Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sat May 07, 2016 8:49 am


Thousands of African nationalists were interned under the illegal government of Ian Smith before Rhodesia gained independence in April 1980 and became Zimbabwe. Amnesty International's concerns were set out in a report issued in 1976 from which the following extracts are taken.

Amnesty International is particularly concerned by the following human rights problems in Rhodesia:

(i) the use of preventive detention, imposed without charge or trial for periods of indefinite duration. Those detained include nationalist leaders belonging to banned political parties and rank and file members of political organizations, like the African National Council, which have not yet been proscribed;

(ii) the physical restriction of released prisoners and political detainees;

(iii) the holding of trials and detention review tribunals in camera;

(iv) the use of the death penalty, in some cases on a mandatory basis, for a wide range of offences, and the execution, in secret, of condemned prisoners;

(v) the torture of political prisoners;

(vi) the government's refusal to establish an independent inquiry into allegations of atrocities committed by the Rhodesian security forces;

(vii) the forced settlement of large numbers of rural Africans in so-called 'protected villages' as part of the government's counter-insurgency policy...

Since 1965 the United Kingdom has theoretically retained sole power to legislate for Rhodesia and all legislative enactments, executive actions and judicial procedures of the Rhodesian Front government have been regarded internationally as of no effect. However, in practice, the British government has been unable to exercise its legitimate authority.

The constitutional legality of the Rhodesian regime has also been tested in the courts. In 1968, the highest court of appeal for Rhodesian questions, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, ruled that the detention order served on Daniel Madzimbamuto, a political prisoner, in November 1965 was invalid since it had been issued by a 'rebel' administration. The Privy Council ordered Mr Madzimbamuto's immediate release.

This appeal was widely regarded outside Rhodesia as a test case to determine the illegality of the Rhodesian Front government, but despite initial hopes that the ruling would have effect in Salisbury, it was rejected by both judiciary and administration and Mr Madzimbamuto remained in detention. The Rhodesian government's right to implement the death penalty has been challenged internationally on similar legal grounds, and similarly upheld in Rhodesia.

Since UDI [Unilateral Declaration of Independence], the government has remained intransigent in the face of increasing pressures for African majority rule. Attempts at a constitutional settlement were made in direct negotiations between the British and Rhodesian governments in 1966, 1968 and 1971-72, and between the Rhodesian government and Rhodesia's African nationalist leaders on two occasions in 1974. These negotiations broke down because of the regime's unwillingness to make major concessions to African aspirations ...

Almost without exception, Rhodesia's political prisoners are Africans who actively support the nationalist struggle for majority rule on the basis of universal adult suffrage. They may differ as to political affiliation or strategy, but they are united by their desire to see an end to the social, economic and political domination of Rhodesia by the white minority population. Until recently, almost all African nationalist leaders were in detention in Rhodesia or were political exiles abroad. Both Joshua Nkomo, the former ZAPU [Zimbabwe African Peoples' Union] leader, and Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, the former ZANU [Zimbabwe African National Union] leader, were detained almost continuously from the time that their political parties were banned in the early 1960s until December 1974.

Since the development of African nationalism as a mass movement in the 1950s, successive governments have used political imprisonment and detention as a means of controlling African political opposition. When the various African political organizations were proscribed in turn, usually within a short time of their formation, their leaders were restricted, detained or driven into exile ...

Prison conditions

Under the discriminatory system operated by the Rhodesian prison authorities, a prisoner is graded upon entry into prison according to the authorities' estimation of his or her standard of living. The grades stipulate the kind of food, clothing and cell equipment to be supplied. In practice Europeans are normally placed on scale I and receive the best treatment, Asians and Coloureds (people of mixed race) are put on scale II, and Africans on scale III, although better educated or more prosperous Africans may be placed on scale II.

Most political prisoners, including untried detainees, are classified on scale III. As such, they receive a diet consisting largely of sadza, a maize-meal porridge, but without items like bread and sugar which form a normal part of the diet of urban Africans. They wear shorts and singlets, but are barefoot. They are only given sisal sleeping mats and three or four blankets as bedding.

Although graded in the same way as convicted prisoners, political detainees have certain privileges not shared by other prisoners. They are allowed more frequent visits and mail, they do not have to work while in prison and they may purchase additional foodstuffs to supplement their prison diet with money sent to them from outside. Detainees are normally kept separate from convicted prisoners.

