Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

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1972 saw the launch of Amnesty International's first worldwide campaign to abolish torture and end the widespread official practice of torturing prisoners and detainees to stifle political dissent. The following extracts appeared in 'Epidemic Torture' published as part of the continuing campaign.

'Incredible as it is, 2370 years after Socrates drank hemlock, 1970 years after the crucifixion of Christ, 435 years after Thomas More was beheaded and 370 years after Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake, hundreds, thousands of men and women waste away their days in prison for their opinions. But opinions should be free. Let the violent man be guarded, but the man who utters what he thinks must be free, and if he is behind bars it is not he but those who keep him there who are dishonoured.'

S-- alvador de Madariaga

Where torture is being practised, by Carola Stern

I speak about torture today. The average citizen encounters it most often as entertainment, as 'spice' in a television thriller, gangster film or Western, as a story without basis in reality, which shows the armchair reader how pain can be inflicted on other people and how it can be justified. When he hears about torture as a factual news item, he hardly reacts. Through entertainment, he is psychologically conditioned and his mind has been blunted by the almost daily reports about other acts of violence, terror and mass killings. Or he unintentionally reacts in the way intended by the torturers: he does not believe the reports. The lack of credibility of an unimaginable crime is still its best camouflage.

The torture of political prisoners is at present spreading like an epidemic throughout the world and even more terrible, just because of this, it seems to become more and more difficult to rouse people against it.

Since Amnesty International came into being, we have received proof of torture and maltreatment of thousands of political prisoners. This year alone, we have had such reports from 32 countries.

The sites where torture is carried out are called by various names: Con Son in Vietnam; Korydallos Prison in Athens; Public Security Headquarters, Sao Paulo; Psychiatric Clinic, Chernyakhovsk in the USSR; Savak office in Iran. The often harmless-sounding descriptions of the methods also vary: 'parrot perch', 'dragon chair' and 'telephones' (Brazil), 'bicycle', 'record player' (Spain), etc. Yet the methods are alarmingly similar. Partly they go back to the Middle Ages, were adopted by the Gestapo and GPU, while newer methods, such as torture by electric shocks, were tried out by the French during the war in Algeria. Amnesty International is in possession of reports about electric shock torture -- where joints, sensory organs and genitals are connected to electrically-charged wires -- being practised in South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil, Iran, South Vietnam and Greece, to name only a few instances.

A former political prisoner from Brazil shows reporters how victims were tied to a pole in the 'pau de arara' (parrot's perch), which in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a common form of torture in Brazil.

Governments co-operate by exchanging information about instruments of torture and their effects. Relevant schools and courses have been set up. In 1959, for instance, a French priest reported after returning from Algeria, where he had been a reserve officer, that he had been forced to attend a course on so-called humane torture. Exactly ten years later, in October 1969, a course on torture was held in Rio de Janeiro for Brazilian army personnel. Techniques were explained, advice given on the use of different instruments, and the effect on the prisoner was demonstrated -- partly by lantern slides, but also on living objects: political prisoners. American soldiers, back from Vietnam, told how they were trained by their sergeants and officers in interrogation and torture techniques of enemy prisoners. Amnesty International also knows that there are international torture training programmes where torturers are trained in the latest medical and psychological techniques by instructors from different countries.

That which Herbert Marcuse describes as 'the aggressiveness of present-day industrial society' in the average person, and what he calls technological aggression, also affects torture in a perverse way. In the 'modern' methods of physical torture, the destruction of a person is not brought about directly by another person but by technical tools whose use does not require physical force, but only the pressing of a button. Electric shock torture, for instance, has a two-fold advantage for the torturer. It inflicts pain without leaving any traces, and it reduces the sense of guilt in the perpetrator by giving him the illusion that it was not he personally who had inflicted the pain, but the wires.

It is mainly in the USSR that a 'modern' form of psychological torture has been practised since the early 1960s: the committal of dissidents to mental hospitals, where they are detained together with seriously ill patients; and on the pretext that they need medical treatment, they are given overdoses of Aminasyn and Sulphasyn, which cause shock effects and serious physical disturbances.

According to the information available to Amnesty International, political prisoners are tortured most severely immediately after their arrest, while still at police stations, in the offices of the security police, and while under preliminary detention -- in the first place to make them reveal the names and hiding-places of their friends; and then to extort from them an extensive confession and declaration of remorse while their trial is being prepared, if there is to be a trial at all. The verdict is not being entrusted to independent judges; the outcome of the trial is decided in the torture chamber.

To attack the use of torture does not mean the defence of guerrilla warfare and political terror. But it must be agreed that there can be no justification whatever for torture. Even the other side's political terror does not supply the torturers with a justification. The torturers know much better than we do how many innocent and uninvolved people they have worn down, how many false confessions are filed in their archives - false confessions made in desperation. At the same time, they know how often, in spite of all, the victims have refused to speak. And they know how many people were induced only by torture to declare themselves for violent, merciless war.

Extortion of information and confessions, intimidation of the political opponent, deterrence - these are often the ostensible reasons for using torture. But on the basis of their investigations into the nature of sadism and cruelty, scientists have taught us that there is a further purpose.

Those who practise torture maintain that their victims do not belong to human society.

Criticised for the persecution of the political opposition in the USSR, Soviet officials declared that opposition in their country was a kind of schizophrenia. As allegedly mentally sick people, dissidents are deemed to be of unsound mind and therefore denied the status of a political opposition.

In Iran, the security police, the Savak, is particularly anxious to make political prisoners incriminate themselves with high treason under torture. Would not the patriotic public be prepared to exclude the traitor from the community?

The intention is always the same: to label the political opponent as the enemy, to expel him from society, to depict him as a beast. This is how the torturer is to see him, even before he tortures. This is how the tortured person is to see himself after being tortured.

'The purpose of torture is not only the extortion of confessions, of betrayal; the victim must disgrace himself, by his screams and his submission, like a human animal.' (Sartre).



Brazil: Vera Silva Araujo Magalhaes

Vera Silva Araujo Magalhaes was a 24-year-old student of economics in Rio de Janeiro when she was arrested by the military police in March 1970 for 'distributing leaflets.'

Her torture began twenty days after her arrest at the army police headquarters where she was first suspended for more than seven hours on the 'Pau de arara' (Parrot's Perch, where a prisoner's wrists and ankles are tied together and the whole body suspended from an iron bar under the knees, leaving the naked body doubled over and defenceless). While in this position she was subjected to different voltages of electric shocks, water was forced into her mouth and nose and she was beaten with a truncheon and whip all over the body, including her genital area.

Miss Magalhaes later reported that since she was very weak the attending doctor advised that the session be shortened and the torturers followed this order. She was then transferred to the infirmary and then to the military hospital.

In the military hospital, according to Miss Magalhaes' sworn statement, she received no medical care. Instead the doctors administered sedatives which weakened her psychologically. In general, she reported, medical practitioners attached to the military headquarters are in attendance only to control the amount of torture to which a patient may be submitted or to prescribe sedatives to aid in interrogation.

Dental treatment consisted solely of pulling out teeth to avoid further decay. There were rats and mice in the cells and infirmaries. She only saw her family three times in three months because, she said, the authorities wished to prevent them from seeing her physical condition.

Miss Magalhaes was first brought before a judge in the military tribunal after a month and a half of detention -- her trial was already underway. Her case is exceptional: generally in Brazil the detained person is not brought before a judge until he has served approximately one year's detention.

The case against her was dismissed and she was released on the 15th June, 1970, more than three months after her arrest. She now lives in exile, confined to a wheelchair, her body paralysed from the waist down.

USSR: Pyotr Grigorenko

Pyotr Gregorevich Grigorenko, now aged 66, is a much-decorated former Major-General in the Red Army and permanently disabled from wounds he suffered during World War II. A devoted campaigner for human rights, he took up the cause of the Crimean Tartars deported to central Asia during the War. In May 1969, he was arrested for anti-Soviet activities; ten months later he was brought to trial, found guilty of crimes committed while of unsound mind and sentenced to an indefinite period of detention in a psychiatric hospital until his recovery.

While awaiting trial in a prison in Tashkent in June 1969 Grigorenko began a hunger strike in protest against his treatment. He was force-fed and deliberately beaten on his wounded leg. He wrote in his prison diary: 'I long to die, calculating that my death will serve to expose this tyranny.' But his captors frequently told him: 'You are utterly at our mercy, even after death.'

His physical pains were compounded by psychological pressures: his sick wife and disabled son were deprived of their pensions, he was allowed no contact with them at all or with his defence counsel before the trial, and his complaints were totally ignored.

'Only now have I realised the special horror of the fate which overtook those unfortunate people ~ho perished by the million in the torture chambers of Stalin's regime,' Grigorenko wrote. 'It wasn't the physical suffering - that's bearable. But they deprived people of any hope whatsoever; they reiterated to them the omnipotence of their tyranny, the absence of any way out. And that is unbearable.'

In the psychiatric hospital to which Grigorenko was sent, he has been confined to a cell of six square metres containing two people: himself and a cell-mate who stabbed his own wife to death and is in a constant state of delirium.

There is room to take only two steps. Despite the acute pains in his crippled leg, he is allotted only two hours exercise each day, the rest of the time being spent in his locked cell.

Every six months he is brought before a commission and questioned on a simple question and answer basis designed, according to Grigorenko, to reveal the inconsistency of his views and to prove that he is mad.

'When will you renounce your convictions?' he is asked.

Grigorenko is reported to have replied: 'Principles are not like gloves, they are not easy to change.'

Vera Magalhaes

General Pyotr Grigorenko

Desmond Francis

South Africa: Desmond Francis

Desmond Francis is a South African Indian schoolteacher now aged 34 and living in Zambia. He was arrested in January 1968 by Rhodesian security police when he crossed the border, allegedly because of his involvement with a magazine printed by the banned African National Congress.

He was taken first to Bulawayo in Rhodesia where he spent 17 days in an infested cell, chained by leg irons and severely beaten. His head was held under water to make him confess to corrupting African detectives and when he refused to comply, he was smothered by a canvas bag and beaten on his testicles with a copper finger-printing pad.

'All this took place in a centre office to hide screams,' reported Francis who, on the fifth day of this interrogation, tried to commit suicide by plunging a broken bottle into his chest. The police prevented his attempt and renewed their efforts to break him.

While still in Rhodesia, Francis was burnt repeatedly with a hot iron on the thigh and lighted matches held against his body. His pubic hair was singed off in this manner. To relieve the pain he was given two aspirins and placed in solitary confinement.

On the 18th of January, 1968, he was taken by car to South Africa. 'I pleaded not to be sent to South Africa,' stated Francis in a subsequent affidavit. 'I was told I would be a mental wreck by the time I reached Robben Island.'

For the next 13 months, he was held in solitary confinement in Pretoria Central Prison where, he said: 'I was beaten all over with fists and an inch-thick cane; one blow broke my right cheek-bone. I was then handcuffed and blindfolded with a wet cloth. I had to sit with a stick under my knees and over my arms. Electric terminals were applied to my ears and the current was turned on. This was a terrible experience. My whole body shook and my head seemed full of vibrations. My teeth chattered so that my tongue was cut to ribbons.'

It took over two weeks to extract a statement from Francis. The torture was kept up by rotating shifts of police using every conceivable method. Eventually he signed a statement -- with a rough canvas tool bag over his head and his nerves shattered by the fire-crackers the police were throwing at him. A week later, Francis was finally granted medical attention. He had been vomiting and excreting blood almost without stop. The prison doctor's diagnosis was bleeding piles.

He was released unexpectedly without a trial 475 days after his arrest and granted an exit visa to Zambia. Speaking of the others who remain in detention, he said: 'We are confined to a silent concrete grave, a living death, painful and complete.'


A sense of loss, by Jean-Pierre Clavel

'Sadism,' wrote Erich Fromm, 'is the passion for gaining absolute control over another being.' This passion to 'break' another being is the mainspring of the act of torture: the violation of a human will by the systematic infliction of suffering.

Whether or not anyone can presume to judge all torturers as sadists, the fact remains that the act itself of deliberate and sustained cruelty is universally recognised as a crime against humanity.

As such, it is not only held to be morally indefensible, it is an indictable offence under international law.

This principle was first established in the definition of Crimes against Humanity set down in the Nuremberg Charter, 1950:

'Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried out in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.'

It was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however, and the subsequent UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that made explicit the international injunction against all acts of torture:

'No one shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.'

Despite arguments advanced by strategists to justify use of controlled third and fourth degree methods in urgent intelligence operations, no government or international body has since been able to openly sanction any form of torture. In fact, a consistent and consolidated effort has been made in recent years to bring torture under strict international legal control.

Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the fact that at no time in the history of international law in the years since the Second World War has any provision been made to admit the legality of torture even in wartime. The Geneva Conventions Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War and on the Protection of Civilians in Wartime are specific and unequivocal in prohibiting the cruel treatment and torture of captives.

This refusal to provide legal sanctions for torture under any circumstances has not, of course, prohibited its practice. Sartre's warning at the height of the Algerian War is even more true today: 'Disavowed -- sometimes very quietly -- but systematically practised behind a facade of democratic legality, torture has now acquired the status of a semi-clandestine institution.'

But the slowness of international law to halt the spread of torture does not repudiate the fundamental moral principles upon which that law is based.

Those principles are implicit in the idea of a fundamental 'humanity', unique in each individual, yet common to all.

Historically, the idea of this humanity has been primarily rooted in the belief in a basic, inalienable freedom; 'There can be nothing more dreadful,' wrote the philosopher Immanuel Kant, 'than that the actions of a man should be subject to the will of another.'

Not surprisingly, it is the history of Black Emancipation that most clearly documents the essential character of human freedom. It has always been liberty which distinguished the citizen from the slave, the man from the sub-man. 'The slave is not a man,' wrote Angela Davis shortly before her arrest in 1970, 'for if he were a man, he should certainly be free.'

