section 6 of the 1973 Act). After reviewing some of these judgments the Bennett Committee found that 'the uncertainty, despite the standards upheld and applied by the courts, about what is permissible and what is not ... may tempt police officers to see how far they can go and what they can get away with.' [14] The police interrogators appear to have interpreted the judges' too frequent silence as assent.

Pressure from the police surgeons

The most striking single action taken by any official in Northern Ireland to prevent ill-treatment was Chief Constable Newman's order on 21 April 1978 to install 'spy-holes' in the doors of interview rooms at the Gough Barracks interrogation centre so that senior officers could monitor interrogations. The suggestion came from the Senior Medical Officer (SMO) at Gough, Dr Denis Elliott, who had held a long-awaited meeting with the Chief Constable the previous night to discuss prisoners' injuries that doctors were continuing to see. During the next five months there were no complaints of assault filed by prisoners interrogated at Gough for terrorist offences.

Also in attendance at the meeting in April were Dr Charles Alexander, SMO at Castlereagh police station in Belfast, and Dr Robert Irwin, Secretary of the Forensic Medical Officers Association, who had himself seen many injured detainees from Castlereagh. Since late 1976 doctors employed by the independent Police Authority or by the government's Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) as police surgeons had documented injuries that they were convinced could not be dismissed as self-inflicted. In March 1977 Dr Irwin's association informed the Police Authority of its concern about the increasing number of injuries to prisoners. Both individual doctors and groups of doctors kept pressing their employers and the RUC to respond to their demands. They cited the decision of the European Commission of Human Rights about the 1971 events, which was still under consideration by the European Court, as cause for doctors to play an active role in protecting prisoners from abuse and the police from false allegations.

The doctors kept their appeals within the system's administrative channels, shunning publicity. In the wake of a national television program about Castlereagh, however, having failed for months to get a personal interview with the Chief Constable, their association's executive committee stated publicly in October 1977 that they had sought a meeting with him to discuss injuries to detainees. In November, doctors at Castlereagh and Gough informed their employer that they would resign unless action were taken to stop the assaults. When taking up his post as SMO at Gough on I November, Dr Elliott stipulated that if there were serious police misconduct towards detainees, he would request a transfer to his previous post. The cumulative pressure of the national television program, the visit of the Amnesty International mission to the province in late November and early December 1977 and the doctors' steadfastness appears to have had an impact. Complaints of assault during interrogation dropped from the autumn 1977 average of 40 a month to eight in December. The association's representatives noted this improvement in their discussions with the Amnesty International mission in December as an explanation of why the mission had examined released prisoners with recent but not fresh injuries.

After thorough investigation, Amnesty International declared that the British Army practised torture on political detainees in Northern Ireland. Until 1975 hundreds of people were imprisoned under very harsh conditions without being brought to trial or being sentenced. In Long Kesh camp many prisoners were detained without trial from 1971 to 1975.

In March 1978 the Police Authority informed the government that the doctors had noted a renewed pattern of injuries, that resignations might soon follow, and that the doctors wished their assessment of the recent decrease in injuries given in December to Amnesty International to be withdrawn. The next month Dr Irwin's association wrote formally to the Police Authority on this last point; four doctors at Gough, where Dr Elliott was SMO, wrote to the Police Authority in order to protest against the continuing injuries in custody, and Dr Elliott himself formally requested a transfer. Their pressure seems to have conveyed a sense of urgency to the government and the RUC command. The Amnesty International mission had collected considerable medical evidence, and a report would soon appear. Resignations at this time by police surgeons would have been an acute embarrassment to the government. Chief Constable Newman met Drs Alexander, Elliott and Irwin on the evening of 20 April and took decisive action the next morning. Besides the new 'spy-holes' to be installed, the meeting discussed a suggestion to install closed-circuit television in interrogation rooms so that senior officers could monitor interrogators' conduct. The Chief Constable objected that this would be costly, to which Dr Irwin replied that it would be cheaper than having to return to the European Court.

Amnesty International published its report in June 1978. The immediate result was the government's appointment of the Bennett Committee of Inquiry into police procedures which ultimately led to the introduction of administrative safeguards to protect detainees and to a drop in the number of complaints of ill-treatment.

In August a new job description was agreed for police surgeons which formally extended their duties. SMOs would henceforth have access to any prisoner at all reasonable times, not just when the police called them in, and they would occasionally tour the police station, making use of the new 'spy-holes'.

During the remainder of 1978, while the Bennett Committee received evidence, complaints of assault declined but did not cease. Their report was published in March 1979 and their major recommendations were accepted by the government in June. But the Bennett Report did not lay the doctors' fears to rest. A few days before its publication Dr Irwin broke the doctors' long public silence and gave a nationally televised interview. He described some of the 150 injured prisoners he had personally examined - injuries he believed were not self-inflicted - during the past three years, some as recently as the month before. One week after publication of the Bennett Report, Dr Elliott resigned in protest at the 'undisciplined' treatment of prisoners at Gough and at the failure of either the government or the RUC to acknowledge that ill-treatment had occurred during the past three years. Drs Elliott and Irwin, whose actions had done so much to bring about an official inquiry, now underlined the importance of its recommendations.

The significance of an independent inquiry

The Bennett Committee addressed the balance between the efficiency of police interrogation and the protection of suspects' rights. Its terms of reference prevented an investigation of individual complaints. Nevertheless, it examined considerable medical evidence that revealed 'cases in which injuries, whatever their precise cause, were not self-inflicted and were sustained in police custody'. Nor did the government permit a general review of the emergency legislation or a specific one of section 6 of the 1973 Act. Such a review might have led to recommendations for statutory protection of prisoners. Given these restrictions, the committee recommended self-regulation by the police: for example, closed-circuit television monitoring of interrogations by senior officers; more detailed record-keeping on detainees; and the offer of a medical examination once every 24 hours. Even the recommendation for access to a lawyer after each 48 hours in custody, without exception, was to be incorporated in a revised RUC code of conduct, rather than in legislation. The report thus offers an impressive set of preventive administrative measures that, if fully implemented, would significantly reduce the likelihood of torture or ill-treatment of suspects.