Despite these advantages, political detainees have complained many times about the harsh treatment they receive. In August 1972, 34 detainees at Salisbury Remand Prison smuggled out a letter to Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross detailing instances of bad treatment. Similarly detainees complained that the deaths in detention of Leopold Takawira in June 1970 and Kenneth Chisango in January 1974 were directly attributable to poor conditions and inadequate medical attention. The Rhodesian authorities deny these claims.

Torture allegations

There have been consistent allegations of torture since the introduction of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act in 1960, but recent reports indicate that it is now employed almost as routine practice by both police and security forces. It is particularly acute in northeast Rhodesia where nationalist guerrillas are active. Many hundreds of Africans in that area are reported to have been detained for short periods by the security forces and subjected to interrogation and torture on the assumption that they possess information about guerrilla activities.

Various methods of torture are allegedly used. They include beating on the body with fists and sticks, beating on the soles of the feet with sticks, and the application of electric shocks by means of electrodes or cattle goads. In addition torture victims have been threatened with castration or immersed head first in barrels of water until unconscious.

Since 1974, church leaders and African parliamentarians have called repeatedly for the establishment of an independent inquiry into allegations of torture and atrocities committed by the security forces. All such calls have been rejected by the Minister for Law and Order on the grounds that any inquiry would undermine the morale of the armed forces. The minister has also stated that several allegations investigated by his department were found to be false. Nevertheless, when several torture victims brought actions for damages in the High Court in 1975, the government introduced the Indemnity and Compensation Act. This act effectively indemnifies members of the security forces against prosecution for any actions carried out since 1 December 1972 while on active service in the war zone. The act also gave the minister authority to terminate actions for damages which were before the High Court -- an authority that the minister exercised immediately to forestall several outstanding suits. In effect, the Indemnity and Compensation Act gives the security forces absolute discretion as to the methods they employ against suspected guerrillas even if such methods include killings among the civilian population. Consequently no inquiry has been held into reported civilian killings at Kandeya Tribal Trust Land in the Mount Darwin area on 12 June 1975.

Capital punishment

The death penalty is very widely used not only for criminal offences such as murder or rape, but also for those convicted of certain political offences under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act. This act, which has been amended many times since 1965 so as to provide for increasingly severe sentences, created a number of offences which may incur a capital sentence and also specified offences which carry a mandatory death penalty. Possession of arms of war, commission of acts of terrorism or harbouring of guerrillas fall within the former category, in which a judge may exercise discretion in deciding whether to impose the death penalty. The latter category includes offences involving arson, the use of explosives or the recruitment of guerrillas. In these cases the judges have no discretion in sentencing and must impose the death penalty whatever the particular circumstances. Only pregnant women and children under 16 years of age are excluded from execution while youths aged between 16 and 19 may either be executed or sentenced to life imprisonment.

A Rhodesian trooper holds a gun in front of a line of prisoners as they are interrogated near Kikidoo, Rhodesia, September 1977. The prisoners were forced to hold their position in the head of the midday sun while the trooper repeatedly clicked his pistol in their faces.

Since 1965 more than 60 people are believed to have been hanged. The first executions were carried out in 1968 amidst a storm of international protest, and immediately led the United Nations to impose comprehensive and mandatory economic sanctions against Rhodesia. Before any executions took place the British government had reiterated the view that the Rhodesian Front regime could not lawfully carry out executions. Queen Elizabeth II, whose position as Rhodesian head of state had not at that time been challenged, exercised the royal prerogative of mercy to commute the sentences of the first three men due to be executed. Nevertheless, the three men were hanged on 6 March 1968 after the Rhodesian Chief Justice ruled that the Rhodesian Front regime had de facto authority to carry out executions.

Published March 1976
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sun May 08, 2016 7:54 am


On March 1978 a memorandum was sent to the Cuban Government following a visit by members of Amnesty International. The memorandum outlined issues of continuing concern, which included the long-term detention of political prisoners as illustrated by the following extract.