But of all forms of direct and indirect oppression, it is the practice of torture which most relentlessly seeks to disintegrate the fundamental freedom of human personality; firstly, by naked assault and degradation and secondly, by attempts to gain 'absolute control' over the victim's will.

'The purpose of torture,' argued Sartre 'is not only the extortion of confessions, of betrayal: the victim must disgrace himself, by his screams and his submission, like a human animal. In the eyes of everybody and in his own eyes. He who yields under torture is not only to be made to talk, but is also to be marked as sub-human.'

Contrary to the belief that torture is only used to prevent the spread of violent insurgence, current evidence points alarmingly to its use as an instrument of social intimidation similar to the interrogations unleashed by the KGB [Committee of State Security] during the Stalinist purges.

Whether it be Iran, Greece, Brazil, Turkey, Vietnam or South Africa, the victim usually finds himself arrested without a warrant, cut off from anyone he knows, denied even minimal legal rights: 'The rules aren't made for the police,' reply his captors. He is simply seized on suspicion and dragged out of his daily life.

Suddenly without protection he may be forced to strip naked, compelled to urinate over his own body, strapped onto a bench already sticky with the vomit of those who went before. He insists there must be some mistake. He is beaten until a punctured lung forces him to cough blood through his nose and mouth. Through spells of dizziness and nausea he hears himself sworn at and laughed at.

All this before the questioning begins. When Andreas Frangias, a civil engineer, was arrested two years ago in Greece, he found himself surrounded by seven or eight shouting men who beat him repeatedly on his head, chest, stomach and belly. In his testimony to the Appeal Court he recalled the question put to him before he lost consciousness:

'Their stereotype shouted question was, 'Tell us why we have brought you here!' and at the same time they threatened me that, if I wanted to leave the place alive and see my wife and daughter again, then I must reply at once to this question.'

'But isn't this the only language people like that understand?' asks an urbane man in the cafe.

People like what? People like Henri Alleg -- the Algerian editor? People like Pyotr Grigorenko -- the Soviet Civil Rights advocate? People like Marcos de Arruda -- the Brazilian geologist? People like Immam Abdullah Haroun -- the South African Muslim leader?

'But, of course,' says the urbane gentleman, 'mistakes occur. The police do their best to protect society from violence and sometimes, in emergencies, they have to use violence.'

Unfortunately, this gentleman reads only the newspapers where torture is printed in inverted commas. To him, 'torture' is always an exaggeration unless, of course, the circumstances are desperate; then it becomes a necessary evil which the victim brings upon himself.

But torture once tolerated as a 'last resort' becomes epidemic. When, in 1955, M Willaume, a Senior French Civil Servant sent by the French government to investigate allegations of torture in Algeria, did not unambiguously condemn the use of torture, it should be noted that from that time until the end of the Algerian war in 1962 the use of torture by the authorities was not only endemic in Algeria but spread to Metropolitan France itself.

In its study of current torture practice and training, Amnesty International this year received testimony from a score of nations -- in most cases, the torture was alleged to be routine and appeared to be used solely for the systematic silencing and intimidation of political opposition. The evidence points to the establishment of torture as an institution in itself - outside the constitutional political process and completely outside the legal framework.

'Once all our army did was add a touch of colour to national festivals; now it has turned into a corps of executioners, holding 4,000 to 5,000 political prisoners at its mercy. A body of fewer than 15,000 men is enforcing a reign of terror over 21/2 million people.'

This statement emerges from testimony brought out of Uruguay by the noted French religious leader, Georges Casalis. Professor Casalis, of the French Protestant Federation, was one of the four authors of the celebrated document The Church and the Powers, published in 1972. During a subsequent visit to eight Latin American nations, he amassed first hand evidence of what he has termed an 'abyss of horror' -- often from men and women who have been torture victims themselves.

'In just a few years,' he wrote, 'a heavy yoke has descended; the streets are constantly patrolled ... men disappear without trace, families are divided against themselves People grow anxious if someone is half an hour late If a father has a meeting he takes two of his children along with him ... '

Casalis' report fits all too clearly into the cumulative evidence that an identifiable pattern of repression may now be emerging on a global scale. His findings are, unhappily, merely exemplary.

'It is taken for granted that the first stage in all interrogations is torture,' he wrote. 'A science of repressive techniques is developing. Arrests are frequently carried out on Friday evenings so that prisoners are subjected to three days of torture before being handed over to the police. In several recent cases the prisoner never was handed over; he died first.'

The accelerating violence is senseless: once developed into a method of operation it is used indiscriminately and the confessions extracted by it are usually fabrications or lies.

Studies conducted in the post-Korean War period proved that latent anxieties can be so intensified by isolation, sensory deprivation, systematic exhaustion and the administration of hallucinogenic chemicals that a 'subject' will begin to exhibit 'transient psychotic symptoms' and become highly receptive to suggestions, threats and enticements and submission can be achieved without tell-tale burn marks.

This supposed refinement serves merely to expose what has been described as the 'latent Satanism of torture': the passion to possess a human soul.

In a memorandum submitted to the United Kingdom government at the time of an official enquiry into alleged sensory deprivation torture in Northern Ireland, Amnesty International eloquently defined the fundamental character of psychological torture:

'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. Any interrogation procedure which has the purpose or effect of causing a malfunction or breakdown of a man's mental processes constitutes as grave an assault on the inherent dignity of the human person as more traditional techniques of physical torture.'

Whether a man 'goes out of his mind' from the pain of needles under his finger-nails or from an electronically induced delirium, the final effect remains that of an unbearable sense of loss, not only of control but ultimately of identity. He becomes, in Sartre's words, 'detached from his real self'. Perhaps nowhere has the suffering of this collapse been more graphically conveyed outside of literary masterpieces such as Kafka's The Trial or Shakespeare's King Lear than in Paulo Schilling's Theory and Practice of 'Torture in Brazil. In his description of the experience of electrical torture, he wrote:

'The torturer's abundant imagination determines where the shocks will be applied to the victim's body. The simplest way is to stick the contacts between the fingers or toes and then turn the crank. The electrical discharge causes a sensation which is difficult to describe; a physical and psychological commotion filled with electric sparks which, together with convulsive shaking and loss of muscular control, gives the victim a sense of loss, of unavoidable attraction for that turbulating electric trituration.

'The shock causes a stimulation in the muscle identical to the stimulation of the nerve fibres ... causing disorderly, uncontrollable movements similar to epileptic convulsions.

'The tortured victim shouts with all his might, grasping for a footing, somewhere to stand in the midst of that chaos of convulsions, shaking and sparks. He cannot loose himself or turn his attention away from that desperate sensation. For him in that moment any other form of combined torture - paddling, for example - would be a relief, for it would allow him to divert his attention, touch ground and his own body which feels like it is escaping his grasp. Pain saves him, beatings come to his rescue. He tries to cause himself pain by beating his head repeatedly on the ground. But generally he is tied, hanging on the 'parrot's perch' and not even that resource is available to him.'

In a letter smuggled out of a Greek prison two years ago, a victim of the Greek repression tried to account for torture such as this which he and his comrades suffered:

'The headhunters have locked us up in this narrow place in order to make us shrink, like those hideous human scalps which are their trophies.'

It is in this utter diminishment of humanity that torture reveals its final moral blasphemy - the secret repudiation not only of human freedom, but of humanity itself.


The victim, by George Mangakis

'I have experienced the fate of a victim. I have seen the torturer's face at close quarters. It was in a worse condition than my own bleeding, livid face. The torturer's face was distorted by a kind of twitching that had nothing human about it. He was in such a state of tension that he had an expression very similar to those we see on Chinese masks; I am not exaggerating. It is not an easy thing to torture people. It requires inner participation. In this situation, I turned out to be the lucky one. I was humiliated. I did not humiliate others. I was simply bearing a profoundly unhappy humanity in my aching entrails. Whereas the men who humiliate you must first humiliate the notion of humanity within themselves. Never mind if they strut around in their uniforms, swollen with the knowledge that they can control the suffering, sleeplessness, hunger and despair of their fellow human being, intoxicated with the power in their hands. Their intoxication is nothing other than the degradation of humanity. The ultimate degradation. They have had to pay very dearly for my torments. I wasn't the one in the worse position. I was simply a man who moaned because he was in great pain. I prefer that. At this moment I am deprived of the joy of seeing children going to school or playing in the parks. Whereas they have to look their own children in the face.' (Letter to Europeans, 1971)

Medical and psychological aspects

Pain is a signal that the body is being damaged or destroyed. To stay alive is undoubtedly one of our basic drives although death may eventually be counted as a merciful release. But few people can view with equanimity the prospect of living as a damaged body or mind. A 'mind' needs a complete 'body' for complete self expression. It needs intact genitalia for fulfilment of social ambitions such as marriage, for expression of sexual drives; intact hands for constructive and aggressive instincts; vision, speech and hearing for relating to other body/minds. A healthy body is seen as 'good', a disfigured one is 'bad' and therefore the victim sees himself as becoming regarded as a 'bad' person, a 'mind' to be shunned and therefore condemned like the wandering Jew to the continuous torture of eternal loneliness.

Women inmates of Tan Hiep national prison, South Vietnam, undergoing treatment for acid burns at Cho Ray Hospital in Saigon. They alleged they received these burns when the prison authorities forcibly suppressed a prisoner demonstration for better conditions.

The most senseless of all tortures is physical trauma to the brain. If a man's skull is struck, the brain may be shaken up (concussed), bruised (contused) or torn (lacerated). Brain cells die, blood vessels get torn, cerebral haemorrhage and further destruction of brain tissue occurs. Some brain cells, if damaged, recover: but dead cells are never replaced. To damage the organ of a healthy mind can serve no purpose, further no cause. Like picking the wings off a butterfly or the burning of the ancient library of Alexandria it produces an irreparable loss. Death, coma or a mindless 'vegetable' is a result with no suffering for the victim; but to be left aware that one's mind is damaged or distorted, deficient in its memory, its intellectual skills or its control is a terrible sentence. A profound depression often ensues; one may be subject to convulsions, or outbursts of rage, unable to work or to adjust to society.

Interrogation methods employing sensory deprivation techniques also have traumatic effects. Anxiety, hypochondria and hysteria are the most frequent in clinical situations; phobias, depressions, emotional fatigue and the obsessive-compulsive reactions are rarer. In addition to its subjective results, anxiety can lead to stomach, heart and genitourinary symptoms as well as tremors and sleep disturbance.

The induction of convulsions by passing an electric shock through the brain is, like the use of sensory deprivation, a perverted application of medical practice. Therapy using electrical shock in this way (Electro-convulsant therapy) is widely used for alleviating depressive illnesses. Even in medical use when it is given twice a week, it may induce mild confusion and memory impairment for a short period. When repeated many times in a day it causes such cerebral disturbance as to render men demented and incontinent and is analogous to a severe head injury.

Psychiatric cases encountered after the use of electrical torture in Algeria included instances of localised or generalised cenesthopathies in which 'the patients felt 'pins and needles' throughout their bodies; their hands seemed to be torn off, their heads seemed to be bursting and their tongues felt as if they were being swallowed'; I instances of apathy, aboulia and electricity phobia were also evident, the former two in patients who were 'inert' and the latter in patients who feared touching a switch, turning on the radio or using the telephone.

Just as severe damage to our physical system may leave a scar, so may mental stress have long term sequelae. If during the process of torture, our psychological defences are eroded and the mental systems with which we cope with stress become so overloaded that they are destroyed, we may find on return to our normal environment that we no longer have an adequate system for coping with any life problems. A survey of psychiatric casualties of World War I revealed that almost all were unable to return to normal life after discharge from the Army and were unable to work in their former capacity, if at all. Their minds became preoccupied with grief or bitterness over their misfortunes, or a permanent state of anxiety arose.

Distressing dreams and memories can occur many years after the severe stress, being re-awakened by another severe stress, and similarly a pattern of behaviour (such as a state of abject terror) acquired during torture, may suddenly reappear.

Specialist help for torture victims is provided by medical teams around the world. Like the Danish team pictured above, they work to help patients overcome the trauma of mental and physical abuse.

Within this context of breakdown through manipulated stress, physical abuse is also employed. The function of beatings, burnings, gaggings, finger irons and needles is clearly exhausting, demoralising and disorienting. In his study of the results of tortures of this order Frantz Fanon reported cases of agitated nervous depressions, patients who were sad and depressed, who shunned contact and were liable to show signs of very violent agitation without obvious cause. Perhaps the most serious problems were encountered in patients who, after torture, exhibited a phobia against all forms of physical contact with other people. Nurses who came near the patient and tried to touch him, to take his hand, for example, were at once pushed stiffly away. It was not possible to carry out artificial feeding or even to administer medicine.2 It is perhaps cases such as this that best reveal the meaning of Jean Amery's statement: 'Torture is the most terrible event remaining in man's memory.'



1. F. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, Penguin, 1970, Chapter 5.


Published September 1983



'A thick wall of silence, a silence of terror and of the grave, surrounds everything that goes on there.' This is how two escaped political prisoners from Equatorial Guinea describe their country in a detailed testimony recently received by Amnesty International. In retelling their prison ordeal, the two men charge that Guinean President Macias Nguema -- during whose nine-year rule a quarter of the country's population has gone into exile - has made Equatorial Guinea into 'an immense torture centre' where 'the way out is the way to the cemetery'.

Amnesty International considers the report significant in that, for the first time, it provides detailed corroboration of the numerous allegations received over nine years, of brutal murders, torture and inhuman prison conditions in Equatorial Guinea.

The testimony gives names and circumstances of death of 12 prisoners who died after torture in Bata Prison. Two allegedly died after having their eyes torn out by Guinean National Guards. Others died after beatings and bizarre humiliations were inflicted during forced labour. For example, two men were forced to re-enact the crucifixion of Christ, participating in a savage 'way of the Cross' accompanied by a group of other prisoners. After their fellow-prisoners were crucified, the remaining group was forced to celebrate a mock-mass over the dying men. The present government of Equatorial Guinea is hostile to the Roman Catholic faith of a minority of the population.