Once implemented, these measures did reduce the number of allegations of assault and ill-treatment in Northern Ireland. The average number of complaints filed in the first three months of 1979 was 20 a month. This was somewhat down on the 1978 monthly average of 22, but in April 1979, the first full month after the Bennett Report appeared, the number of complaints dropped sharply to 8.15 More significantly, the administrative measures introduced seem to have prevented the recurrence of the previous pattern of ill-treatment.

At present a very high percentage of convictions in non-jury trials in Northern Ireland are based solely or mainly on confessions. However, Amnesty International's approaches to the British Government about current police and judicial procedures used in Northern Ireland have not concerned allegations of ill-treatment. They have concerned the use of continuous, oppressive interrogation, which has resulted in a steadily high rate of confessions for which no objective corroborating evidence is presented in court. Under these conditions it is doubtful whether the 48-hour rule concerning absolute right of access to a lawyer provides adequate protection for detainees under interrogation.

There are several generalizations to be drawn from this examination of ill-treatment in Northern Ireland in the late 1970s:

1. The attitude towards the treatment of detainees shown at the top of the command structure within a security agency and by ministers responsible for their conduct affects officers' attitudes and actions right down the line.

2. Emergency legislation (or the interpretation of existing law by the courts) that extends the powers of the security forces specifically at the expense of detainees' legal guarantees may be perceived by the security forces as a signal that the law, the government and the courts will tolerate official violence towards and coercion of detainees.

3. When emergency legislation extends the powers of the executive, the judiciary must increase its vigilance on behalf of suspects and defendants if their rights are to be protected.

4. Post-facto investigations, prosecutions, civil suits and internal disciplinary proceedings may not be sufficient by themselves to stop abuses. The responsible authorities must take direct preventive actions, particularly those measures that will guarantee detainees access to individuals independent of the security forces, for example, the detainees' lawyer, doctor and relatives. This is all the more true in a legal system that does not provide for contemporaneous judicial supervision of interrogation.

5. Organized pressure from within the security system for respecting the rights of suspects is most likely to be effective when complemented by external pressures, in particular from the news media, which in some societies can play a relatively independent watchdog role in bringing alleged abuses of authority to public attention.

6. The existence and use of inter-governmental human rights machinery, although lengthy and capable of being obstructed by a government, can act as a restraint on human rights abuses if the government fears the findings, the expense, the embarrassment or even the propaganda that may result.

1. European Commission of Human Rights, Report of the Commission on Application No. 5310/71, Ireland against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, adopted 26 January 1976, pp. 402 and 468. The European Court of Human Rights, in their judgment on this case in January 1978, modified the Commission's findings, omitting the word 'torture' but confirming that there had been an 'administrative practice' of inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Article 3. For a discussion of the significance of this judgment in international law, see Chapter 2 to this report, page 15.

2. This ratio is calculated on the basis of data given in the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Police Interrogation Procedures in Northern Ire/and (hereafter called Bennett Report), HMSO London, Cmnd. 7497), paragraph 44 and Appendix 2. The ratio given in paragraph 313 of the Bennett Report (one in eight detainees held under emergency legislation filing complaints of assault during interrogation between 1975 and 1978) appears to be erroneous in that this calculation is based on the number of complaints by all detainees in Northern Ireland, not just by those held under emergency legislation.

3. Amnesty International, Northern Ireland: Report of an Amnesty International Mission (London, 1978), p. 4 (hereafter called Amnesty International Report on Northern Ireland).

4. Judges 'Rules and Administrative Directions to the Police, Home Office circular No. 31/1964, principle (e). The Judges' Rules are in the form of advice to police officers on what will and will not be allowed as evidence in a trial.

5. Report of the Commission to consider legal procedures to deal with terrorist activities in Northern Ireland (hereafter called Diplock Report), (HMSO London, Cmnd. 5185, December 1972), paragraph 87.

6. The phrase quoted from section 6 was taken verbatim from Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Section 6 of the 1973 Act became section 8 in the consolidated version of this act in 1978.

7. Bennett Report, paragraph 30. The figures were prepared by the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland and were thought by the Bennett Committee to be accurate for 1976 and 1977 as well.

8. Bennett Report, appendix 1, gives precise statistics for September 1977 until August 1978: only 35 per cent of those detained were charged.

9. Letter of 14 April 1977 from Dr Robert Irwin, Secretary of the Forensic Medical Officers Association in Northern Ireland, to Dr Terence Baird, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health and Social Security, Belfast. Quoted in Peter Taylor, Beating the Terrorists? (London, Penguin Books, 1980), p. 180. This and other details concerning pressure for improvements from within the system are available due to the research, after the events, by the well-known British journalist Peter Taylor, who conducted personal interviews with the police surgeons and authorities involved.

10. Bennett Report, paragraph 271.

11. Bennett Report, paragraphs 157 and 338. While standards of proof in civil cases may be lower than in criminal cases, a substantial number of successful civil suits should at least stimulate a serious investigation by the authorities of the allegations of ill-treatment.

12. Bennett Report, paragraph 178.

13. Bennett Report, paragraphs 271-276. Elsewhere in the United Kingdom denial of access to a lawyer is common, but only for the first 24 hours in detention.