One of Cuba's long-term prisoners was Huber Matos pictured (above) before his imprisonment in 1959 and (below) after his release in 1979. He was adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. He had been one of Fidel Castro's top commanders during the Cuban Revolution, but was accused of plotting and of crimes against state security after breaking with Castro politically.

We appreciate that the number of political prisoners has decreased very substantially in the course of the 1970s. We nevertheless remain concerned at the number of people who remain in prison, on political charges or for politically motivated offences. It was explained to us in Havana that these persons were detained and sentenced for such offences as sabotage, arson or armed uprising. But it also appears that many were sentenced not for specific acts, but for membership of the numerous political organisations which opposed the Revolutionary Government in the early 1960s. From the information available to us, we understand that members of these political movements did regularly resort to violence and armed sabotage. We do not therefore claim that these people can necessarily be considered Prisoners of Conscience. We are nevertheless concerned by the following issues:

(1) From the information currently available to us, it does seem that certain individuals may have been arrested and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment more because of their ideological opposition to the Revolutionary Government than on account of any specific offence. If the Cuban government does not accept this viewpoint, we believe that it should explain the precise charges against these persons, together with the evidence to substantiate these charges.

(2) In the early years of the Revolution, procedures before the Revolutionary Tribunals have been criticised as summary with certain restrictions on the rights of legal consultation and defence: sentences passed by these tribunals were in many cases extremely severe, and were arguably out of proportion to the alleged offence.

We are acutely aware that a substantial number of Cuban prisoners are now among the longest term political prisoners to be found anywhere in the world of today. We were informed by Cuban officials of the reasons against a general amnesty at this time. These included the continuation of externally based acts of terrorism, with particular reference to the sabotage of the Cubana airline in Barbados in October 1976. We deplore these acts of terrorism. Yet we very strongly doubt that there could be any causal connection between an amnesty and the continuation of such terrorist acts.

Leaving aside the question of a general amnesty, we were informed on several occasions by both governmental and judicial officials that in accordance with Law 993 of 1961, and in accordance with the overall principles of the 'Progressive Plan', those prisoners who obey the existing prison regulations and whose conduct is deemed satisfactory may be granted conditional freedom after serving at least one quarter of their sentences. While noting the release of several hundred political prisoners from both within and outside the 'Progressive Plan' over the course of the past year, we were concerned to see that there are still 3,000 in prison within the 'Progressive Plan', many of them long term prisoners who have served very much more than one quarter of their sentences. We would therefore like to know more of the exact procedures by which conditional release is given or denied to people in this category.

We are also concerned that precise statistics of the number of political prisoners or 'counter-revolutionary offenders' should be readily available. It was stated by numerous officials that numbers have been grossly exaggerated outside Cuba. It was suggested by more than one official that these exaggerations should be rectified, and the true picture presented. But the Cuban government has not, as far as we know, given out precise statistical information concerning' the number of prisoners, their sentences and places of detention. The several public references over the past year have only given very general information. In Havana we were informed that the number of 'counter-revolutionary offenders' was slightly in excess of 3000 .... We would appreciate it if on our next visit we could be provided with precise statistics on those still in prison.

Published November 1918




'At last I can write to you from home. I am now a free man!', wrote Sidgi Awad Kaballo, after his release from prison in the Sudan. He had been arrested as a suspected Communist in July 1979 under the National Security Law and was detained without trial in Kober Prison, Khartoum, until he was released in December 1983.

While in prison, he was divorced from his wife. Despite the fact that he faced other personal difficulties, his sense of optimism as he set about rebuilding his life was undiminished -- this is shown clearly in the letter he wrote to a member of the Amnesty International group which had campaigned for his release: 'I am now a free man ... and will continue my work on the thesis I began four years ago.... All my problems will not make me lose hope. I look hopefully to the future. Since I am free now, everything can be faced. Life in a country like ours needs fighting and struggle on different fronts: political and personal ...

'I cannot find words to express my thanks to you in Amnesty International, for your solidarity, your sympathy and your struggle for my release. Without your help, without the feeling that other people in the world are defending our freedom and helping us and our people, life would have been so hard and difficult. Please convey my thanks and best wishes to your friends ...'
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sun May 08, 2016 7:55 am


While Uganda was ruled by President Idi Amin, from 1971 to 1979, tens of thousands of people were killed and Amnesty International received frequent reports of atrocities being carried out by the security forces. In 1977 it submitted its concerns to the UN Commission on Human Rights and urged that they be studied. The following year it released a report 'Human Rights in Uganda' from which this extract comes.