President Nguema himself is mentioned as figuring in one murder, and as having knowledge of another. In the first case President Nguema allegedly ordered a prisoner brought to Bata's airport to hunt rats. When the man failed to catch more than four, the rats and the prisoner were burned alive. In the second case the President referred in a public speech to a statistician whose fingers had been cut off 'because he could not count'. The actual fate of the statistician - according to witnesses quoted in the report - was even more horrible. The man's fingers, hands, feet and ears were cut off before he died.

In the testimony, general conditions for all inmates at Bata Prison, and especially for the political prisoners, are said to be bad. Up to 18 prisoners can be kept in cells measuring either one metre square, or 2 by 3 metres. Under the harsh regime of prison director Salvador Ela and his deputy Francisco Edu, male and female prisoners work for long hours without any food or drink. Their only food is provided by their families, and those without families can starve to death.

The testimony goes on: 'The National Guard invented the most incredible methods of torture, such as the 'injection' method, where they beat a prisoner on the ribs and testicles, while forcing him to swallow water. Women had thorns and other objects thrust up their vaginas, and then they were raped. If the guards got bored with this, they might tie up a prisoner with wire, pour petrol over him, and burn him alive in the prison courtyard, in front of everyone ...

'This method must have seemed too quick to them, for they discovered another method: hanging a man from his hands and feet by nylon cords from a pole parallel to the ground. After a while the weight of the prisoner's body would make the cords cut to the bone. Others would be beaten with clubs until their flesh swelled and wounds appeared. Then the wounds would be sprayed with petrol. The guards would not set the prisoners alight, but allowed the petrol to dry out their wounds in the heat of the sun, splitting the flesh open. People would die, literally split open. Antonio Ndo was one of many who died this way'. A list of 490 names of civil servants who have died under the regime was published by the Guinean exile community at the end of 1976, but even this cannot be regarded as complete.

AI Newsletter March 1978
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 7:41 am


Human rights in Indonesia have been of particular public interest in the Netherlands because of the country's history as a Dutch colony. In 1973 the Dutch Section of Amnesty International published 'Indonesia Special' in collaboration with the movement's International Secretariat. This presented the situation of more than 55,000 untried political prisoners, many of them 'prisoners of accident or victims of circumstance, arrested by mistake or military inefficiency, and subsequently unable to challenge their detention.' The report also described the plight of their families:

Indonesian society has always been known for its sense of social cohesion, its ability to care for those stranded by misfortune or left without a breadwinner. There is no social security system, but the traditional social cohesion has in the past managed to deal with problems which, in a welfare state, would become the responsibility of the State. Since 1965, this fine tradition has been shattered; large numbers of people have found themselves without communal sympathy and protection because of the pervading anticommunist atmosphere. They are the families of political prisoners, the wives and children of prisoners, and children deprived of parents since 1965 through imprisonment or death.

This is not simply a matter of coping with economic problems and educating children; it extends to a kind of social ostracism that has destroyed friendships, broken fraternal blood relationships and made good-neighbourliness a rare exception rather than an accepted mode of behaviour towards those related to political prisoners. It is almost as though these families suffer from a contagious disease and no one who can possibly avoid it wants to become contaminated.

How then do the wives and children of political prisoners survive? Some wives have cut their relations with their imprisoned husbands altogether. They have been unable to bear the strain of prolonged separation with no prospects of reunion. Life is not easy for a woman without her husband in Indonesian society, and many prisoners' wives have fallen prey to pressures exerted upon them by military officers. Their fear for their children's security has made them particularly vulnerable.

The vast majority of wives, however, have not succumbed to this type of pressure, and a very large number of them live on the brink of starvation. Few of them can find regular jobs, not only because of a lack of skill or qualifications, but also because most employers demand a 'declaration of non-involvement in the 1965 coup' which detainees' wives are not able to get, unless they have money to bribe local officials. Some people have been able to purchase these declarations for prices varying from two to several hundred dollars, a thing that is not uncommon in a society where corruption has become almost a way of life.

Neither is it an easy matter for the children of detainees to continue their education. A major difficulty is finance; school fees are high, even for primary schools, and transportation to and from school may require even more money than the fees. Moreover, children require 'noninvolvement declarations' to take examinations or enter university; this applies even to children who were little more than infants at the time of the coup. In 1971, the press reported that children entering secondary school at the age of 14 had to produce one of these declarations, yet they were only eight years old at the time of the coup!

Many wives try to make a living from dressmaking or baking cakes which they hawk on the streets. Mrs. Pramudya Ananta Tur, wife of Indonesia's foremost writer who is now detained on Buru Island, sells cakes to try and make ends meet. She suffers from a pulmonary ailment and requires regular medical treatment. Another woman, who once ran a prosperous building firm, is now herself living in a bamboo shed in one of Jakarta's poorest districts; her husband was arrested as a member of a left-wing trade union, and she is now supported by her son who bought a 'non-involvement declaration' in order to get a job as a barman in a Jakarta hotel. Her youngest son died two years ago because she could not afford to pay for necessary medical treatment. There are numerous other examples of human tragedy that have occurred among these neglected families.

The difficulties they face are not only caused by an absence of assistance from official sources. In many cases, the families are actively harassed by local military units who force them out of their homes and deprive them of their belongings. They are defenceless against such harassment and cannot even contemplate taking legal action unless they have financial aid for the lengthy court proceedings.

Another constant worry is that of finding out about the whereabouts of a detained husband. Wives who have lost trace of their husbands, either immediately after his arrest or as a result of transfer from one place of detention to another, are often treated in a very humiliating way when they make enquiries at any military unit.

The only source of succour for these families in distress is a small number of private organisations, mainly the Christian churches, which, in some places, have started relief programmes for the families of political prisoners. One diocese of the Roman Catholic Church took steps to bring prisoners' wives together to share their problems and to try and solve them through communal effort. A chaplain took the initiative and worked out a plan of action; it included fund-raising by selling hand-made products, simultaneously providing the women with some form of employment. The money was intended to pay school-fees for their children. But, inevitably, such endeavours run into difficulties and this one was suspected of providing a cover for political activities. When the women participating in this particular scheme met together at Christmas 1971 for a small celebration, one of them rose to thank the organisers on behalf of all the wives. A few days later, she was summoned to a military office, held for a whole day and questioned about the speech she had made. She was later released but the incident disturbed many women who had found some comfort in the regular get-togethers and common effort, and they decided to stay away in future.

Relief projects are in progress in several major towns in Indonesia but they are still very limited in scope and can help only a very small fraction of those in need.

Perhaps the best way to conclude the above account is with the true story of one particular child who, for the purposes of this story, we shall call Narto:

'Mrs. S. had been under detention for several years because of her associations with the left-wing women's organisation, Gerwani. Her husband had been murdered in an incident in Jakarta shortly after the coup attempt and, ironically for her, had been buried at the Heroes' cemetery in Jakarta because his death was thought to have been the result of an attack by communist youths. When she was arrested, she took one small child with her to prison and left her other children with relatives. The relatives never visited her and she had no news of her children.

One day some years after her arrest, she, together with several other women prisoners, was carrying garbage out of the prison where she was being held in Jakarta when, glancing towards the crowded streets, she suddenly began to scream: 'Narto! Narto'. The prison commander who was guarding the women prisoners on garbage duty asked her why she was shouting.

'That's my son,' she cried. 'Narto, my son, over there, picking up fag-ends.'

The commander saw the boy to whom she was pointing, and began to run after him. The boy, seeing a soldier running after him, took to his heels and fled. Many startled bystanders joined in the chase; the boy was soon caught and the commander dragged him back to the prison. Only then did the child realise that his own mother had been calling him.

He was dressed in rags and filthy from head to foot. His mother embraced him and carried him into the prison. By the time they entered the prison compound, everyone had rushed out to see what was happening, political prisoners and their military guards, criminal prisoners in the nearby blocks and the civil administrators of that part of the prison. It was a heart-rending scene, and everyone, guards as well as prisoners, wept as they watched the mother and child. The mother was torn between joy at finding her child after years of separation and anger at seeing him in such a wretched condition. Nothing could more poignantly have depicted the tragedy of so many families torn asunder by political events for which they are not responsible.

After bathing and dressing Narto in her own clothes, the mother discovered that he had been staying with an uncle who had found the responsibility of looking after him too burdensome and had made his life a misery. Narto could not stand the life and ran away. He had been living on the streets for weeks, begging, collecting fag ends and sleeping under railway carriages in sidings.

For some months he remained in prison with his mother, but the prison commander realised that the child must be found a home outside. With the help of the visiting Catholic priest, a place was found for him with a Catholic family and he was soon able to start going to school again after having missed several years of schooling.'

Narto was saved from misery by a lucky coincidence. How many children live on as he once lived, with no escape from the wretchedness of life in a society that cares nothing -- or is too afraid to care -- for the children of political prisoners?

Published March 1973
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 7:42 am


Despite the cease-fire in the war in Viet Nam in January 1973, Amnesty International received dozens of reports that civilians were still suffering in detention in the south. The organization continued to campaign for the release and rehabilitation of civilians detained in Indo-China as a result of war until the cessation of hostilities in April 1975. In 1973 it published 'Political Prisoners in South Vietnam' focusing on the plight of these detainees, explaining who they were, why many who did not support either of the warring sides were still detained, the conditions of their imprisonment and allegations of torture.

The infamous South Vietnamese 'tiger cage' prison on Con Son Island attracted public attention in 1970 with the exposure of cramped underfloor cages. The prison was used mostly to house political prisoners, many of whom were permanently crippled as a result of their imprisonment in the cages.

In November 1972 Amnesty International presented a draft Protocol to all the parties to the conflicts in Indochina. The Protocol was concerned with the release and rehabilitation in the event of a ceasefire of all the civilians detained in Indochina as a result of war. At the time this was a massive problem needing the most urgent attention, especially in South Vietnam. Since then a Ceasefire in Vietnam has come and gone; and the problem is just as urgent today.

Like most wars, the conflict in Vietnam created two sorts of prisoner: prisoners of war -- that is, military personnel involved in the war -- and detained civilians. Contrary to what many people think, the January 1973 Cease fire and Peace Agreement only dealt properly with prisoners of war. It left the question of civilian prisoners largely unanswered.

As a result of the Agreement, all captured and detained military personnel (as well as foreign civilians) were released by the end of March; the Americans among them received most public attention. They were nearly 600 in all, less than the Pentagon may have hoped, but in any case only a fraction of the total number of civilian and military detainees throughout Indochina. Most of them were released by the DRVN [Democratic Republic of Vietnam), a few by the PRG [Provisional Revolutionary Government) and a handful by the pro-Communist Pathet Lao in Laos. At the same time, but with much less publicity, some 31,000 Vietnamese prisoners of war were exchanged by the PRG and GR [Government of the Republic of Vietnam) in the South.

The Peace Agreement also stipulated that the two South Vietnamese parties should discuss the issue of civilian detainees and try to come to an agreement by 27 April 1973, ninety days after the Ceasefire. This deadline is now long past and next to nothing has happened. This means that upwards of 100,000 civilians remain in detention throughout South Vietnam, many of them in appalling conditions, the vast majority of them held as a result of the fourteen-year-old conflict.

One of the hazards of discussing South Vietnamese civilian prisoners is the imbalance of information available. Accounts of conditions in GRVN prisons, as well as some visual material, regularly filter out; on the other hand reliable information about the condition of prisoners held by the PRG is hard to come by, even though released Americans have had their experiences to relate.

In spite of this disparity, Amnesty International feels there can be no excuse for failing to describe the appalling conditions, chaotic administration and widespread disregard for basic legal and human rights which many GRVN civilian prisoners have to endure. For this reason, while it contains a section on PRG prisoners, the greater part of this report is given to GRVN civilian detainees, with the proviso that it cannot be exhaustive.

No consideration is given here to the DRVN. This is not because Amnesty International is not concerned with North Vietnam - on the contrary, it has North Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience in its files. However, the January Peace Agreement on Vietnam is concerned only with civilians detained in South Vietnam, and in the present instance we are confining ourselves to these terms of reference.

The aim of this report is to publicise the plight of South Vietnamese civilian prisoners, and to stress the fact that no progress is being made towards their release. Amnesty International wishes to draw this state of affairs to the urgent attention of the International Commission for Control and Supervision of the Cease fire in South Vietnam; to the participants of the Paris Conference on Vietnam last February; and to all interested Governments and parties, in the hope that they will prevail on the GRVN and the PRG to take concerted action and set free South Vietnamese civilian prisoners.

The peace agreement

The provisions made for civilian internees in 1954, when the French and Ho Chi Minh's People's Army signed a ceasefire, were much better than those made by the Peace Agreement this year. According to the 1954 Settlement, 'All civilian internees of Vietnamese, French and other nationalities captured since the beginning of hostilities in Vietnam during military operations or any other circumstances of war ... shall be liberated within a period of thirty days after the ceasefire'.

The Settlement went on to define the term 'civilian internee' as meaning 'any persons who, having in any way contributed to the political and armed struggle between the two parties, have been arrested for that reason and have been kept in detention by either party during the period of hostilities'.

Nineteen years later, the provisions for a far more complicated situation are far less comprehensive. The January 1973 Peace Agreement should have provided for the immediate release of all civilians detained as a result of the war. Instead it just told the two South Vietnamese parties to 'do their utmost' to resolve the problem within ninety days of the Ceasefire. When this deadline was reached at the end of April, the two parties had only succeeded in agreeing to exchange a total of 1,387 civilian detainees, a tiny percentage of the total number held. Since then, negotiations on the civilian prisoner issue have ground to a halt. [1]

The Peace Agreement also used the same definition of 'civilian internee' as the French and Vietminh agreed on in 1954. Even in 1954 this definition was not really satisfactory. How broadly was the phrase 'contributing in any way to the political struggle' to be interpreted, for example?