14. Bennett Report, paragraph 84.

15. Statistics on complaints of assault during interrogation were made available by the RUC to Peter Taylor. Those given here are drawn from his book Beating the Terrorists? The monthly average for 1978 would be higher except for the low figures for June and July which were eight and nine respectively. It may be significant that the Amnesty International report on Northern Ireland was leaked in May and was published officially in June.

Published April 1984



The mother of Soviet prisoner of conscience Anatoly Koplik travelled thousands of kilometres from the Ukraine to visit him in his labour camp near the Soviet-Chinese border in 1977. Before the visit began the head of the camp's 'operation unit' met her. According to a report she prepared after the meeting, the following discussion took place:

'The head of the operations unit scowled and said: "Do you know what kind of trouble is coming?"

'I asked him to explain what he meant by trouble. Some papers were lying on the table and the director of the camp, Pushkin, picked them up and showed me three pages. "Just look," he said, "this is already the second time we're getting these from Amnesty International." I asked him to read out loud what the trouble was. The director summarised what was written: "On account of his religious beliefs A. Koplik did not take the military oath and is serving his sentence in the camp. We urge that he be released and returned to his family, that he be allowed to live in peace, and that his youth be taken into account."

'Hearing this, I asked what the trouble was. The head of the operations unit raised his voice and said, "But do you know what this smells like? Just how do they know his exact address, even his detachment number? How is it that your son has contacts abroad?" I answered these questions with questions of my own: "And what are you surprised about? My son has no foreign contacts. You don't even give him the possibility to write letters home at the allotted times. Many of his letters home you don't even send on."

'The head of the operations unit said, "But do you know who leads this organisation?" I answered: "I only know one thing: my son was condemned and is suffering innocently, and this organisation concerns itself about such people." , Anatoly Koplik was released in August 1979 on completion of his sentence.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 6:47 am


In 1972 Amnesty International revealed that prisoners in Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran were being tortured and that the methods used included being burned on a heated metal table. Throughout the 1970s the organization campaigned against human rights violations perpetrated by SAVAK, the National Intelligence and Security Organization. After the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in February 1979, Amnesty International continued to investigate human rights violations and to press for protection of fundamental rights. That work continues unabated, as thousands of political prisoners remain in prison in Iran, sometimes without charge or trial or following summary trials, or even after their sentence has expired. Judicial proceedings are unpredictable and often arbitrary. Political detainees are reported to be tortured and ill-treated in hundreds of secret detention centres throughout the country. Floggings and amputations -- which Amnesty International regards as forms of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment -- are imposed as judicial punishment. Thousands have been executed, often after summary trials with no right of appeal.


... Despite the obstacles described in my report, L- and I were able to see Nasser Sadegh and Ali Mihandoust. We were in the company of two interpreters who introduced themselves as employees of the Ministry of Information, later declared that they were attached to the Prime Minister's office and who, in fact, represented one particular branch of the Prime Minister's office, SAVAK.

Nasser Sadegh told us that he was born in May 1945 at Tehran. He is an engineer trained in electro-mechanics. He gained his diploma in 1967, did his military service and then worked in the Pars Electrical Company; he was arrested in September 1971 and has been detained ever since. Ali Mihandoust was born in October 1947 at Qazvin. He is a mechanical engineer. He gained his diploma in 1969 and told us that since then he 'had been engaged full time in political activities'. Mihandoust was arrested in October 1971.

Mihandoust told us that before his arrest his activities were centred on Tehran, that they were secret and that he formed part of a group which was preparing for an armed struggle against the regime. He is charged with activities against the state, membership of an organisation (Peoples' Movement), and being involved in the theft of an aeroplane.

Nasser Sadegh, who was his friend, worked with him before their arrest but Sadegh swore that he was not like Mihandoust a member of a group but that he took part in the general leadership of the movement. I then put this question: 'You mention accusations brought against you. Can you tell us who brought forward these accusations?' Sadegh replied: 'SAVAK'.

While interviewing political prisoners in Iran in 1972, Amnesty International learned of a torture device composed of three tiers of grids with a burner underneath known as a 'toasting table'. Several such 'tables' were found in the cellar of a SAVAK centre stormed by demonstrators in 1978.

Neither had seen the Military Prosecutor since about mid-January. When we asked them when they had seen the Examining Military Magistrate for the first time, they replied: 'Yesterday, 5th February.' I should add that after their arrest, in September and October respectively, they ought to have been brought before an Examining Military Magistrate within 24 hours; this is laid down by Iranian law and we were reminded of it by the Military Tribunal's spokesman, Captain Gavam.

When we asked Nasser Sadegh what torture they had undergone, he made a long reply in Persian. This was shortly translated by the interpreters as: 'They were beaten the day they were arrested.' Sadegh signalled to me that this translation was incorrect, and so I repeated the question until the interpreters became bored with translating the same thing; I finally asked Sadegh: 'Were your friends beaten?' to which he replied in English: 'No, toasted'.

The interpreters told us the interview was over and that it was time to go. Sadegh indicated to me that he wanted to speak to me, and while L -- spoke in French to the interpreters, who were urging us to leave, Sadegh confirmed to me that he had been beaten with the butt of a revolver and that this had caused a haemorrhage and fainting. He told me that Massoud Ahmadzadeh, Badizadeghan, Abbas Meftachi and Bazargan, amongst others, had been burned by being placed on a table which was then heated to white heat, and that Badizadeghan had since then been paralysed in the lower limbs and could move only by crawling forward using his upper arms. His last words to me were: 'Let them know that I saw Behruz Tehrani die near me in the torture room'.

I am able to confirm that the description of the metal table given by Nasser Sadegh corresponds exactly to the rectangular burn marks which I had seen that same morning on the back of Massoud Ahmadzadeh.