Amnesty International is extremely concerned about the human rights situation in Uganda. Since the military government of President Idi Amin came to power by coup d'etat in 1971, there has developed a consistent pattern of gross human rights violations which is still continuing. Amnesty International's main concerns are as follows:

1. the overthrow of the rule of law;

2. The extensive practice of murder by government security officers, which often reaches massacre proportions;

3. the institutionalized use of torture;

4. the denial of fundamental human rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

5. the regime's constant disregard for the extreme concern expressed by international opinion and international organizations such as the United Nations, which results in the impression that gross human rights violations may be committed with impunity.

These aspects of repression in Uganda are documented here in outline. This statement centres on the human rights issues within the mandate of Amnesty International's statutory concerns, and details of other political, economic and historical events and trends are mentioned only where they are relevant to this purpose. The focus is on events during 1977 and the first part of 1978. Events up to 1977 have been well documented by the International Commission of Jurists and are not generally included here, though some earlier events are briefly mentioned in order to show clearly the structure of human rights violations.

The aim of this report is not simply to deliver another condemnation of one man at the centre of this terrible structure, who has been instrumental in creating and perpetuating it: what Amnesty International considers more important is to describe the whole structure, which involves many other individuals and which penetrates all areas of Ugandan society from the severely diminished urban elite to the poorest rural peasant. The effect of this structure of repression can be said without fear of exaggeration to have transformed the whole society in a short period of time into a ruthless military dictatorship marked by arbitrary arrest, torture, murder, the removal of virtually all fundamental human rights, the terrorization of the population, and the turning of tens of thousands of Ugandans into refugees.

International concern about human rights violations in Uganda has been voiced on many occasions from many different sources. The International Commission of Jurists made important submissions on Uganda to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1974 and 1976. The Commission took no action in 1975 and President Amin announced that he had been exonerated from what he called a 'smear campaign'. He falsely claimed that 'the accusations, inspired by an imperialist conspiracy, were found baseless'. [1] On 25 August 1976 the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities recommended that the Commission should undertake a thorough study of human rights violations in Uganda. By 1977 Uganda had secured a seat on this Commission. When the Commission met again in February and March 1977, the Commission decided again to take no action but merely to keep the situation under review. An open statement on human rights violations in Uganda was made by Amnesty International at the commencement of the Commission's session, and there were strong international protests at the atrocities and massacres which were perpetrated by Ugandan security officers at the very time the Commission was in session. In May 1977 Amnesty International made a lengthy communication to the Commission, under its confidential procedures, on human rights in Uganda. In March 1978 the Commission took an undisclosed decision on Uganda, announced by the Chairman, Mr. Keba M'Baye, after considering the case in confidential session.



1. Uganda Radio, 18 January 1977.

Published May 1978


Naked under his canvas apron, an alleged 'guerrilla' contemplates his last few minutes before execution in public at Mbale, Uganda. A soldier in President Amin's army stands nearby with the black bag which will be put over his head. 13 February 1973

A Tanzanian soldier looks at bodies outside the State Research Bureau in Kampala, Uganda where thousands died during the rule of President Amin from 1971 to 1979.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sun May 08, 2016 7:56 am


Having overthrown Milton Obote to take power, Idi Amin was himself overthrown in 1979 and after elections the following year Milton Obote became president once again. Human rights abuses continued, however, and Amnesty International continued its appeals to the President to take action to end them. In 1985 a further report 'Uganda: Evidence of Torture', from which this extract comes, received wide international publicity and drew a public response from the Ugandan Government. Shortly afterwards, Milton Obote's government was again overthrown.

From the testimonies of many former detainees Amnesty International has been able to compile a detailed picture of conditions and the use of torture within military barracks. Many reports refer to Makindye barracks in Kampala as the most notorious of these, but conditions in other places of military detention are reported to be similar.