But at least there had been a fairly clearcut political and military struggle between the French on one side and the Vietminh on the other. In 1973, on the other hand, the prisons of President Thieu are filled not just with members of the NLF [National Liberation Front), but also with thousands of non-Communist opponents of his Administration. These people have 'contributed to the political and armed struggle between the two parties' -- that is, the GRVN and PRG -- only insofar as they have supported neither of them. They are in jail for opposing President Thieu on their own, or for supporting movements other than the NLF. It is clear that the terms of the January Peace Agreement are not broad enough to include this large section of the GRVN's prison population, and that the GRVN has no intention of setting them free on any other grounds. [2]

Even if it eventually releases its NLF prisoners, there are several reasons why the GRVN may find it expedient to keep its non-Communist political opponents behind bars. These people are 'neutralists', members of the political third force, possible mediators between Communist and non-Communist in South Vietnam. If they were released and allowed to become politically active, they could well jeopardise the staunchly anti-Communist position of the GRVN. This position, which identifies neutralism with pro-Communism, is perhaps the most effective raison d'etre of GRVN.

The pivotal role of the third force is reflected in the proposed structure of the body known as the National Council for National Reconciliation and Concord, at least as it was originally conceived. According to the Peace Agreement, this Council is designed to organise general elections throughout South Vietnam, and a lot of negotiations went on before the signing of the Agreement about the Council's precise nature. Washington and Saigon apparently wanted to reduce its potential as much as possible, while Hanoi and the PRG conceived of it as an 'administrative structure' with considerable independent power. The Council is to consist of three segments. In the January Peace Agreement it was not specified how these would be made up; but earlier it had been clear that they were to be one part GRVN, one part PRG and one part third force.

Both before and after the January Ceasefire, however, the GRVN has done all it can to discredit the idea of the third force. In a letter to President Nixon last November, for example, President Thieu denied its existence. The GRVN has also taken steps to silence claims that it is holding a large number of non-Communist political prisoners.



1. As a first step in the negotiations on civilian detainees, the GRVN and PRG exchanged lists of civilian prisoners they considered eligible for release under the terms of the Peace Agreement. The GRVN's list consisted of 5,081 'Communist civilian detainees', while the PRG's number 137. Each side claimed the other's list fell far short of the true number, and there was an impasse until three days before the deadline on 27 April. Then, in a surprise move, the GRVN agreed to exchange 750 prisoners for 637 PRG prisoners. Since then, there have been petty disputes about venues, and about protection for the Control Commission teams who are supposed to be on hand to observe exchanges. As a result, only a few hundred civilian detainees have actually been exchanged.

2. The PRG has claimed their release under Article 11 of the Peace Agreement, which is concerned with 'freedom of belief' and other democratic liberties.

Published July 1973
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 7:42 am


After the fall of the government of South Vietnam and the reunification of Viet Nam, thousands of former members of the armed forces and administration of South Vietnam were detained without charge or trial for 're-education'. Many of those detained were soon released, but Amnesty International became increasingly worried in 1977 and 1978 about the long-term detention without trial of the thousands remaining in 're-education' camps. This extract comes from the report of an Amnesty International mission to the Socialist Republic of Viet am in December 1979.

The fact that large numbers of people remain in detention without charge or trial nearly five years after the end of the war has been the cause of growing concern to Amnesty International. Article 9 of Policy Statement No. 02/CS/76 states that category (c) people 'must attend collective re-education courses for three years starting from the day they enter a camp'. The statement continues: 'those who have committed many crimes against the people and dangerous evil-doers who have incurred many blood debts to their compatriots' (Article 9), 'those who were in the ranks of the resistance and betrayed the country' (Article 10), and 'those who have not submitted to the revolutionary administration, who refuse to report to the administration for re-education courses' will be brought to trial in due course (Article 11). Policy Statement No. 02/CS/76 is therefore quite clear that 're-education' will last three years and that those individuals who would be charged with criminal acts will be tried.

In its discussions with the Vietnamese authorities and legal representatives, the Amnesty International delegation was therefore keen to establish why the Vietnamese Government continues to detain large numbers of people without charge or trial for far in excess of the three-year period. Amnesty International was informed that since the unification of Vietnam on 2 July 1976, the law of what was formerly the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) now applies to the whole country. Although decrees of the Provisional Revolutionary Government were still valid, the existing law of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was paramount. In particular, the Vietnamese authorities referred the Amnesty International delegation to Resolution 49-NQ/TVQH of the National Assembly of 1961. This resolution provides for 're-education' for two categories of people: (a) 'obstinate counter-revolutionary elements who threaten public security' and (b) 'all professional scoundrels'. There are no provisions in Resolution 49 of 1961 that those individuals sent for 're-education' be brought before a court or sentenced. Although the period of 're-education' mentioned is three years, the resolution also allows for the period of detention to be extended -- something for which the Provisional Revolutionary Government Policy Statement of May 1976 did not provide. Amnesty International is concerned therefore that the Vietnamese Government now states that Resolution 49 of 1961 applies to those individuals held after the cessation of hostilities in 1975.

The Amnesty International delegation was informed that the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam faced in May 1975 the problem of disarming a hostile armed force of 1,300,000 and that the policy of 're-education' in these circumstances was introduced in an attempt to achieve national reconciliation instead of seeking vengeance. Whatever the original intention behind the policy, the continued detention of large numbers of people in 're-education' camps in 1980, long beyond the three-year period earlier set, has since become akin to administrative detention without trial.

Although the system of detention in 're-education' camps in Viet Nam may not have been conceived of as administrative detention without trial, it appears that the element of 're-education' has now receded considerably. The Amnesty International delegation was told during its visit that new and unexpected security considerations have arisen during the past two years which have made it impossible to release all detainees in 're-education' camps within the time period first envisaged; in particular reference was made to the situation in Kampuchea and to Viet Nam's relations with the People's Republic of China. Grounds for the continued detention of these people, therefore, seems to have shifted from past misdeeds and present behaviour to the external situation, namely national security. These prisoners are therefore being held in what is usually termed administrative detention without trial.

The effect of this new policy is that thousands of people who had expected to be released after three years are still kept in detention without charge or trial and without knowing when they will be released, which results in severe hardship for them and their families.

Published June 1981
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 7:43 am


The world was shocked by the violence that followed the overthrow of the civilian government of Chile in September 1973. Here is a chronology of Amnesty International's response to these events, from 'Chile: an Amnesty International report', published one year after the coup. The report examined in detail the detention of political prisoners, the numerous executions, deaths and 'disappearances' since the coup, the systematic use of torture and the flouting of recognized legal procedures. The second extract from the report highlights one of the problems Amnesty International frequently faces in its work, that of reliably estimating statistics.



11 September Chilean Armed Forces overthrow the government of Dr Salvador Allende.

15 September Amnesty International and International Commission of Jurists issue statement calling for UN intervention on threats to civilian lives and to refugees in Chile.

16 September AI's International Council, meeting in Vienna, calls on the new Chilean government to stop executions, arrests and threatened deportations.

October At the Un in New York, AI Secretary General Martin Ennals is given assurances by the Chilean Foreign Minister, Admiral Ismael Huerta Diaz, that 'torture is against the principles of the Chilean Government' and that all prisoners will be given a fair trial and the right to appeal against sentence. Admiral Huerta Diaz invites Amnesty International to visit Chile and assures Mr Ennals that a mission will be free to carry out investigations.

1-8 November AI mission visits Chile. The delegates are: Professor Frank Newman, professor of law at the University of California, Judge Bruce W. Sumner, presiding judge of the Supreme Court of Orange County, California, and Roger Plant, Researcher in the Latin American Department of AI's International Secretariat.

The mission's terms of reference are to:

• make representations to the Chilean Government regarding executions.

• report upon procedures of interrogation, detention, charge and trial.

• inquire into allegations of torture.

• meet with defence lawyers and to advise on financial and other assistance to prisoners and their families.

7 December Professor Frank Newman gives testimony on the findings of the mission to members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the United States House of Representatives.

11 December At AI's Conference for the Abolition of Torture, Chairman Sean MacBride criticizes torture in Chile. AI sends cable protesting against long prison sentences and death sentences.

31 December Report of mission is sent to the Chilean Government. In a letter to General Pinochet, Martin Ennals urges that:

• all executions cease and lists of those already executed be published.

• 'immediate steps be taken and proclaimed to establish tribunals of inquiry into allegations of torture and that international observers be invited to participate'.
• lists of detainees be published to 'assuage the fears of people who do not know where relatives and friends are detained, or even whether they are detained'.

• the decision to try former members of the Allende government be rescinded because legislation that creates a crime retroactively 'is an affront to any system of justice'.

• prisoners against whom charges are not filed, preparatory to trial, should be released immediately.

• the Chilean government 'renew its assurances to respect the right of asylum'.


19 January The Chilean government issues a public statement rejecting the report in its entirety without commenting on the substance of the report.

The President of the Supreme Court publicly attacks AI in his opening annual address.

28 January Martin Ennals replies to the criticisms of the report in a letter to General Pinochet.

February-March Professor Frank Newman gives testimony to the UN Human Rights Commission.

May Judge Horst Woesner of the West German Federal Court represents AI in Chile. His brief is to investigate judicial procedures in Santiago and the provinces and to observe the air force and other trials in Santiago and the provinces.

3 June Judge Woesner reports that defence procedures in Santiago are wholly inadequate, that torture continues and that death sentences have been passed on two men in Valdivia. These sentences were subsequently commuted after widespread expression of concern from both AI sections and other organizations.

30 July Death sentences are passed on three members of the Chilean armed forces and one civilian on charges of treason. Martin Ennals, in a letter to General Pinochet, appeals for the sentences to be commuted. As a result of widespread international pressure, the four death sentences were commuted to 30 years' imprisonment on 6 August.

Throughout 1974, Amnesty International has briefed several missions to Chile, to observe trials, meet with defence lawyers, investigate torture and make arrangements for the channelling of aid to the families of political prisoners.

Considerable aid has been given to refugees from Chile and some fares have been paid from Latin America to European countries by AI national sections, especially by the sections in Germany, Sweden, Holland, Mexico and France.

By August 1974, individual Ai groups are working for the release of approximately 140 Chilean prisoners.

Published September 1974



'The infringement and repression of human rights in Chile have continued unabated' in the year since a military coup overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Salvador Allende, according to a major Amnesty International report published tomorrow (September 11), the anniversary of the coup.

A young boy in Santiago, Chile, cries as a police vehicle takes his father away.

The 80-page illustrated publication, 'Chile: an Amnesty International report', documents the unending campaign waged against supporters of the Allende regime and other elements by the military junta that seized power on September 11, 1973.

'The death roll of victims is unprecedented in recent Latin American history, and there is little indication that the situation is improving or that a return to normality is intended,' Amnesty International Secretary General Martin Ennals says in his preface to the report.

'Twelve months after the coup, despite the Government's apparent absolute control over the country, the junta still deems Chile to be in a 'state of war and a state of siege',' Mr Ennals says.

The report is based on information collected from both Chileans and independent foreign observers, including Amnesty International's own team of investigators which visited Santiago last year. Much of the evidence was submitted to Amnesty International in confidence by ex-prisoners and their families.

After weighing the junta's stated justification for the coup, the report examines in detail the detention of political prisoners, the numerous executions, other deaths and disappearances of people since the coup, the junta's systematic use of torture, its flouting of all recognized legal procedures, and the fate of the thousands of foreigners who sought refuge under Allende. An appendix cites 19 typical cases of individual repression.

'In publishing this report, Amnesty International hopes that it will provide a factual basis for a continuing program of assistance to the victims of the coup and, what is equally urgent, for a renewed campaign of international pressure upon the Chilean Government to restore human rights in Chile,' Mr Ennals says.

Although the precise number of persons still detained without trial in Chile for political reasons is unknown, the report says estimates from reliable sources indicate that there are probably between 6,000 and 10,000 held in the many detention centres dotted throughout the country. They represent every sector of the population -- from former Allende ministers, other politicians, doctors, lawyers, journalists and trade unionists to actors, academics, students, agricultural experts and even members of the armed forces. Only a small percentage have ever been brought to trial, although trials are pending for the Allende ministers.

The report expresses alarm at the fact that although most detainees are now held in public prisons and improvised detention centres, many more are held by units of the armed forces in military barracks where they have no recourse to legal protection of any kind. A detailed examination of prison conditions and interrogation procedures since the coup shows the brutality practised from the outset by the military against detainees.

Although the Allende ministers have now been transferred from the harsh climate of Dawson Island back to Santiago, many other prisoners are still detained in remote Chacabuco (over 1,000 kilometres from Santiago) whose very distance, 'by cutting off all possibility for legal protection, gives military intelligence carte blanche to study the prisoners' dossiers at random: to release some, to bring others to trial whensoever they wish, and to keep the remainder in preventive detention'.

Thousands of people in Chile have lost their lives since the coup through summary or near summary execution, being allegedly 'shot while trying to escape' or as a consequence of torture received during interrogation, the report says.

Although many of the deaths took place in the first few months after the coup, the report cites a number of cases of people who lost their lives this year. They include former Interior Minister Jose Toha, who died in mysterious circumstances in a military hospital in Santiago in March. The junta's official explanation of suicide is widely discounted.

'While the military intelligence services continue their random arrests, interrogations and assaults on private citizens, there can be no real guarantees for the protection of human life in Chile,' the report says.

In a long chapter entitled 'Chile and the rule of law', the report examines the abuse of legal procedures and international conventions by the junta.

'Since the declaration of the 'state of siege' as applied in time of war, in September 1973, civil courts and lawyers have been virtually powerless in Chile, while citizens and lawyers alike have been deprived of their fundamental legal rights. Citizens have been arrested without charges and without recourse to a lawyer; lawyers have been unable to demand access to prisoners, or even to know the charges against them until shortly before the commencement of a trial. The majority of trials have been held in secret, with the defence lawyer often excluded from the court martial proceedings. All trials have been conducted by military courts in accordance with the Code of Military Justice in Time of War ... Moreover, there is now ample evidence that the military junta has failed to fulfil many of the legal guarantees that have been published in the Chilean press or made to foreign observers.'