Published February 1972


The following human rights issues in Iran are of particular concern to Amnesty International:

(a) arbitrary arrest of suspected political opponents who are held incommunicado for long periods before being charged or tried;

(b) the use of torture;

(c) lack of legal safeguards and unsatisfactory trial procedures;

(d) executions and unofficial deaths.

Legal/administrative detention procedures

(a) Arrest process. SAVAK [the National Intelligence and Security Organization] is responsible for the internal security of the state. Its functions include repressing the activities of illegal organizations, preventing plotting against the national security and insuring against the formation of new groups which advocate policies contrary to the Constitution of 1906. To this end it is empowered to act as the sole investigator of all alleged political crimes and to initiate the bringing of charges against involved persons. SAVAK can directly order the arrest of any person suspected of political crime, and in practice no recourse to any court for approval is necessary. The Military Justice and Penal Law of 1938 does provide that where the investigator orders an arrest, the agreement of the Office of the Military Prosecutor (an entity independent of SAVAK) must be secured within 24 hours. Suspects also have the right, under article 10 of the Supplementary Constitutional Law of 8 October 1907, to be informed of the charges against them within the same 24-hour period. However, in no cases known to Amnesty International have either of these requirements been fulfilled and from what is known of SAVAK's interrogation procedures it is considered most unlikely that a suspect is actually informed of the charges against him or her until just before the case comes to court. At no stage does a suspect have access to a lawyer of his or her own choice and in all cases which have come to the attention of Amnesty International prisoners have been held incommunicado until they have been brought to trial or released. SAVAK conducts the entire investigation into each case and prepares the file which forms the entirety of the prosecutor's case at trial. As SAVAK controls the investigatory process, the accused will not stand trial until the case file is satisfactorily complete, which usually results in long periods of pre-trial detention for the accused, awaiting the successful production of evidence. There is no independent control of the way in which SAVAK obtains this evidence and it is not subject to any time limit for the preparation of a case.

(b) Conduct of trials. All trials of political prisoners are held before military tribunals, with attendant military counsel for the prosecution and defence. As noted above, during the investigation stage of proceedings, the accused has no right to consult with defence counsel or any other person. Upon completion of the SAVAK investigation, the accused is allowed access to defence counsel 10 days before trial. Defendants are asked to choose their defence counsel from a short list of persons presented to them by the tribunal; these are usually retired military officers who need not be learned in law. If the accused refuses to make a choice, the court directly appoints counsel for the defence. Proceedings before military tribunals are usually held in camera. Since March 1972 no foreign lawyers or journalists have been admitted to political trials in Iran and the information available to Amnesty International concerning the conduct of trials is based on observers' reports of trials prior to that date. The court itself is composed of four serving officers, sitting without a jury in apparent contravention of article 79 of the Supplementary Constitutional Law of 8 October 1907, which provides: 'In political and press offences, a jury must be present in the courts.'

The accused has no right to demand that witnesses against him or her be called and has no right of cross-examination. The only witnesses heard by the tribunal are the defendants themselves. The prosecutor proceeds by reading into the evidence the findings of the SAVAK investigation, including confessions, if any. Amnesty International observers have reported instances of defendants repudiating their confessions in court on the grounds that these have been obtained as a result of torture. The prosecution is not required to produce in court evidence referred to in the SAVAK files and the defence is not allowed to introduce evidence to support the defence case other than the testimony of the defendant. In practice the defendant is assumed guilty and Amnesty Internatiomd knows of no case of a defendant being acquitted, although defendants who recant before the court may receive short sentences, or have their sentences reduced on appeal.

The Military Court of Appeal, to which convicted persons have recourse, has the power to confirm, reduce or increase sentences and may even impose the death penalty in cases where the tribunal of the first instance thought it unwarranted. After the Military Court of Appeal has reached its decision (usually within a few weeks of the lower court sentence) defendants' legal remedies are effectively exhausted. Appeals to the Shah for clemency sometimes result in the reduction of death sentences to life imprisonment. However, in January 1976, only one of ten people sentenced to death who appealed to the Shah had his sentence commuted. In cases where the death penalty is imposed executions usually take place within days of conviction.

(c) Release process. The release process in Iran is as arbitrary as that pertaining to arrest. There appears to be no possibility of remission of sentence for political prisoners and prisoners are very often kept in detention long after their sentences have expired. Amnesty International has been informed that one section of Qasr prison in Tehran is kept aside for people whose sentences have expired, but who have not been released. Amnesties are often declared to mark anniversaries and traditional celebrations, such as the birthday of the Shah and the Iranian New Year, but it is not known that political prisoners are ever included in these amnesties. Prisoners are sometimes released before trial if they agree to make a public recantation on television and recantation appears to be the only way of obtaining a reduction of sentence and early release.

International legal instruments

Iran was one of the 44 states which voted in favour of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948, and in April 1968 the Shah spoke in support of the declaration when opening the International Conference on Human Rights in Tehran. Furthermore, Iran has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is a treaty binding upon the parties to it under international law. By ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran has committed itself to guaranteeing the rights recognized by the covenant, which include the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty; the right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of one's defence; the right to communicate with counsel of one's own choosing; the right to be tried without undue delay; the right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one's behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against one. The right of the individual to be protected from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is, of course, stipulated by the covenant and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Iran has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the covenant, which would permit individuals to have complaints regarding violations of their human rights examined by the Human Rights Committee. Iran is presently a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, represented by Manouchehr Ganji, who is also a member of the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities, and has been elected to the Human Rights Committee established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

As stated in Iran: Trial Procedures for Political Prisoners, an Amnesty International report published in August 1972, 'the repudiation by its domestic practice of the principles of human rights publicly espoused by Iran is unfortunately manifest.'