On arrival at Makindye it is reported that detainees are normally taken to a section just inside the main gate known as the 'quarter guard'. One former detainee describes how there were a large number of prisoners in the four cells of the 'quarter guard' and that they had to sleep in squatting positions one behind the other. In or outside the 'quarter guard' new prisoners are usually beaten with iron bars, cable, pieces of wood into which nails have been driven, rifle butts, pangas (machetes) or hammers. In some cases prisoners are alleged to have died as a result.

After the 'quarter guard', prisoners are taken to other sections of Makindye. The largest section, which figures in many former detainees' accounts, is known as the 'go-down'. This is a long concrete building with a corrugated iron roof, a former store. It has an iron door and no windows, but a few ventilation holes. The numbers held there reportedly vary but are sometimes more than 100. According to all accounts the turnover of prisoners is rapid.

Prisoners held in the 'go-down' at Makindye barracks are reported to be fed infrequently, perhaps twice a week, and also rarely given water. According to one former prisoner: 'People often begged for your urine because they had gone so long without water.' This claim is repeated by a number of former prisoners. Food, when it is available, consists of poorly cooked posho (maize meal porridge), often with maggots in it. Some prisoners are apparently able to bribe guards to let them have food provided by their families.

One woman described to Amnesty International how she was served with food in Muhoti barracks in Fort Portal. She said that prisoners were often given a hot, watery bean stew which was poured into their cupped hands. It was often too hot for them to hold. At the same time posho was thrown into the cell. It was impossible to catch both before they landed on the floor, which was covered with dirt and excreta.

This woman told Amnesty International that she had burns all over her upper body after being strapped to a chair placed beneath a burning car tyre.

Toilet facilities in the 'go-down' at Makindye and in most places of military detention consist of an oil drum or bucket in the room where prisoners are held, which the prisoners can only empty infrequently, often as rarely as once a month. Some former detainees report that the floor of the 'go-down' was covered with water. No bedding is provided.

It is reported that many prisoners die in the 'go-down', either from starvation or as a result of their beatings. Their bodies may not be removed for up to two weeks. Similarly, a detainee who was held for two months in Kireka barracks in 1984 alleges that approximately five people died there each day as a result of starvation or torture.

When dead bodies are removed, this is done by prisoners. One former prisoner has described being told to remove the 'meat and bones'. Prisoners were beaten as they moved corpses.

Other former prisoners report having regularly been taken out at night to load bodies onto lorries or Land Rovers. The bodies are reportedly driven out of the barracks and dumped in mass graves. In 1984 an Australian television crew filmed an open mass grave within a few hundred yards of an army barracks. Interviewed by the television reporter, a Ugandan Government representative said that he did not know who was responsible.

Amnesty International has received reports of mass graves in the Luwero area to the north-west of Kampala. Former Ugandan security personnel, as well as former detainees, allege that they drove lorryloads of bodies from military barracks in Kampala to dump on the edge of forests near the city.


For many prisoners, the frequent beatings continue throughout their time in Makindye or other military barracks. In a few instances it is reported that prisoners are not beaten after being transferred from the 'quarter guard', possibly because they are from wealthy families and the soldiers guarding them hope to receive a ransom. There is a section in Makindye referred to by some former detainees as the 'paying wing'. Among those former detainees interviewed by Amnesty International, by far the largest number had bribed their way out of prison.

The victims of beatings appear to be selected at random, for example when food is brought. One former prisoner describes being regularly beaten at the same time each morning and this being described as 'breakfast'. Another gives a similar account, except that in his case it was described as 'coffee'. Sometimes prisoners are reportedly taken out of the cell for interrogation and beaten. It does not appear, however, that the main purpose of this ill-treatment is to gather information since most accounts indicate that the questioning which takes place is cursory. Those interrogated in Nile Mansions or in 'safe houses' are more likely to be thoroughly interrogated, though the methods of torture reportedly differ little.

On a number of occasions, prisoners are known to have been taken from their cells and apparently deliberately beaten to death. One former prisoner described how an inmate was beaten with an axe on his head and another had his arm cut off. Both died. He himself was beaten with an iron bar and left for dead outside the barracks.

Another former Makindye prisoner described one man being killed by having his head hit against a wall while another was killed by being hit hard on top of his head with a rifle butt.


Although beating is the most common form of torture, other methods are reported. One which is described in a number of accounts consists of tying the victim down, with a car tyre suspended over him or her. This is then set alight and the molten rubber drips onto the victim, causing serious burns. This is reportedly done for many hours, often until the victim is dead.