Defendants in the recent air force trials in Chile were repeatedly tortured in an effort to extract confessions from them. The courts however refuse to admit defence allegations of torture. Some well-known international lawyers who observed the air force trials were unanimous in asserting that the prisoners had no chance of a fair trial.

The report says Amnesty International's own mission saw marks of severe torture on the bodies of some men and women whom they questioned. Other independent observers saw marks of torture inflicted by specially-imported Brazilian interrogators during the early phase of the coup.

Although brutality appeared at first to be random, 'within a few weeks of the coup, torture appears to have become an official policy of the Chilean Government'. The report lists 16 major military centres and military schools (in addition to the well-known sites like the National Stadium) where torture is known to have taken place. It says Amnesty International is still receiving reports regularly of the continuing use of beatings, electric shocks and psychological torture.

The junta also violated Chile's own international undertakings in its xenophobic persecution of the thousands of foreign refugees caught up in the coup. Although most refugees have now left Chile, the report criticizes the manner in which the junta has continued to flout international conventions by sealing off foreign embassies in Santiago with armed guards and denying the right of political asylum.

News release 10 September 1974



Although it has always been impossible to know the true number of political prisoners since the coup, it is certain that the figure is far greater than the junta has admitted at any given moment. In the first weeks after the coup, Church sources in Chile estimated the number of political prisoners as between 45,000-50,000 (excluding those prisoners who were detained for a period of 24 hours or less). The figure given by the junta was less than a quarter of that amount. By spring 1974, official figures were between 3,000 and 4,000, while Church estimates were approximately 10,000.

In April 1974 the International Commission of Jurists reported that approximately 6,000 to 7,000 political prisoners could be accounted for (the junta had raised the official figure to approximately 6,000) while 'there may be as many as a further 3,000 people under arrest at anyone time who are being held for questioning in military barracks, police stations or other interrogation centres'.

The problem of obtaining accurate statistics was made clear to the Amnesty International mission in November 1973. We attempted to secure lists of prisoners from several sources and several ministries. We were informed by officials of the Ministry of the Interior that lists of detainees existed, but were 'secret'. According to Admiral Ismael Huerta Diaz, the Foreign Minister, approximately 10,900 persons had been in custody up to the latter part of October, though many had been released. After repeated requests for statistical lists, the Foreign Minister showed the Amnesty International mission a carefully compiled book which accounted for these 10,900 persons, but marked the majority as 'released'.

The inadequacy of such statistics was amply revealed by our independent inquiries. International organizations had reported that there were as many as 7,000 political prisoners in the National Stadium of Santiago alone at the end of September. By the end of October the figure was 1,948 (20 October) and 1,800 (31 October).

The Amnesty International delegation received reliable information shortly before it left that the numbers of prisoners recorded at various times in October in only a few places of detention were as follows:

Prison / Number

Rancagua Prison / 496
La Serena Prison / 449
San Antonio Prison / 101
Puente Alto Regiment / 334
Pudeto Regiment (in Punta Arenas) / 129
Dawson Island (approximate) / 100
Concepcion Stadium / 589
Quiriquina Island / 552
Temuco Prison / 341

These few statistics account for 9,990 prisoners (including the initial figures in the National Stadium in Santiago) in only ten places of detention. Church sources have accounted for no less than 30 places in the Province of Santiago alone where political prisoners have been detained since the coup.

We give these few scattered statistics only to illustrate the immense problems in accurate reporting. In the last weeks of October, thousands of fearful Chileans waited outside the National Stadium, hoping for some indication that their relatives were alive. Many months later, Church leaders issued a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of 131 Chileans who had disappeared since their last date of arrest. Hundreds of persons are still unaccounted for, while the death of many others can now be presumed. Recent information indicates that up to 2,000 Chileans may have been executed after secret military trials (or have been killed in detention without even the semblance of a trial) up to the end of December 1973.

At the present moment, it is still impossible to secure accurate statistics. The National Executive Secretariat for Prisoners (SENDET), which is officially responsible for controlling statistical information concerning political prisoners, is itself unable to secure information concerning all those detained in military barracks. Even now, statistics have to be compiled from the oral reports of ex-prisoners recently released from the many places of detention. Until the junta cooperates by publishing lists of all detainees, there will be no reason to doubt that the number of political prisoners remains as high as 7,000 or even more.

Santiago, Chile, the day of the coup -- 11 September 1973. Soldiers round up staff of the overthrown President, Salvador Allende.

Published September 1974
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 8:16 am


The large-scale detention without trial of prisoners detained for "extremist' activities in India since the early 1970s increasingly concerned Amnesty International. Most of the prisoners, held particularly in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, were said to be Naxalites -- members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). The first extract here is from a news release issued in September 1974 which announced the issuing of a report. The second is taken from a report of a mission to India in 1979 and describes the case of a woman apparently detained only because of police suspicions that some of her relatives were Naxalites.

Archana Guha in 1978 when she was paralysed from the waist down.

Thousands of political prisoners in the Indian state of West Bengal have been detained without trial in grossly overcrowded conditions since 1971 and some have been kept fettered day and night for up to two years, according to an Amnesty International report issued today (Tuesday September 17).

The nine-page report says serious allegations of torture have been levelled against warders and police in West Bengal by many of the estimated 15,000-20,000 so-called Naxalites detained there. Some prisoners who have been tried and found not guilty have immediately been re-arrested and detained on other charges without trial.

'Naxalite' is the name given to the alleged members and supporters of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of India, whose ideology advocates armed struggle as a means to bring about social and political change. Members of the movement have, particularly during 1970-1971, committed acts of violence. Amnesty International has not adopted any of these as Prisoners of Conscience.

Most were arrested under preventive detention laws introduced after a state of emergency was declared on December 3, 1971 at the time of the Bangladesh War, but are now held under clauses of the Indian Penal Code; others have been held for nearly 5 years.

The report was prepared by Amnesty International's research department after 46 prisoners in West Bengal went on hunger strike in support of demands for better prison conditions -- conditions which the report says violate the United Nations' Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

In June, Amnesty International Secretary General Martin Ennals sent the report to India's Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi and to the Chief Minister of Bengal, S.S. Ray, with a series of recommendations. Neither has replied, nor has the Indian Government replied to several previous approaches by Amnesty International about the conditions of detainees. Amnesty International, therefore, has now decided to update and publish the report.

Some of the report's main conclusions:

- 'Prisoners tried and not found guilty on one charge are often immediately re-arrested on different charges', and even if prisoners are cleared of all charges and released, they must report regularly to the police and are restricted in their movements and political activities.

- Prisoners are kept in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions, with often only one watertap for hundreds of them and poor medical facilities.

- Bar fetters are used on prisoners regarded as dangerous or as security risks and some in Hazaribagh Jail (Bihar) have been chained day and night for up to two years.

- Legal sources as well as prisoners themselves report the use of torture against both men and women who have allegedly been beaten, hung upside down and had pins and nails inserted into their nails and sensitive organs, and been subjected to electric shocks and burning with cigarettes.

- According to official figures 88 prisoners were killed in 12 jail incidents during the period December 1970 to June 1972 alone in West Bengal and Bihar.

- Prisoners have been denied legal rights guaranteed by India's Constitution.

News release 17 September 1914


The case of Archana Guha

Miss Archana Guha, 35 years old, is totally paralysed from the waist down, as a result of treatment she received during police interrogation. At the time of her arrest, she was headmistress of Kolorah Girls' Junior High School, in Howrah, Calcutta. So far as Amnesty International is aware, Miss Guha had no involvement in politics, but was presumably arrested because the police suspected some of her relations to be involved in the Naxalite movement.

Archana Guha was arrested about 1.30 am on 18 July 1974, together with her sister-in-law, Mrs Latika Guha, and Miss Gouri Chatterjee, a friend. They were arrested by police officers who had searched the house and they were never shown a warrant of arrest. They were first taken to Cossipore Police Station and then transferred to Lal Bazar Police Station, Calcutta, where they were taken to the special cell of the detective department, on the first floor. 'The special cell' consisted of three rooms arranged like an T, the middle room being the office of N., and the back room being the one where, according to Miss Guha, 'tortures are being carried out'. On 18 July, at 10 am, Gouri Chatterjee was taken for interrogation and Archana Guha was forced to witness the treatment given to Miss Chatterjee. Afterwards, Archana Guha was brought in and given similar treatment: her hands and feet were tied to a pole placed behind her knees. The pole was rested on two chairs and the prisoner hung with her head down. She was hit on the soles of her feet by Inspector S. Inspector extinguished burning cigarettes on the soles of her feet and on her elbows, of which marks were still visible at the time of the interview. She was kicked with boots and the nails of her toes and fingers were burned. She fell unconscious. At 2 pm the three women were taken back to Lal Bazar lock-up and at 4 pm brought back for interrogation. She was again hung from a pole as before and drops of water were slowly dripped onto her forehead; she was burned on her feet and elbows and also again beaten on her feet and kicked. The next day, on 19 July 1974, the three women were taken to the Sealdah magistrates' court, but never brought before a magistrate. They were charged under various sections of the West Bengal Maintenance of Order Act and the Defence of India Rules. That same afternoon the three women were brought to the special cell for further interrogation, where Archana Guha was beaten on the head ('physical brainwashing') and forced to sign a printed paper, the contents of which she could not read but which she believed would implicate her in political actions. The same day Police Officer A.B. beat her on the head and threatened her with execution if she would not 'confess'. Inspector K.K. during interrogation pulled her by the hair and several times threw her against the wall. Her hair was pulled out from her forehead and she was pulled up from the floor by her hair and, while she was hanging in this position, she was kicked and burned. The same methods were applied the following day, 20 July, when Archana Guha was also threatened with rape and hit on the head with a rope. She was unable to walk to her cell. From 22 July to 1 August 1974, almost every day the women were brought to the special cell. All three women prisoners remained in the police lock-up from 18 July to 13 August 1974 and never saw a lawyer.

On 13 August 1974, Archana Guha was taken to Presidency Jail, Calcutta, as an 'under trial' prisoner and, on 30 September, served with an order of detention under the MISA [Maintenance of Internal Security Act]. Her physical condition deteriorated rapidly, she often fell unconscious, but was not given adequate medical treatment and her legs became disabled. On the insistence of other women prisoners, specialist doctors were finally called in and it was not until 22 December 1975 that Archana Guha, by then completely paralysed from the waist down, was taken to hospital for a minor operation on a gland. On 24 January 1976 she was returned to prison on a stretcher and only on 9 February did the jail authorities arrange for her transfer to Medical College, Calcutta, as a 'life-saving case'. She stayed in the hospital until 17 November 1976, when she was released on parole. The detention order against her was not revoked until 3 May 1977.

Published January 1919


'Now I can walk! ...'

Archana Guha, now 38 years old, was completely paralysed from the waist down as a result of torture during police interrogation in Calcutta, India, in 1974.

... Archana Guha was suffering from a lesion of the lower part of the spinal cord. After unsuccessful attempts to treat her in Calcutta lasting more than a year, her case came to the attention of an Amnesty International mission visiting India. The mission interviewed' her and described her plight in its report.

Amnesty International's Danish Medical Group arranged for her to be taken to Copenhagen in January 1980 for intensive diagnosis and treatment.

After two months of care she was able to rise from bed, steady herself and walk short distances without assistance.

On 1 May 1980 she wrote from Calcutta: 'My friends and relatives are simply astonished to see me walk again! ... now I can walk and move! ... The secretary and colleagues of my school are waiting eagerly (for the day) when I'll be able to join the school. I have improved much in walking and climbing the staircase ... You have given me a new life -- you have caused rebirth to me!'

Published 1981
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 8:18 am


On trial in Moscow for publishing 'anti-Soviet' works in the West: Andrei Sinyavsky (bearded) and Yuli Daniel. Their four-day trial, in 1966, caught the attention of writers and intellectuals worldwide. Andrei Sinyavsky was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. Yuli Daniel to five.

In 1975 Amnesty International published a detailed 154-page report on the treatment and conditions of prisoners of conscience held in Soviet prisons and labour camps.

There has never in Amnesty International's experience been an acquittal of a political defendant in the USSR. No Soviet court trying a person charged for his political activity has rejected the prosecution's case on grounds of procedural violations committed during the investigation period or on grounds of insufficient evidence.

That such cases once begun always end in a conviction indicates that criteria other than criminal culpability are decisive. The counter-argument might be that the investigative organs do their job so thoroughly that there is no chance of mistake. However if the investigators are always correct, then the courts' decisions are irrelevant except in determination of sentence. Furthermore, the 'infallibility' of investigative organs applies apparently only to 'political' cases. There is a very significant incidence of acquittal in criminal cases. It is clear that in political cases the procuracy, officially the watchdog for observance of legality, steps aside on behalf of 'higher' (political) considerations.

To ensure that the predetermined 'guilty' verdict is arrived at in political cases, Soviet courts regularly make rulings which directly contravene the procedural norms laid down in Soviet law.

Article III of the Soviet Constitution states that the examination of all cases in all courts shall be open insofar as the law does not provide for exceptions. Many political trials, in fact, constitute the exceptions to this rule. Proceedings are often held effectively in camera, and sometimes close relatives and friends of the accused are not admitted into the courtroom -- on various pretexts such as that 'the public benches are fully occupied'. The trial of the Ukrainian historian Valentyn Moroz was held formally in camera without the presence of even a specially selected audience and with no formal justification. [53]

Quite often the place, date and time of a trial are changed at the very last minute, or even after proceedings have begun. Relatives of the accused have lodged protests at what appears to be a deliberate failure to inform them. Since the creation of the unofficial Moscow Human Rights Committee [54] led by Academician Sakharov, there have been attempts by its members -- chiefly Academician Sakharov -- to attend political trials, but the authorities have rarely allowed them entry. Demonstrators outside court buildings at trials of dissenters are frequently handled roughly by court officials and KGB personnel, or indeed detained for hours or even days.