Published November 1976


Amnesty International today (Friday 9 May 1980) said it had urged the Iranian authorities to conform to internationally agreed standards for trials and the treatment of prisoners. The international human rights organization stressed that Iran is committed to these standards by international treaty.

Amnesty International, which previously condemned political imprisonment, torture and execution under the Shah, said it had sent the new government a report based on a fact-finding mission to Iran in mid-1979 and on a study of hundreds of trials before Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals.

The report found that defendants were consistently denied fair trials, including the opportunity to prepare or present an adequate defence.

Many people were sentenced to death and executed without fair trials, AI said. In the six months following the February revolution more than 400 people were executed. AI listed 438 executions reported in local and foreign media by 12 August 1979 and it added that the list was not definitive.

The report, which covered the period up to 14 September 1979, focused on the role of the revolutionary tribunals, special courts set up after the revolution. It cited an Iranian newspaper estimate that the tribunals processed some 10,000 cases in the first four months after the overthrow of the Shah.

AI found that defendants were often not told the exact charges against them; that they were not always allowed to call defence witnesses; that they were often not permitted to question witnesses against them; that they were not allowed counsel of their choice; that many trials were closed to the public; that in practice there was no right of appeal and no effective presumption that defendants were innocent until proved guilty.

Amnesty International concluded that 'the guarantees necessary for a fair trial are effectively lacking in cases heard by the Revolutionary Tribunals'.

The only defence facility known to have been offered those about to stand trial, who sometimes learned of the charges against them just before the trial opened, was an opportunity to write a defence on a piece of paper, the report said.

It pointed out that Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader, had explicitly stated the presumption that those brought before the Tribunals were guilty. He said in a televised address on 2 April 1979, 'There should be no objection to the trial of these people because they are criminals and it is known that they are criminals. All this about a lawyer being needed ... and that their pleas should be listened to -- these are not people charged with crime, they are criminals.'

The Ayatollah was reported in the British newspaper The Guardian on 6 April 1979 as also saying, in reference to criticism of the trials, that he was 'sorry that there was still Western sickness among us ... The defendants should have been killed on the first day instead of being held. Among them are people who are not even worthy of contempt.'

The report said the Tribunals operated independently of the Provisional Government. It noted that the Minister of Justice told the newspaper Ayendegan on 7 April 1979 that his ministry had 'nothing to do with the Revolutionary Court .... The conditions of these courts are like war-time trials acting under their own rules and regulations.'

A firing-squad executes nine Kurdish rebels and two former National Police officers of the Shah in August 1979, after summary trials in Iran.

The jurisdiction and procedures of the courts were not defined in law when they began operating. On 5 April 1979 regulations were promulgated, but neither the practice nor the rules offered adequate defence facilities, Amnesty International said.

Formal investigation of cases was undertaken by the official investigator or assistant prosecutor assigned to the case. After the investigation, recommendations were made to the Public Prosecutor as to whether those arrested should be prosecuted.

On the information available to it, Amnesty International concluded that the decision on whether to draw up an indictment seemed in most cases effectively to be a determination of guilt or innocence, rather than a decision on whether there was a case to be answered.

The most frequent complaints of prisoners reported to AI were that interrogations were not carried out promptly after arrest and that some prisoners were not told why they had been arrested. There was no rule limiting how long a prisoner could be held without being charged or indicted, the report said.

The Revolutionary Tribunals heard cases concerning offences that encompassed activities said by the authorities to have been directly or indirectly in support of the Shah. The Tribunals' jurisdiction was soon extended, however, to cover violent and sexual crimes and 'counter-revolutionary' offences, meaning activities said to be directed against the Islamic Republic.

AI's conclusions and recommendations were made on the basis of internationally recognized human rights standards, contained in such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

'There is no dispute that these standards are applicable to Iran', AI said. It noted that during a session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee on 26 April 1979, the Iranian delegate, Mr Shemirami, said that Iran, 'as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, would in due course submit a report to the Human Rights Committee in conformity with Article 40 of the Covenant'.

The AI report included detailed recommendations to the Iranian authorities, aimed at ensuring the rights of defendants. The report recommended that people should only be arrested or held on legally defined grounds, that they should be told the reasons for their arrest, be brought promptly before a judicial authority, permitted access to lawyers and relatives, and either tried or released within a reasonable time. It also recommended that medical treatment should be provided when necessary and that authority and responsibility for the treatment of those held should be clearly defined.

AI also reiterated its opposition to the death penalty and to flogging in all circumstances.

The report was based in part on an AI mission which visited Iran from 12 April to 1 May 1979, and had discussions with ministers of the Provisional Government, personnel of a local Komiteh in Tehran, members of the former secular opposition to the Shah, and others. The AI delegates studied the procedures of Revolutionary Tribunals, but were unable to observe them in operation despite permission from a member of the Provisional Government. Each time the delegates went to Qasr Prison in Tehran they were told that trials had just finished or were not scheduled to take place. The delegates were given new appointments, but the result was always the same.

The hanged body of Habibbolah Islami, member of the Peoples Mojahedine Organization, executed in Tehran's Eyin prison in 1981.

The report was therefore based in large part on a study of legal procedures through information available to AI on some 900 cases. (On 9 July 1979 the newspaper Ayendegan, published in Tehran, reported that the revolutionary courts had processed approximately 10,000 cases since the revolution.) In addition, AI studied statements attributed to government or religious spokesmen in the local press, official PARS News Agency reports, the foreign press and on Iran Radio. Such statements were revealing about such subjects as unauthorized arrests, 'on-the-spot' whippings and executions, and court practice.