One prisoner who suffered such torture was detained in Makindye in 1982. She described what happened to Amnesty International:

'They tied my legs and hands and tied me onto a metal chair. Then they started asking me where the guerrillas were and which government I was supporting. They told me that we wanted to bring back the Kabaka [the former king of Buganda] and Lule as president. They accused me of being DP [Democratic Party] and Catholic and Muganda and therefore very dangerous.

'After questioning me the soldiers came and tied an old tyre over my head, lit it and then left me there. There were so many people there, men and women prisoners. The practice was that they started beating them and tied them up and then lit the tyre ...

'The hot rubber droplets were made to fall on my head, my face, my right hand and on the right side of my chest. The hot rubber droplets fell and spread all over my upper body causing untold suffering to me. All along they were asking me to tell them where my sons were and insisting that my sons had joined the guerrillas in the bush and that I must know where they were operating from. I told them that my sons were not guerrillas and that I did not know whether they were engaged in guerrilla activities or not. Apart from my sons, the soldiers were asking me to tell them where Idi Amin's soldiers were operating from and who were the people supporting Yusufu Lule.

'The melting hot rubber burned the skin off my face, chest and arms and the pain is just indescribable. I spent the whole day from about 8.30 am in this position and at about midnight I prayed to the Virgin Mary with my rosary around my chest.'

She was helped to escape. She received some medical treatment inside Uganda and then fled the country. She later had a number of operations to graft skin from her thighs onto her face and right arm. She still feels considerable pain in her head, breasts, hip, back, legs and arms, as well as suffering from headaches and high blood pressure.

Published June 1985
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sun May 08, 2016 7:57 am


Issued by Amnesty International for Human Rights Day 1978.


Three decades after the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, countless men and women are in prison for their beliefs.

They are being held as prisoners of conscience in scores of countries throughout the world, in crowded jails, in labour camps, and in remote prisons.

Thousands are held under administrative orders, often by military rulers, and are denied any possibility of trial or appeal. Others are in hospitals for the insane or hidden in secret detention camps. Many are forced to endure relentless, systematic torture.

Increasingly, political leaders and ordinary citizens are becoming the victims of abductions, disappearances and killings carried out both by government and opposition. These acts are an affront to human society. They degrade the entire political process within the community of nations.


"Nowhere in the principles which govern the conduct of nations is there justification for arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and murder.

The Charter of the United Nations has established the individual and collective commitment of its members to the rights and fundamental freedoms of all people.

The violation of those rights and freedoms is an insult to all people and a threat to international peace and stability.

There has been progress. The International Bill of Human Rights has finally entered into force and 52 governments have ratified the covenants which form part of it. All governments within the United Nations have unanimously declared that under no circumstances is there justification for torture. They have adopted the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

The United Nations, the International Labour Organisation and UNESCO have established mechanisms to hear complaints of human rights violations.

Proposals are now before the United Nations for an international code of conduct for law enforcement officials and for principles to protect the human rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment.

The American Convention on Human Rights has now entered into force, the Council of Europe has dealt with numerous cases before its human rights commission and the creation of regional mechanisms for the protection of human rights elsewhere has been endorsed by governments in the United Nations.

This progress is of vital importance. The setting of international human rights standards and the creation of possibilities for the protection of those rights reinforce the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Thirty years ago, it was that declaration which elevated respect for the inalienable rights of all people above the distinctions of race, nation and belief. It proclaimed respect for the dignity of the human person as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.


That commitment to human dignity has not been honoured: freedom, justice and peace have become the broken promises of our time.

The victims of economic, social and political injustices have been denied even the right to defend their rights. Prisoners of conscience are known to be in detention in at least 71 countries. In at least 50 countries detention without trial is permitted or is taking place. Numbers of political prisoners are being kept in prolonged detention awaiting trial. From more than a quarter of the countries whose governments have voted for the protection of human rights, torture has been reported. Almost all retain the death penalty and in a score of nations, disappearances and summary killings have become commonplace.

The 30th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not an occasion for celebration.