Inside the courtroom, the 'general public', sometimes in uniform and brought in by coach, have often interrupted the proceedings with hostile comments and jeers, or, at Jewish trials, with anti-semitic remarks, or with calls for a harsher sentence. Transcripts of political trials often find their way into samizdat, and show that on many occasions numerous articles of the Code of Criminal Procedure have been violated. [55] Almost invariably in such trials the evidence accepted by the court has been incomplete and unfairly weighted to the disadvantage of the defendant. In many cases defence witnesses have not been allowed to give evidence. Often defence witnesses who have been called have been prevented from giving evidence other than that elicited by the prosecution. Frequently contradictions and patent falsehoods in evidence given by prosecution witnesses have been accepted by courts without challenge. In cases where the prosecution has brought in an 'expert psychiatric diagnosis' recommending confinement of political defendants to a mental institution, the courts have invariably accepted such recommendations in spite of their unacceptability as objective evidence. [56]

Officially authorized publicity of political trials is extremely rare and, when it does occur, is so one-sided in presentation of the matter that one must conclude that such publicity is aimed at making propaganda rather than at elucidation of fact. For example, the trial of Sinyavsky and Daniel in 1966, the trial of Ginzburg and Galanskov in 1968, and, more recently, that of Pyotr Yakir and Victor Krasin in August 1973 were officially reported by the Soviet media in a tendentious fashion aimed at discrediting the accused men in the eyes of public opinion at home and abroad by linking them with various anti-Soviet or emigre organizations. After the trial of Yakir and Krasin, a news conference was even staged, partly for the benefit of foreign correspondents. The convicted men were officially presented, and they delivered prepared statements admitting their guilt. The event occasioned an official propaganda campaign against Western correspondents in Moscow and against the human rights movement in the USSR. Izvestiya, for example, quoted Mr Yakir as saying that what is often called the 'democratic movement' in the USSR was only executing a program and tactics brought into the country by an 'anti-Soviet' emigre organization. [57]

There are no known instances of officially-published Soviet newspapers or journals criticizing or challenging a 'guilty' sentence in a political case. This is in marked contrast to the Soviet press record on non-political criminal cases, about which Soviet publications do occasionally write in defence of convicted persons on various grounds.58 This contrast again underlines the fact that in Soviet legal practice political defendants are, to their disadvantage, treated as a separate category of 'offenders'.



53.A Chronicle of Current Events, Number 17, pages 41-43.

54. The Committee of Human Rights for the USSR was formed in Moscow in November 1970. Its founding members were Academician Andrei D. Sakharov, Andrei H. Tverdokhlebov and Valery N. Chalidze, all physicists. Its goals and statutes are described in A Chronicle of Current Events, Number 17, pages 45-47.

55. A catalogue of such procedural violations can be found in Pavel Litvinov, The Trial of the Four (Penguin Books, London, 1972).

56. See below, Chapter VII. 'Compulsory Detention in Psychiatric Hospitals' .

57. Izvestiya, (Moscow) 31 August 1973.

58. See Alois Hastrich, 'Juristischer Alltag in der Sowjetunion', Osteuropa (Berlin and Stuttgart), Number 10, October 1973, pages 791-806.

Published November 1975




Rodolfo Begnardi, his wife Nora and their son Emiliano were finally reunited in Baltimore, USA, in 1983 after spending eight years apart in Argentinian prisons. The couple were arrested in November 1915 in Campana, Argentina, and held in preventive detention without charge or trial. Nora, a primary school teacher, was not connected with any political or trade union activities. However, it is believed she and her husband were arrested because of his work as a trade union official.

Both were adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International and their cases were allocated to a group in Maryland, USA. The group corresponded regularly with Nora's mother in Campana and with Emiliano who was being looked after by his grandparents. In 1980 Nora was released, reunited with her son and exiled to the United States. She joined the Amnesty International group in Baltimore and continued campaigning for Rodolfo's release.

Finally, in May 1982, Rodolfo was released into 'restricted liberty' and returned to Campana. Eight months later the three were reunited in Baltimore where they now live.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 8:19 am


After the death in November 1975 of General Francisco Franco, who had ruled Spain for 36 years, the new government committed itself publicly to the restoration of civil and political liberties. However, Amnesty International continued to receive reports that detainees were being tortured. 'Torture in Spain 1976', composed of extracts of documents from Spain, contained previously unpublished testimonies and statements and photographs indicating the continuing use of torture in Spain.

'Words and phrases, unfortunately, are overshadowed by facts, the terrible facts corroborated by hundreds of testimonies and even by formal denunciations which might be consigned to oblivion in the legal bureaucracy.

'There is fear, panic. People hardly dare give their names. Threats of retaliation if people speak out are a daily matter. In spite of this, we can relate the cases of more than 100 victims of torture during the last months.'

On 27 June 1976, the Catholic Justice and Peace National Commission of Spain published a dossier entitled 'No a la tortura'. The above quotation is taken from the dossier. The names of 115 torture victims and descriptions of tortures were listed following this statement.

'It is the Guardia Civil which has been responsible for directing the majority of these operations. They have used all means of unimaginable tortures and have even introduced new ones. The most common ones are:

banera (the bath: the victim is undressed, wrapped in a blanket, tied and plunged into a tub of filthy water containing the urine and vomit of other victims)

quirofano (the operating table: the victim is stretched and tied on a table for beatings with hammers and truncheons; pins are inserted under the nails and fingers and testicles are beaten)

hanging by the wrists (the weight of the suspended body causes great pain around the wrists)

electric shocks ... '

Extract from a document issued by a group of Basque lawyers in May 1976 which cited allegations of more than 60 cases of torture during the months of April and May 1976.

'Our colleague arrived at the prison with his thorax bandaged and complaining of acute pains in his chest and spine. During the cross examination on 15 May by the military judge assigned to his case, he stated that the reason for his physical condition was a consequence of the treatment he had received in the barracks of the District Command of the Civil Guard. He also said that he had been forced to sign a statement prior to his transfer to the Provincial Prison, affirming that his injuries had been caused the day before his arrest (8 May) while he was playing pelota (a traditional Basque ball game). However, his family say that he left his house at 9 o'clock on the morning of (the] 8th, two hours before his arrest, in perfect health.'

Extract from the petition signed by the members of the Medical College of Guipuzcoa, appealing for an inquiry into the circumstances of the arrest and detention of their colleague, Dr Justo Aristain Gorosabel. He was detained while at work in the Provincial Hospital of Guipuzcoa on 8 May and taken to the Guardia Civil barracks in Avda. de Zamalacarregui (San Sebastian) where he was held incommunicado until 14 May 1976 when he was transferred to the Provincial Prison.

'The road which seemed to be opening towards a freer, more just and peaceful society, is once again obstructed by violence, the violence which many hoped had been finally overcome ... Repression has been hardened to the point where maltreatment and various forms of torture are considered a legitimate means to extract information or force confessions of criminal acts.'

Extract from the pastoral letter dated 29 May 1976 by Mgr. Jacinto Argaya, Bishop of San Sebastian and Mgr. Jose Maria Setien, Auxiliary Bishop, published in the Catholic weekly of Madrid, Ecclesia, on 12 June 1976.

'The growing number of arrests, massive and indiscriminate, has brought home the fact (of torture) to the general population ... We are in a situation where detentions do not seem to pursue offences, but rather to create a climate of terror in an indiscriminate way.'

Statement by the Basque People's Commissions for an amnesty for political prisoners (Asociaciones Pro-Amnistia de Euskadi), presented to the King of Spain by the Basque-Navarra Association of Architects on 5 June 1976.

'In short the impression created by the interrogators is of sheer terror. They are fanatics, sadists, enemies of everything Basque. Enemies of democracy, of all committed religion, of the Basque clergy, of certain lawyers, of the ikastasolas (Basque schools), that is to say, of the people ... '

Extract from the testimony of Father Jesus Lasa, arrested in Tolosa on 10 May 1976. He was held at the Guardia Civil HQ in San Sebastian for 10 days where he was tortured by the banera and beaten over a period of six days until the intervention of his bishop produced an improvement in his treatment.

Elia Martinez-Cava, a 23-year-old poultry farmer, pregnant, was arrested with seven other persons in Madrid on 16 April 1976:

'They beat me all over, on the shoulders, back, arms, thighs ... strong continuous blows on the ears ... they grasped my hair with fury and pushed me around like a ball ... I was interrogated 12 times in five days, once for seven hours. I told them I was pregnant, but that did not stop them. I saw my husband ... he was in a terrible state ... he could not stand up ... They beat him in front of me and told him: 'We have made her abort, we are going to kill her, you know; then we will say it was an accident.'

A group of leading Madrid lawyers issued a denunciation concerning the case of all 8 people arrested at the same time as Elia Martinez-Cava. In their statement before the court they attested:

'We have been able to see their injuries ... wounds in the wrists and on the soles of the feet ... bald patches on the scalp, swollen testicles and legs, torn nails ... '

A petition about this case with 2,700 signatures was sent to the Minister of Interior. It includes the following statement:

'Today, when the whole of Spanish society and the country's leading political figures are calling for an amnesty and democratic liberties, police maltreatment is an impudent affront to a society which wishes to live together peacefully. '

Father Lluis Maria Xirinachs is a Catholic priest who was nominated for the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize. He has been conducting a sit-in in front of La Mode/o prison (Barcelona) since December 1975 to request the restoration of civil liberties and the release of all political prisoners. On I May 1976 Father Xirinachs was arrested and taken to the Police HQ in the Via Layetana where he was severely beaten and abused:

Police Inspector: 'Why do you get into trouble?' Fr. Xirinachs: 'It's a question of conscience.'

One of the police began to pull hair out of his beard, another from his moustache; another seized his hair and shook him, pulling hairs out. The armed policeman tells them:

'Leave him, he's already been taken care of.'

'Pray to God for salvation.'

Another policeman says sarcastically:

'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.'

A red flag was brought in and wrapped around Father Xirinachs. A newspaper was placed on his knees (to look like a surplice) to the accompaniment of laughter and shouts: 'Red priest, you're alright now; you're in your element ... '

Mariano Plata 'Then the captain, the sergeant on duty and three plainclothes men started to beat him with a baseball bat, kicking him all over the body. They did this for about an hour, at short intervals. Then they tied him to a chair and two members of the Brigada Politico-Social beat him with clubs and even attempted to burn him with a lighter. .. 'If you denounce maltreatment, we'll kill you around any corner,' he was told.'

Extract from a report of Pax Christi, Barcelona, concerning the case of factory worker, Mariano Plata, arrested on 29 March 1976, near Barcelona. A medical certificate corroborates the injuries.

'I have observed a hematome on the right eye extended over the entire periorbital region ... a hematome of the size of a 50 peseta coin in the area of the larynx several hematomes in the rightside clavicular area serious contusions over the thorax, the abdomen ... The patient, as a result of these injuries, remained for many hours in a traumatic state ... '

-- Extract from the medical certificate of Victoriano Rodriguez Casado, trade union official detained on 28 April 1976 in Aranjuez.

'... a large group of armed police were waiting at the entrance (to the church) ... at that moment inspectors from the Brigada de Investigacion Social and the officer in charge of the forces appeared ... 'Are you Father Casasola?' 'Yes, I am.' Immediately three members of the HIS and a corporal cornered him in the left of the church against the confessional, and while two of them held him by the arms the others punched him with a glove covered with metal rings and hit him with an iron bar in the stomach.'

Extract of the testimony given by Father Jose Antonio Casasola describing the raid on his church Ntra. Sra. del Reposa, La Corza, Sevilla on 1 April 1976. Report issued by the Justice and Peace National Commission, June 1976.

'We ask you to pray for the soul of the worker Antonio Gonzalez Ramos, who died in Santa Cruz de Tenerife after having been beaten all over his body for 45 minutes by the chief of the Brigada Politica-Social (BPS). Receive him into your kingdom and forgive him his sins in consideration of his sufferings.

'We ask you to illuminate the conscience of the policeman, Jose Matute Fernandez, who is believed to be responsible for the death of Antonio, in order that he may merit your pardon.'

Extract from a prayer contained in a leaflet denouncing torture and appealing for divine help for the torturers and forgiveness for the victims. This leaflet was handed out by Gonzalo Arias Bonet, a pacifist and conscientious objector who had been adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He and three other conscientious objectors were arrested on the streets on 27 June 1976 in San Sebastian while carrying out a peaceful protest.

'While asking me questions to which I said I knew nothing, they continued submerging my head in that filthy liquid and I felt more and more asphyxiated. Two others beat me on the back until I felt my stomach was going to burst, and another tickled me on the soles of my feet. When they took my head out of the water all I did was to vomit up everything I had swallowed. They continued submerging me in the filth. 'We'll leave you as we did Amparito (Maria Amparo Arangoa)', they told me.'

Testimony of Itziar Izaguirre Goya, a 16-year-old girl arrested on 9 May 1976 and tortured at the Guardia Civil barracks in San Sebastian, Guipuzcoa.