Twenty-eight people charged with taking part in an armed attack on the town of Amol are surrounded by pictures of the victims at the trial in Evin prison, Tehran, in January 1983. Twenty-two of the 28, all members of the Union of Communists, were executed.

The report was sent to Ayatollah Khomeini on 9 January 1980 and comments on it were invited from the Ayatollah or his advisors. AI expressed its willingness to include any official Iranian response to the contents in any future publication of the report or parts of it. At the same time, copies of the report were sent to the Iranian Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh and the Iranian charges d'affaires in London and Washington. On 26 February 1980 the report was sent to President Bani-Sadr, again inviting comments, and with a request to discuss the contents with him and his ministers following the parliamentary elections in Iran. No comment has yet been received by AI from the Iranian authorities.

AI welcomes the decision of the Iranian authorities, reported in Kayhan newspaper at the end of March, to set up a Supreme Court to hear appeals against verdicts passed by Islamic judges, but remains concerned about reports of people being arrested and held incommunicado for long periods. In some cases reported to AI the relatives of people arrested in November and December 1979 have still not been able to learn their whereabouts or the reasons for their arrest.


Amnesty International's recommendations to the Iranian authorities were:

- no one should be deprived of his or her liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law;

- anyone who is arrested should be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his or her arrest and should promptly be informed of any charges against him or her;

- anyone arrested or detained should be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and should be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release;

- anyone who is deprived of his or her liberty by arrest or detention should be entitled to take proceedings before a court in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of the detention and order release if the detention is not lawful;

- a time limit should be fixed within which a detained person must be charged, tried or otherwise released;

- the authorities should immediately inform the family of an arrested person of the reasons for, and place of, detention and grant the family access to him or her;

- detainees should be permitted access to a lawyer and/or other representative of his or her own choice. Free legal aid should be provided in all cases where a detainee is unable to afford and/or to choose his or her own legal representation;

- detainees should be afforded medical treatment whenever necessary;

- bail, when offered, should be of a reasonable, not excessive, sum;

- the authorities should continue to seek to establish clear lines of authority and responsibility for the treatment of suspects and detainees.



News release 9 May 1980.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 7:11 am


Amnesty International's 1972 'Report on Allegations of Torture in Brazil' recorded evidence in 1,081 torture cases and criticized a battery of legislation, including secret decrees, that suppressed human rights. The report described the emergence of clandestine 'death squads', operating with the covert acquiescence of the official security forces. The government reacted by banning all references to Amnesty International's statements on Brazil in the country's news media. The two letters that follow were published in the report: one was written to Pope Paul VI and the other to the judge of the military tribunal in charge of the case.

Marcos Arruda, a young geologist, son of an American mother, and Marlene Soccas, painter and dentist, had known each other for a short time and arranged to meet for dinner. Their meeting was the beginning of an agonizing tragedy. Marcos Arruda is at present at liberty and abroad. Marlene Soccas wrote an open letter from her prison cell in Tiradentes to the judge of the military tribunal which is to try her.

Here is the letter which Marcos Settamini Pena de Arruda sent to the Vatican on 4 February 1971:

Please find herewith an account of all that happened to me during almost nine months imprisonment ... I was arrested on 11 May 1970 in Sao Paulo on my way to dinner with a young lady that I had recently met. I learnt afterwards that she belonged to a political organization. She had been arrested several days previously, violently tortured and taken to Operacao Bandeirantes [OBAN].

I was picked up even before I reached the meeting place and taken off in a car (the licence plate was not an official one) by four armed policemen. We went to OBAN headquarters. During the journey the leader of the group ordered the young lady to show me her hands so that 'I could have an idea of what awaited me'. She lifted her hands, which were handcuffed, and I saw that they were greatly swollen and were covered with dark purple hematomes. I learned that she had been badly beaten with a type of palmatoria. Once the car stopped in the OBAN courtyard, they began immediately to punch and kick me in the presence of some people seated on benches in front of the main building. 1 was beaten as I went up the steps to a room on the top floor where they continued to slap me, hit me about the head and bang my ears with cupped hands (telephone torture); they took the handcuffs off and continued to hit me with their truncheons whilst questioning me.

They ordered me to strip completely; I obeyed. They made me sit down on the ground and tied my hands with a thick rope. One of the six or seven policemen present put his foot on the rope in order to tighten it as much as possible. I lost all feeling in my hands. They put my knees up to my elbows so that my bound hands were on a level with my ankles. They then placed an iron bar about eight centimetres wide between my knees and elbows and suspended me by resting the two ends of the iron bar on a wooden stand so that the top part of my body and my head were on one side and my buttocks and legs on the other, about three feet from the floor. After punching me and clubbing me, they placed a wire on the little toe of my left foot and placed the other end between my testicles and my leg. The wires were attached to a camp telephone so that the current increased or decreased according to the speed at which the handle was turned. They began to give me electric shocks using this equipment and continued to beat me brutally both with their hands and with a palmatoria -- a plaque full of holes -- which left a completely black haematome, larger in size than an outstretched palm, on one of my buttocks. The electric shocks and the beatings continued for several hours. I had arrived at about 14.30 and it was beginning to get dark when I practically lost consciousness. Each time that I fainted, they threw water over me to increase my sensitivity to the electric shocks. They then took the wire from my testicles and began to apply it to my face and head, giving me terrible shocks on my face, in my ears, eyes, mouth and nostrils. One of the policemen remarked 'Look, he is letting off sparks. Put it in his ear now' ...