This Anniversary should be a commemoration of all those who have met their deaths and who have been silenced in the streets and in the prisons, death cells, camps and torture chambers. Each killing has been senseless and shameful. Each act of torture has disfigured our common humanity. Every voice which has been silenced has diminished us all.


We, the members of Amnesty International, are determined that this commemoration of the victims who have suffered and who continue to suffer despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights shall be a signal for change:

We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience wherever they are held.

We call for the cessation of all acts of torture and cruelty inflicted upon prisoners.

We demand that all political prisoners held without charge and without trial be given a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial court with full rights of defence.

We reaffirm our total opposition to the imposition and infliction of the death penalty.

We are determined that these principles be respected by all governments, political movements and citizens.

It is only the strength of informed, popular opinion which will finally put an end to the international hypocrisy about human rights.

To this end we are totally committed.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sun May 08, 2016 7:58 am


Concern about political imprisonment in the People's Republic of China led Amnesty International to publish a report in 1978. 'Political Imprisonment in the People's Republic of China' described the major aspects of imprisonment for political reasons - the laws, the judicial process and prison conditions. The Constitution and the law provided that people of a certain class origin or political background could be deprived of their political rights, as illustrated by the case of Deng Qingshan in this extract.

Class background becomes particularly important during the mass 'mobilization' campaigns which are launched periodically in China. Such campaigns are used for many purposes: to deter crime, corruption, waste and black marketeering; for the political and economic mobilization of the population; and for political purification. During a campaign, increased emphasis is given to the class struggle and the search for 'class enemies' is more intense than usual. Whatever the purpose of the campaign, people who have a 'bad' class status or origin are generally the first to be scrutinized in the process.

A Chinese language review published in Hong Kong, Huang He, recently gave the example of one case where class status was an important factor in arrest during the 1970 'one-strike three-anti' (yida sanfan) campaign. This purification campaign was carried out while Lin Biao (Lin Piao) was still in power as Vice-Chairman of the Party. It had both a political and an economic purpose: 'one-strike' meant to strike against 'counter-revolutionaries according to present activities', 'three-anti' meant to struggle against corruption, waste and the black market. According to the review Huang He, a 26-year-old man named Deng Qingshan was arrested in a rural production brigade during this campaign and falsely accused of slandering Chairman Mao.

Deng Qingshan had lost his mother while he was still very young and his father had died after the Land Reform. Deng's father had 'poor peasant' status and had been an active 'red element' during the Land Reform. After his death, the head of the family was Deng's older brother, who had fought in the Korean War and through this had gained the prestige of the 'revolutionary fighters'. Because of this good background, Deng's childhood was protected. He was able to attend middle-school classes and in 1963 he was preparing to enter university. However, an important event affected his brother at that time. After his return from the Korean War, Deng's brother had differences of opinion with the cadres of the production brigade and his relationship with them soon became very tense. In 1963, during a campaign to 'afforest the country', the cadres seized the pretext that the brother had gone to chop wood to accuse him of 'undermining' this campaign and labelled him a 'bad element'. Deng's life was immediately affected by his brother's fate. He was not admitted to university and returned to work as a primary school teacher in his original production brigade (village). Because of his brother's 'bad' status, Deng was dismissed from this post after a few months and was assigned to labour as an ordinary peasant in the production brigade ...

In 1970, shortly after the 'one-strike, three-anti' campaign began in his production brigade, Deng Qingshan was made the 'target' of the campaign because of his 'bad' background. This decision was taken by the brigade's cadres and was not made public. It was the outcome of three days of meetings between the following people:

the brigade's Party members

members of the 'Security Protection Committee'

the production teams' leaders (rural brigades are subdivided into production teams)

members of the Youth League (the youth organization of the Communist Party)

the brigade's political propagandist (Maozidong fudaoyuan).

After these meetings, an investigation team was formed in the brigade, comprising the Party Secretary, the head of the Security Protection Committee, the head of the militia, some members of the 'team in charge of carrying out the class struggle' (douchadui) and some people responsible for taking notes.