Published 1976



11 December 1977


The Stockholm Conference on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, composed of more than 200 delegates and participants from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North and South America and the Caribbean region, recalls that:

- The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and violates the right to life. considers that:

- The death penalty is frequently used as an instrument of repression against opposition, racial, ethnic, religious and underprivileged groups,

- Execution is an act of violence, and violence tends to provoke violence,

- The imposition and infliction of the death penalty is brutalizing to all who are involved in the process,

- The death penalty has never been shown to have a special deterrent effect,

- The death penalty is increasingly taking the form of unexplained disappearances, extra-judicial executions and political murders,

- Execution is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent.

affirms that:

- It is the duty of the state to protect the life of all persons within its jurisdiction without exception,

- Executions for the purposes of political coercion, whether by government agencies or others, are equally unacceptable,

- Abolition of the death penalty is imperative for the achievement of declared international standards. declares:

- Its total and unconditional opposition to the death penalty,

- Its condemnation of all executions, in whatever form, committed or condoned by governments,

- Its commitment to work for the universal abolition of the death penalty.

calls upon:

- Non-governmental organizations, both national and international, to work collectively and individually to provide public information materials directed towards the abolition of the death penalty,

- All governments to bring about the immediate and total abolition of the death penalty,

- The United Nations unambiguously to declare that the death penalty is contrary to international law.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 8:46 am


Since its early days the movement has opposed all forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted on prisoners. Several of the earliest Amnesty International missions were sent to countries where political prisoners faced imminent execution. Today, total opposition to torture and the death penalty is a central part of the organization's global human rights work. In 1977 Amnesty International held a conference on the abolition of the death penalty from which emerged the declaration opposite. In September 1979 it published a 206-page report on the use of the death penalty throughout the world -- reproduced here is a Newsletter article presenting highlights from the report.

Every execution, whether it takes place on the gallows or in the street, whether it results from a decision taken publicly by a court or clandestinely by conspirators, is an irreversible and totally unacceptable abuse of power. Each killing, whether by the State or by its enemies, is shameful and senseless.

As a means of promoting a political cause or as a means of repressing political opposition, the use of the death penalty is abhorrent. It degrades the entire political process in the community of nations.

As a means of punishing individuals found guilty of serious crimes, the use of the death penalty constitutes an act of irreversible and extreme revenge carried out by the State. Decided upon according to fallible processes of law by fallible human beings, it can be -- and actually has been -- inflicted upon people innocent of any offence.

As a means of deterring individuals from crime, the use of the death penalty has nowhere been shown to have a special deterrent effect.

As a judicial punishment the death penalty is unequal, and unjust. Historically the principal victims have almost everywhere been the poor and members of minorities and oppressed groups within the population.

The cruelty of the punishment is evident.

The methods by which executions are carried out can involve physical torture. Hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber and the firing squad may not kill instantaneously.

Both hanging and garotting, which are meant to cause death at once by breaking the neck, may instead kill by strangulation.

Electrocution has on occasion caused extensive burns and needed more than one application of electric current to kill the victim.

In many instances executions and killings take place secretly or in countries closed to observers. The full count of victims -- especially of those killed for political reasons - is therefore likely to be higher than that presented in the Amnesty International report.

Mass killings and 'disappearances' are alleged in the report to have taken place in Argentina (up to 15,000 reported missing), Equatorial Guinea (an estimated one out of every 500 citizens killed under the Macias Nguema government, most without charge or trial), Ethiopia (up to 30,000 killings reported), Guatemala (up to 20,000 killings reported), Kampuchea (at least 200,000 people reported killed under the Pol Pot government, possibly far more), Uganda (between 50,000 and 300,000 reported killed under the Idi Amin government).

Together with such 'extrajudicial' killings, executions carried out after court sentencing are now taking place almost every day in countries around the world.

In those nations where the judicial death penalty is in force for political crimes, the offences for which it may be imposed are frequently defined in such a way that virtually any activity inconsistent with government policy becomes a capital offence.

In a variety of countries large numbers of executions have followed changes of government or acts of political violence during the years covered by the Amnesty International report.

All African countries now provide for the use of the death penalty, although the frequency with which it is imposed and inflicted varies considerably from country to country. It is used to punish a wide variety of offences. It is commonly imposed for violent offences such as murder or rape but, according to the social and political circumstances prevailing in a particular country, it may be introduced for certain 'economic crimes', such as hoarding grain or consumer goods, embezzlement, fraud, and illegal currency dealings.

One of the most disturbing features of the use of the death penalty in Africa is the frequency with which people charged with political offences are tried and executed after the most summary of judicial hearings. In a number of African countries, particularly those under military regimes, summary executions have followed periods of national crisis. Countries where such executions have taken place include Nigeria, the Sudan and Ethiopia (and, in 1979, Ghana).

Legal provision for the death penalty exists in every Asian country. In several countries it has been used against political dissenters who have been executed either for explicit political offences or for criminal acts arising from their political beliefs. In several cases known to Amnesty International, political offenders have been executed in the People's Republic of China immediately after sentencing.

Several Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, Taiwan, and the Philippines, have passed laws providing the death penalty for a variety of drug offences.

A few countries impose the death penalty for economic offences; these include the People's Republic of China and Indonesia (hoarding).

In each of the countries of Europe (with the possible exception of Albania) which retains the death penalty, it may be passed and carried out only on a person convicted of an offence punishable in law by the death penalty. Several reports from Albania allege that summary executions are still widespread but it is difficult to verify these reports.

In recent years, states such as the USSR, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Turkey and Greece, have passed death sentences for offences not resulting in death -- such as theft or acts of political violence. Within the Council of Europe, however, there have been significant trends towards complete abolition of the death penalty.

During the past 10 years the death penalty has been completely abolished in Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and abolished for peace time offences in Malta, Spain and Switzerland. To Amnesty International's knowledge the death penalty has not been re-introduced in any country of Western Europe except Belgium where the number of offences punishable by death has been increased. The practice of executions in Western Europe shows a similar downward trend and is now limited to only three countries: France, Greece and Turkey.

Many Latin American countries abolished the death penalty in the 19th or early 20th century. Recently, however, there has been a tendency towards re-introduction of the death penalty in times of political upheaval, particularly following a military coup.

Extrajudicial executions

The death penalty in Latin America cannot be seen only in terms of sentences which are judicially imposed. Paramilitary groups, the existence of which are condoned or actively supported by the authorities, as well as units of official security forces, carry out murders of petty criminals and political activists in a number of Latin American countries.

Execution by firing-squad in Guatemala.

In an ingenious move, two Death Row inmates in Texas, USA, play a game of checkers on a board made of card and held by string. The prisoners can see the board but not each other.

Large numbers of people -- many of them active in opposition political groups -- are made to 'disappear' as a result of illegal arrests and detentions conducted by paramilitary groups or members of security forces acting outside the framework of the law but with apparent consent of the responsible authorities. Such victims are believed to have been either kept for years in secret camps or killed.

In North America, the death penalty for acts of murder, treason and piracy was abolished in Canada in July 1976. However, a number of capital offences remain under the National Defence Act in time of war.

In the United States of America, there is a trend towards re-introduction of the death penalty. Thirty-five of the 50 US states had laws providing for the death penalty as of 1 May 1979. The first involuntary execution in 12 years in the USA took place on 25 May 1979 (July Newsletter).

All countries in the English-speaking Caribbean have a mandatory death sentence for murder. In addition, some have a mandatory death sentence for treason, mutiny or for assisting the enemy.

Three condemned prisoners in Lagos, Nigeria, receive the last rites before their execution.

None of the countries of the Middle East has abolished the death penalty. In almost all of them there is legislation providing for the death penalty for certain categories of murder and specific offences against the internal and external security of the State, such as treason, espionage, plotting to overthrow the government and political acts of sabotage. Executions of people convicted of political offences are known to have taken place in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and South Yemen. By the middle of 1979 more than 160 people had gone before firing squads in Iran following the February revolution.

In some countries in the region, drug smuggling also is a capital offence, while in others, offences are considered to be crimes against the State and are punishable by death.

A 'special case' is sometimes made for the retention of the death penalty as a justifiable punishment for and possible deterrent to acts of terrorism or political violence.

Amnesty International is aware of no evidence that the use of the death penalty has deterred would-be terrorists. Psychiatrists who have conducted studies on the question of hijacking recommend strongly that the death penalty not be exacted in such cases precisely because it makes the crime appear more spectacular and draws greater attention to the perpetrators.

Amnesty International deplores kidnapping, torture and murder for political motives whether such acts are committed by government or opposition groups. Similarly, Amnesty International defends the right of all individuals to stand trial according to internationally-recognized norms and be protected from torture and execution. These human rights standards apply to all people, including those accused or convicted of politically-motivated crimes.

Political violence

The conflicts which have led to the eruption of political violence, now and in the past, have not been and cannot be resolved by the execution of individual prisoners. Nor, as a matter of principle, should the horror of the crimes committed be used to justify a resort to ill-treatment and extreme punishment.

Amnesty International believes that humane standards for the treatment of prisoners must be respected by all governments, political movements and citizens throughout the world.

The historical record is clear: the value of human life is progressively lessened once a state, even in attempting to defend itself and its citizens, resorts to cruel, inhuman or degrading methods.

Amnesty International rejects the view that the cruel treatment of prisoners, of which the death penalty is an extreme case, can be justified as a fitting response to violent and repugnant crimes. Even less is there justification for the argument that there are special circumstances under which prisoners may be subjected to cruel treatment, including the taking of life, because of their beliefs or their participation in political movements.

It is not only contradictory, but a threat to humane values, for any society to proclaim that the taking of life is the most intolerable of crimes and, at the same time, to countenance any form of execution carried out as an act of retribution in the name of society itself.

AI Newsletter October 1979
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 8:48 am


'''We are a poor but decent family ... ", said his father, a farmer, "and now I see him in the dock as a torturer. I want to ask the court to examine how a boy who everyone said was a 'diamond' became a torturer. Who morally destroyed my family and my home?"

'So spoke the father of one of the soldiers among the 32 Greek officers and soldiers who faced trial in August 1975 before the Athens Permanent Court Martial on charges of torture carried out during the seven years of dictatorship under the Junta of Colonels from 1967 to 1974.

'Amnesty International presents a detailed analysis of this historic trial, one of the few contemporary examples of the possibility of submitting accused torturers to due process of law.

'The trial was important not only as proof that torture occurred in Greece on a systematic basis under the Colonels' rule but also, from the the point of view of all those working towards the ultimate abolition of torture in all countries, it offers a rare and disturbing insight into part of the inner clockwork of a torture state.'

This is the back cover text of 'Torture in Greece, The First Torturers Trial'. The following extracts explain the context of the trial and describe the pattern of torture that emerged.

At the time of the April 1967 military coup in Greece, the number of political prisoners in Greek prisons was relatively small. Several of these people were long-term prisoners from the days of the Civil War (1946-49), and early in 1967 there was reason to believe that these and other prisoners sentenced under long-standing emergency legislation would be released before the expiry of their sentences. The coup changed this situation drastically, and within a few months there were about 6,000 people held in deportation camps on the Greek islands. During the next half-year this figure dropped considerably, but in late January 1968 there were still 2,777 deportees held without trial in the island detention centres on Yaros and Leros as well as an unknown number of detainees in police stations and prisons throughout the country.

Among these deportees and prisoners were some who were old and infirm, having been arrested on the basis of security files prepared during the Civil War 20 years earlier. Many deportees remained in the island detention camps solely because they refused to sign a 'Declaration of Loyalty' to the government. This declaration required the renunciation of any connection with the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) or 'its variously named organisations' and the acknowledgement that, among other things, such activities sought 'the mutilation and enslavement of the country to the Slavo-Communist camp and the removal of the Greek people from Helleno-Christian ideals'. [1]

From the first day of the Junta's rule, torture was an integral part of the state machinery for suppressing opposition. It should be stressed, however, that during the seven years of dictatorship it was used for different purposes at different periods. During the period 1967-71 the purposes of torture were to extract information about resistance activities and to deter the population from political activity. Torture was conducted by trained officers of middle rank from the gendarmerie, the civilian security police (Asfaleia), the navy, and the military police (ESA). The policy was to avoid leaving marks, or at least not to allow detainees any contact with the outside until such marks had disappeared. During the period 1971-74, however, the purpose of torture increasingly became intimidation and terrorisation, with the specific aim of destroying the student movement. To a large extent torture was conducted by military police conscripts who were encouraged by their officers to leave marks on the victims. During these years the military police would arrest and detain people almost at random, subject them to ill-treatment and torture and often release them after a relatively short period of time, without ever having brought formal charges against them.

Although torture was used from the beginning of the Junta's rule in April 1967, it was not until November 1967 that reliable reports began to reach the world outside Greece. In response Amnesty International dispatched American lawyer James Becket and British lawyer Anthony Marreco to Greece in late December 1967 to investigate the torture allegations as well as to determine the extent and implementation of a much publicised Christmas amnesty for political prisoners. The beneficence of the amnesty proved almost entirely illusory, and the situation regarding torture confirmed Amnesty International's worst fears. Necessarily restricting themselves to Athens alone, the Amnesty International delegates interviewed 16 released victims of torture and obtained evidence about 32 other cases. Twenty-two methods of torture were documented, including sexual abuse, psychological pressure, electric shock and, most commonly, falanga (beating on the soles of the feet), which in almost every case was the initial form of torture. Major Theodoros Theofiloyannakos, a defendant at the first ESA trial in 1975, which is the specific subject of this report, was named as a torturer in the January 1968 Amnesty International report. The report of a second Amnesty International mission, published in April 1968, confirmed the findings of the first.

The two Amnesty International mission reports affected the deliberations concerning the status of Greece within the Council of Europe. The governments of Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands had already filed applications in September 1967 to the European Commission of Human Rights, charging the Greek regime with violating eight articles of the European Human Rights Convention. This application did not include Article 3, the one prohibiting torture, but after the 1968 Amnesty International reports and other evidence, the sponsors amended their application to include Article 3. A sub-commission then heard the evidence of witnesses, and unlike the Amnesty International mission, the subcommission was able to gather evidence concerning the police stations outside the capital. This process and the writing of their well-documented, four-volume report lasted until the middle of 1969. In December of that year, after intense diplomatic negotiations and in the face of certain expulsion from the Council of Europe, the Greek government withdrew in order to avoid diplomatic defeat. Subsequent publication of the Commission's report left no doubt that torture and ill-treatment were regular and 'officially tolerated' activities inside the Junta's police stations in Athens and throughout the country, [2] but torture continued as usual despite these limited diplomatic efforts.