The torture was so serious and long-lasting that I thought I would die. I began to feel completely drained; my body was covered in a cold sweat; I could not move my eyelids; I was swallowing my tongue and could only breathe with difficulty; I could no longer speak. I tried throughout this time to think of great men who had suffered horrible things for a noble ideal. This encouraged me to fight on and not give way to despair. I felt that my hands would become gangrenous because circulation was blocked for some hours. I moaned 'my hands, my hands!' and they continued to beat my hands with their clubs. I think I eventually lost consciousness. When I came to, they had lowered the bar and laid me out on the ground. They tried to revive me with ammonia but I didn't respond. They struck me on the testicles with the end of the stick; they burnt my shoulders with cigarette stubs; they put the barrel of a revolver into my mouth saying they would kill me. They threatened me with sexual abuse. Suddenly, my whole body began to tremble and I began to writhe as if shaken by an earthquake. The policemen were alarmed and called for a doctor from the first-aid post. They said I was a soldier who was feeling ill. They gave me an injection and refused to give me water although my body was completely dehydrated. They left me to sleep in the same room in which I had been tortured.

The following morning I was shaken violently by the shoulders. I realized that I was still shaking, my eyelids were shut, my tongue was paralysed and I felt strange muscular contractions on the right side of my face. My left leg was like a piece of wood, the foot turned downwards and the toes had contracted and would not move. The small toe was totally black. After enduring many insults, I was carried to the general military hospital of Sao Paulo. The sole of my left foot was again forcibly struck in order to try and return it to its normal position and to make it fit into my shoe. Despite shooting pains, the foot would not move. The torturers took me by the arms and legs and brought me like a sack to the courtyard where I was thrown into the back of the van.

Cemetery gates: Maracipu, Brazil. This photograph was taken in the early 1970s when allegations of killings by 'death squads' were frequent.

I later learned that at the hospital they gave me only two hours to live. The military chaplain came to hear my confession. I asked the soldiers who were on guard in my room to leave us alone but they refused. In these circumstances, the priest could only give absolution in extremis in case I should die. For several days I was subjected to interrogation at the hospital despite the fact that my condition had not improved. The fifth day after I was admitted to hospital two policemen opened up the door to my room saying 'now that you are alone we are going to get rid of you. You are going to die ... ' and one of them began to hit me about the face and body. I tried to protect myself and to cry out but I was still shaking and could hardly move. In addition, my twisted tongue prevented me from crying out loudly. I could not see them well because my eyelids still would not move. The policeman continued to say 'no one can hold out against S- A-, you are going to die .. .' He went out for a moment with the other to see if anyone was coming and then returned to continue. Eventually, I managed to cry out loudly. They were frightened and left me ...

I remained in the general hospital for about a month and a half. During this time I was visited several times for questioning. My family had been trying to help me and for over a month had been trying unsuccessfully to find me. I finally received a note which told me that they had discovered where I was. But I remained incommunicado without permission to see my family for five more months, and I received no visit from a lawyer throughout the duration of my detention.

When I was released from the hospital, my right eyelid was still paralysed (it remained so until the month of December) and I had a slight but constant shake in the shoulders, the left arm and leg; the latter, half paralysed, could not support any weight and I was obliged to use a broom stick for a walking stick.

I was sent back to OBAN, put in a cell, and told to write out a statement ... I finished this in three days, at the end of which time I was brought face to face with the young woman whom I had been on my way to meet at the time of my arrest. It was six o'clock when I was carried into the room where she was kept. They wanted me to admit the name of the organization to which they believed I belonged and to give names of supposed comrades. They began to carry the young woman off into another room and gave her a strong electric shock in order to make me talk (they were afraid to torture me again in view of my poor physical condition). I heard the cries of the girl being tortured and when they brought her back into my room she was shaking and totally distraught. I was paralysed with fear at witnessing such cruelty and even more terrified when they threatened to do the same to members of my family if I didn't tell them what they wanted to know. They repeated the electric shock treatment to the girl and, seeing that they were not achieving anything, decided to call the doctor to examine me physically to see if I was fit to undergo more torture. The doctor ordered certain tablets and said that I should not be given food. They brought me back to my cell and were to return for me later. Having seen that they were ready to torture the young woman again, and possibly members of my family as well, I decided to try and protect these people and I agreed to write out another deposition.

I was carried into the room of a certain Captain, who, along with another officer, offered me coffee and cigarettes and advised me in a friendly way to cooperate with them. I began by saying that I did not want to cooperate with them since they represented the institutions of force and violence to which we are subjected and because they used such inhuman treatment when dealing with people against whom they had no proof. They were irritated and began to torture the young woman once again in order to make me talk. Finally, they used violence on me again, along with insults and moral attacks, threats concerning members of my family and even attempts to strangle me. They blindfolded me and pushed a revolver against my forehead - all to the same end. After several hours, they carried the young girl and me back to our cells ....

The following evening when they came for me I was again suffering from contractions, my right side was paralysed, I dribbled, my body twitched constantly ...

The next morning I was carried into court. My condition had considerably worsened and my seizures were continual and more visible. I was photographed, my fingerprints were taken and I was then brought into a room on the same floor as the torture room. A sergeant in a military police uniform, with his name band covered with a sash, interrogated me calmly for 45 minutes. He threatened me alternately with torture and death if I refused to confess. Later, he told me that he was a doctor and knew that I would die if he permitted me to be tortured again. In the end, he gave me an injection for my spasms and told me that I ought to be taken back to the hospital. Throughout the night, I was locked up in a bathroom and was then taken to a doctor, Primo Alfredo, who had recently been arrested. Throughout the night, we heard as usual the terrible screams of people being tortured. The following morning I was once again brought to the military hospital.

Two days later my condition began to worsen and I lost consciousness and became delirious -- this condition lasted more than 10 days. I learnt afterwards what had happened during that period ...

... It is clear that my case is not exceptional as such events have become commonplace during the last few years in Brazil.

... I thank Your Holiness for your interest and the action taken in an attempt to secure my release. I beg you to do the same for the other thousands of men and women who suffer the same treatment in Brazil and in other countries unfortunate human beings who continue to be tortured ...

Signed: Marcos Pena Settamini de Arruda

Letter from Marlene de Souza Soccas to the "auditor" judge of the military tribunal

Marlene de Souza Soccas saw Marcos Pena Settamini de Arruda while both were undergoing torture and she mentions it in her letter:

... As I have been under arrest for two years, I have vast and unhappy knowledge of Brazilian justice. In May 1970 I was arrested by OBAN. I was prevented from contacting my lawyer or even from informing my family.

I remained incommunicado for two months, 12 days of which were spent in OBAN headquarters -- here I suffered all sorts of physical and mental torture. Brutally stripped by policemen I was put on the 'dragon chair' (a kind of metallic plate) with my hands connected to electric wires and the various parts of my body including the tongue, ears, eyes, wrists, breasts and sex organs also connected. I was then suspended from the pau de arara, an iron bar which is placed on two stands, and passed under the knees. The wrists and ankles are tied together and the whole body hangs downwards in a defenceless position. I was given electric shocks and was beaten about the kidneys and the vertebral column; I was burnt with cigarettes, I was tortured in the presence of naked political detainees, men and women, and suffered the insults of the policemen who threatened me with revolvers.

Two months after my arrest, when I was in Tiradentes prison, I was brought back to OBAN again. My torturers believed that I was in contact with the geologist Marcos Settamini Pena de Arruda, who had been tortured for the last month. I was carried into the torture room and one of the torturers, an army captain, said to me 'get ready to see Frankenstein come in'. I saw a man come into the room, walking slowly and hesitantly, leaning on a stick, one eyelid half closed, his mouth twisted, his stomach muscles twitching continuously, unable to form words. He had been admitted to hospital between life and death after traumatic experiences undergone during violent torture. They said to me 'encourage him to talk, if not the 'gestapo' will have no more patience and if one of you doesn't speak we will kill him and the responsibility for his death will lie with you.' We did not speak, not because we were heroic, but simply because we had nothing to say. Thanks to his family, who have relations abroad, Marcos Arruda was able to avoid being placed on the list of those 'killed in shoot-outs' and one year later he was acquitted.

I am a painter and when I was arrested, the police took 18 paintings, an easel, and cases full of clothes, shoes, books etc. The stolen paintings are all dated and could be used in my favour at my trial since the dates prove that I was absent from Sao Paulo at the time in question. I was painting at Laguna (in the state of Santa Catarina), where I was born, and was completely cut off from any political activity. All of these possessions were taken by OBAN and none have yet been returned to me. What words can one use to describe such actions?

I am awaiting my trial in a building built in 1854, which served in the past for the buying and selling of slaves who laboured in the cultivation of Sao Paulo's coffee. It is a historical monument with an unhappy past, a place where much suffering and death have occurred. The strange irony is that it bears the most significant name of Brazilian history, that of one of the martyrs for liberty -- Tiradentes. Here both political and common law prisoners are housed. After what I have seen and lived through, I am now better able to know what a 'democratic and Christian' society signifies. All that I learnt at school and throughout my life about human dignity has been obliterated by my experiences inside these high and insurmountable walls.

I very often heard, from beneath my cell, the deafening noise made by correcionais (common law) prisoners detained here illegally by the police, who are piled up for months at a time on cold cement without mattresses or coverings. There were terrible scenes each time a young newcomer arrived in the cell for there was no lack of sexual perverts there. The youth was obliged to submit, in view of the silent complaisance of the prison employees, and was not left alone until he was covered in blood ... I have often asked that something be done about these inhuman conditions which provide a lugubrious amusement for the jailers and police.

... Returning from the DOPS [Department for Political and Social Order) one day and crossing the courtyard on the men's side, I witnessed a sad spectacle which would not have been allowed even in a Nazi concentration camp: three correcionais detainees were thrown into a well, with water reaching to shoulder level; they were surrounded by the military police and jailers with clubs and sticks in their hands. They held the heads of the three men under the water with their feet; it was winter and the unfortunate victims were trembling convulsively, eyes wide open staring, fixed, appealing, their faces skeletal due to the freezing water.

... I have reported here, your honour, the experiences that I have undergone. They are not relevant just for me but also for the millions of people who have followed the same path. When I was a young girl, I was taught to love Brazil, respect its flag, to do my best for its people, to dedicate to my country my brains, my work, and, if necessary, my life. These sentiments have not changed, the small girl is still inside me, but I know that the illusions died an abrupt death when I was tortured under Brazil's flag and the portrait of the Duke of Caxias.

In conclusion, just a brief remark: the world is changing daily. I am not the person who will make it change any quicker, nor can I prevent it from changing, because it is whole peoples who make history. Nothing will prevent these people, once they learn of their lot, from taking into their own hands the control of their destiny and constructing a world of justice and solidarity. Even death will not prevent this because those who die for the ideals of justice become symbols of a new life and serve as an inspiration for others to continue the struggle.'

Presidio Tiradentes, Women's Prison, March 1972.

Signed: Marlene de Souza Soccas

Published September 1972




After three years in one of Haiti's most dreaded prisons, Marc Romulus was reunited with his son, Patrice. The 34-year-old teacher had been arrested on suspicion of opposing the government. An Amnesty International group in the Federal Republic of Germany was put to work on the case. The government said he was one of a number of 'unknown persons', but the Amnesty International campaign continued. It took two years for the government to admit he was in detention, although he was then described as an 'unrepentant terrorist'. Amnesty International continued to work on Marc Romulus' behalf. In September 1977 he was included in an amnesty for political prisoners. The man who the government at one stage said did not exist was at last reunited with his family.
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