The severity of Greek torture is further borne out in the specific court-martial that is the subject of this report. As the first of the so-called 'torture trials' in Greece, it deserves attention. In addition, this trial conformed to high legal standards, and after both the prosecution and the defence had been given ample time to argue their cases, the tribunal was able to sort out individual responsibility and to apportion blame for certain of the acts of torture during the Junta years. Although the trial did not pursue some of the broader questions concerning responsibility for torture, Amnesty International welcomes the precedent of this trial and commends the military court prosecutor for ordering an investigation and prosecution of the accused torturers.

Unfortunately, the standards of this first trial were not sustained in later trials. As a consequence, this first trial of some military police torturers stands as a better precedent in itself than the whole of the procedure by which some and not other torturers have been brought to trial. Therefore, we have decided to trace the background, development and findings of the first torture trial and to assess its significance and value as a judicial precedent for bringing to justice the violent excesses of oppressive regimes.

The trial began on 7 August 1975, when 14 officers and 18 soldiers of non-commissioned rank were brought before the Athens Permanent Court Martial on charges arising from torture during interrogation. Although all Greek Constitutions since the first in 1822 (including those of 1968 and 1973 promulgated by the Junta) contain general prohibitions against torture, there is no specific prohibition in the Greek Penal Code, which would have to provide the precise implementing law. Therefore, only indirect charges could be preferred against the 32 ESA defendants. These charges were repeated abuse of authority, violence against a superior officer, unconstitutional detention, ordinary and serious physical injury, repeated insults to a superior, and recurrent moral responsibility for ordinary or serious physical injury. The defendants faced various permutations of these charges, but the only defendant to plead guilty to all charges against him was Sergeant Michail Petrou, a former jailor at the Athens headquarters of ESA who had returned from abroad to face the charges.

The court-martial was conducted according to Military Penal Procedure, which is a combination of the Penal Code and the Military Penal Code. Evidence called on behalf of the prosecution fell into five distinct categories: first, the evidence of retired officers as to their arrest and treatment from 1969 onwards; second, the evidence of students arrested after the Law School demonstrations in early 1973; third, the evidence of naval officers arrested after the unsuccessful naval mutiny in May 1973; fourth, the evidence of students and others arrested after the Athens Polytechnic events in November 1973; finally, the evidence of former ESA soldiers who described the processes of dehumanisation to which they had been subjected.

Like subsequent torture trials, the prosecution of these 32 ESA defendants was prompted by the cumulative pressure of private civil suits brought by several former prisoners against their torturers in the absence of public prosecutions. The prosecutor of the military court ordered a preliminary investigation which was facilitated by a deposition from Sergeant Petrou. Statements were taken before a military examining magistrate, and several of the , accused were remanded in custody. Brigadier Digenopoulos was appointed chairman of the court-martial, with the remainder of the tribunal consisting of three colonels from the army legal branch and two active service officers. The prosecutor, Major Michail Zouvelos, was a member of the army legal service. The defendants were represented by counsel; many of the defendants, however, carried out some cross-examination themselves.

The defendants were all members of the Junta's military police (ESA, Elliniki Stratiotiki Astynomia) who had served in the Special Interrogation Section in Athens (EAT, Eidikon Anakritikon Tmima), [3] at its training centre (KESA, Kentron Ekpaidevseos Stratiotikis Astynomias), at its Piraeus section or at the military prison in Boyati. Toward the end of 1968 ESA was endowed with nearly absolute powers of arrest, detention and interrogation. The object of its attention was anyone suspected of being an opponent or potential opponent of the regime -- whether civilian or military personnel -- in short, anyone, whether communist or conservative democrat, who did not completely support the dictatorship. 'Some of the defendants,' said the prosecutor in his closing speech at the end of the trial, 'wanted to present EAT /ESA not as a place of torture but as a national reformatory. Modestly reserving to themselves infallibility of judgement, they have tried to follow in the footsteps of the Holy Inquisition.'

Many of the more senior intelligence officers were described in the trial as being guided by a fanatical anti-communism which they worked hard to instil in their command. Indeed, it was to be the defence of almost all the soldier defendants that they were merely obeying orders and were acting in a situation of compulsion and duress.

The pattern of torture

Arrests appear to have been carried out usually at night, without a warrant, by a car-load of ESA men under the command of an officer from the Prosecution Section and were often accompanied by a beating. On arrival at headquarters, the detainee would usually be taken to the commanding officer and verbally threatened with imminent and severe violence. In order to intimidate him, he might be shut into a guardroom where there were clubs, whips and canes hanging on the wall. He would soon be locked in a cell and told to write a statement of confession which would then be taken by the jailor to the interrogator who was responsible and then finally passed on to the commanding officer. The precise interrogation technique would be decided upon usually in conference between the commanding officer and the interrogator. The appropriate instructions were then issued to the duty officer, the jailor and the guards.

Threats of violence would be repeated to the new prisoner. He would be told in detail how powerless was his position and what was about to happen to both himself and his family. 'You're in our hands. This is ESA. You will vomit blood .. .', Theofiloyannakos told the taxi driver Dimitrios Kotsakis. 'You know', Ioannidis told Wing-Commander Minis, 'it is possible that some parts of your body might be destroyed.' ' ... Either you won't come out or you will leave a cripple,' Michail Sabatakakis, a dentistry student, was informed. 'Theofiloyannakos said he would arrest my wife and the whole lot. He said he would draw my teeth one by one .... .' said General Pantel is Kalamakis, the former head of the National Security Service. 'I remained worried for a fortnight,' he continued, 'that they had arrested my brother-in-law who had no connection with the case. Then Hajizisis promised to release him and play-acted in front of me, pretending to telephone .... It was a sad spectacle for a Greek officer ....'

According to the testimony, shortly after the initial threats, guards -- normally in a group -- would enter the cell and beat the prisoners with either clubs or their fists; this type of beating was known as a 'tea-party'. There were four large cells which were used for beatings. At EAT /ESA there were two types of blows, Sergeant Petrou explained in evidence:

'''General'' blows were those administered when prisoners were being taken to the punishment block. "Special" blows were administered during the ordeal. At this time there would always be two guards in the cell. The blows were administered on the buttocks and the shanks so that blood should start to collect in the lower extremities and cause pain. The blows on the buttocks were with clubs, alternatively vertical and horizontal. These caused a particular type of swelling .... '

At the outset of the ESA torture routine, prisoners would be deprived of both food and drink. They would be told to remain standing in the corner of their cell, sometimes on one foot but usually at attention. This ordeal would last several days. It would often be interspersed with more beatings -- standings and beatings together known as a 'tea party with toast'. If the prisoner fell down, he would be made to resume his standing position. Sometimes prisoners would be taken to the training centre, KESA, where the escorting guards would pass on to a non-commissioned officer, Nikolaos Kainich, the orders from headquarters as to who was to receive further beatings.

'They wanted to give us the sensation that we were forgotten,' said Mrs Virginia Tsouderou, a member of the present Greek Parliament who had been arrested in March 1973, 'and that there was no-one to care for us .... Antonopoulos hinted to me that ... all my friends had been arrested ... the Security had taken my children's identity cards [the same day] and in this way I would not know what had happened to them.'

After standing upright for a few days and being deprived of refreshment, the victim would normally begin to experience hallucinations. Ioannis Koronaios, a United States citizen who was arrested on 3 October 1970, said: 'I began to see that I had two faces, one in front and one behind. I was delirious. I began to insult the government and everyone there .... Then I tried to separate my soul from my body so that I could leave my body to be tortured.'

Michail Vardanis, a lawyer who was arrested in June 1973, had the following experience:

'On the walls I saw sad family faces. I saw the wall open and a gap for possible escape. I began to feel for the gap, to find the right point. Then my fingers touched the wall and I was disappointed .... The same evening, I saw a refrigerator on the wall. I said to the guard, "Why don't you open it and give me a Coca Cola?" My mouth was parched ... .'

Eventually, the standing ordeal would end, and the prisoner would receive some food and drink. Sometimes, it was reported, the water might contain soap, or, to increase the thirst, the food might be heavily laced with salt. Some former prisoners suspect that they were fed hallucinatory drugs.

At intervals, a prisoner might receive a visit from the former army doctor at ESA, Dr Dimitrios Kofas, also a defendant at the trial. He would advise when their condition made it dangerous for the ordeal to continue. He was said to have acted as the 'traffic controller' for torture, although he disputed the degree of control that he was alleged to have had. But Michail Vardanis gave an example in evidence of such 'traffic control': ' ... a man arrived who was introduced to me as Dr Kofas. He took my pulse and asked Petrou how many days I had been there. When Petrou told him it was the fourth day, he said: "All right". He then left and I continued having to stand upright.'

Many witnesses claimed that Dr Kofas promised to return 'in a minute' or 'tomorrow' with medication, but in fact did not re-appear for several days or even weeks. To one prisoner who was experiencing symptoms of heart failure, he sent aspirin after four days. When Squadron- Leader Stapas began to suffer from blood in his urine, Dr Kofas recommended orange juice and rest. Because he prescribed orange juice as though it were the panacea for many serious ailments and injuries, he became known among prisoners as 'the orange juice doctor'.

For about the first 20 days of the routine, prisoners would not be permitted to wash, change clothes or smoke. Some even had to relieve themselves in their cells during the standing ordeal. In such an atmosphere, the smallest kindness was remembered by the prisoners with disproportionate gratitude. Foivos Koutsikas, for example, a lawyer who was arrested in November 1970, recalled the following experience during his evidence:

'At 11 pm they took me back to the cell. ... a soldier came to the window, very disturbed, almost in tears, and asked me anxiously: 'Are you still holding out, Sir?' I was overwrought. I told him I could hold out for once more but that the third time I would succumb. I will always remember the behaviour of this soldier. I told him to come and see me when we were both free .... The previous evening a soldier came, very scared, and gave me a piece of cake .... Another time, ... a soldier brought me a packet of cigarettes and a box of matches.'

Major Theodore Theophyloyannakos who commanded the Military Police Interrogation Centre (ESA) where political prisoners in Greece were systematically tortured.

Yiaros island prison, 62 miles from Athens, which housed many political prisoners during the rule of the Greek military junta.

'What have we come to?' the prosecutor subsequently asked the court-martial. 'A light for a cigarette is regarded as a benefaction.' If a guard attempted to help a prisoner, he too would be punished. One guard, Dionysios Charalambopoulos, who was a prosecution witness, was locked in a cell and beaten by Major Spanos with a club for helping several arrested students; he was subsequently transferred as a punitive measure to the 523th Infantry Battalion at Komotini. Another guard, one Papandreopoulos, disappeared after allegedly helping a prisoner.

One effect of the torture routine on the victims, according to a number of prosecution witnesses, was their desire to commit suicide. Admiral Konstantinos Engolfopoulos, a former commander-in-chief of the Navy who was in compulsory retirement at the time of his arrest in May 1973, said: 'I decided to commit suicide. I tried to find a way. I was desperate. I had seen an electric razor in a dirty lavatory we used. I asked to go to the lavatory. I took the razor but there was no blade. In that way they were well organised. Then I looked for a pin to tear my veins but I failed.' Commander Iliopoulos, who was arrested in May 1973 and who was handed over to ESA by Naval HQ, confessed that he was 'under great psychological strain. I was an object and not a person. I thought of suicide but could find nothing in my cell to do it with.' Lieutenant- General Nikolaos Papanikolaou, arrested in June 1969, had been even more desperate:

'I had hallucinations from thirst and standing upright. At one moment my cell was left open. I tried to escape. I ran in the direction of the US Embassy, but they caught up with me. Then they beat me for two hours .... I woke up in a cell and my feet were swollen. Blood and liquid were running from my wounds and I had a terrible pain in my chest. I wanted to kill myself.... Sometimes I drank my own urine .... On 3 September I suffered a crisis and tried to kill myself.'

Ioannis Sergopoulos, a law student who had been arrested in May 1973 and taken to KESA, made a similar decision about suicide but changed his mind: 'Kainich beat me daily. Before beating me, he would sadistically show me the size of his fist and a monogrammed ring which he wore and which made his blows much more painful. I began to cough up blood .... Kainich also used me for training the ESA men, to show them how to beat. I was the sandbag and he was the boxer .... One morning he threw me onto a pile of bricks and began to hit me with them and kick me, preferably in the genitals. That day I decided to kill myself. I could stand no more and I didn't know how much further things might go The worst torture at KESA was waiting to be tortured The beating began at 9 am and I knew they would reach my cell at midday.... As my turn approached, I wished I could have been in the first cell to have got it over. This was a daily routine .... I was obsessed with the idea of suicide. But I suddenly came to my senses and rejected the idea. I thought my death would only help the dictatorship. I swore an oath: "I am coming out of here alive. I shall live. It is my duty to live.'"



1. The text of this declaration was analogous to the forced recantations under torture that were extorted 30 years before, during the near-fascist dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas, 1936-41. It is important to note that although torture was used in Greece before the Junta (specifically, during the Metaxas dictatorship, in the island concentration camps during the 1946-49 Civil War, and within the air force in a particular incident in the early I 950s), it was never an endemic part of Greek political life, as some apologists for the Junta have argued.

2. Council of Europe, European Commission of Human Rights, The Greek Case: Report of the Commission, 1969.

3. EAT literally translated is the 'Special Interrogation Section'. However, in colloquial usage EAT meant the place where the special unit operated, namely, ESA's Athens headquarters.

Published April 1977




Much of the information Amnesty International receives can be grim and depressing, but there are also heartening moments when a life is saved or a prisoner of conscience is released. Zheng Chaolin was 78 years of age when this picture was taken. First imprisoned in the 1930s under the Chinese nationalists, he was later detained under Chairman Mao in a series of arrests of Trotskyist leaders. He was imprisoned in Shanghai in 1952 and ended up spending 27 years in prison. He was adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.

Little was known about his fate until in May 1979 when, not knowing whether he was alive or dead, Amnesty International launched a special campaign on his behalf. Whether it was by coincidence or not, he and his wife, Wu Jingru, were released the next month. This photo, taken in China, shows the couple together again.
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