They all settled in Deng's production team for a few days. Members of the team first talked to individual 'poor peasants' and 'activists' about the class struggle and the need to find class enemies. Soon their actions and speeches created a tense atmosphere in the production team. People did not know exactly who was going to be the 'victim' but understood clearly that it was a serious affair. The team then displayed several slogans: 'We should drag out the class enemies' ... 'You had better confess now' ... 'Confession deserves clemency, resistance deserves severity' ... and 'mobilization' continued in various ways. Two or three days later, a big meeting was organized for all members of the production team. They were told that there was a 'counter-revolutionary' among them whom everyone should denounce, but the name of the counterrevolutionary was not disclosed. People were frightened and started thinking of what they could report about others. They were asked to write down whatever they knew which seemed wrong to them. Those who could not write well were given help. The meeting lasted a long time because many people who presented their papers to the Party Secretary were told that they were not 'good enough' and had to be rewritten.

Finally, 81 denunciation papers were collected; most of them unimportant. However, some of them concerned several young people in the village who, in one of the papers, were accused of having once stolen a fish and were said to be often in Deng's company.

These young men were taken to the brigade's headquarters by the investigation team and a 'study class' was organized for them. They were urged to confess their 'illicit relationship' with a 'counter-revolutionary'. As they were unable to say anything, Deng's name was then mentioned and they were asked to say what they knew of him.

Meanwhile, some members of the investigation team went back to the production team to ask the peasants to denounce these young men. The previous process was repeated and in the new denunciations the investigators found accusations against two of the young men. One was denounced for having had an 'illicit sexual relationship' with a woman and the other for telling a story to some peasants about the Emperor of the Zhou dynasty and his concubine, from which it was deduced that he compared Mao Tsetung with the tyrannical Emperor and Mao's wife with the cruel concubine.

Once this information was brought back to the brigade, these two young men were taken aside by the investigators. The first was threatened with being labelled a 'bad element' unless he made up for his crime by 'exposing' Deng. Frightened, he testified that Deng had once told him that Mao had been transformed from a snake into a man, and, every year, had to go swimming at the time when the skin changed. To a Chinese mind, this would sound more like a peasant's story than one told by an educated youth and it seems unlikely that Deng was its author. Nevertheless the statement was written down, signed and finger-printed by the young man. The other young man was in his turn threatened with being branded a 'counter-revolutionary' for slandering Chairman Mao with the story of the Zhou Emperor. He then accused Deng of having told the story and he, too, signed and finger-printed a statement. The two of them were then allowed to go home. The other young men who had been taken with them to the brigade were then asked to confirm the charges, which they did, for fear of being kept longer in the 'study class'. Their testimony was also written down and their finger-prints taken.

This completed the first part of the preliminary investigation; the evidence of two 'crimes' committed by Deng plus witnesses had been found. The second part began with the return of the investigation team to Deng's production team, where the 'masses' were again mobilized. Twelve 'poor peasants' were found to confirm the charges against Deng and to give additional details. They also made statements which they signed and finger-printed and a first dossier (shumian zuixing railiao, was written, including the following information:

1. Deng's background and class origin

2. his two 'crimes'

3. the places and times at which the 'crimes' were committed

4. the witnesses to each of the 'crimes'

5. Deng's acceptance or rejection of the above facts.

Deng was then arrested by the militia, taken to the brigade for interrogation and told to confess. He did not yet know precisely what he was accused of. The cadres gave him the dossier to read. Under point 5, he could write either 'conforms with the facts' (shushi) and 'I admit my crimes' (renzut) or 'does not conform with the facts' (bu shushi). Deng was urged to write something. He had, in fact, little choice, because refuting evidence given by 12 'poor peasants' was an impossible challenge and the only other alternative - admitting the crimes - would make him a 'counter-revolutionary'. At first, therefore, he refused to say or write anything.

A 'struggle meeting' was then called -- the whole brigade stopped working for an entire day to attend it. Deng was confronted with the young men and the 12 'poor peasants' who had denounced him and who, more than anybody else, were adamant that he should admit the crimes. In this situation nobody would dare to speak in his defence. Deng was pushed, insulted, even beaten and yet did not confess. Finally, the brigade's Party Secretary threatened to write on the dossier that Deng had 'resisted to the very end' - a powerful threat in China as the official policy of 'leniency to those who confess, severity to those who resist' is well known to everyone. At that point, Deng had no choice but to sign the statement and he wrote 'renzui' ('I admit my crimes').

A 'recommendation for arrest' was then written by the brigade cadres and sent with the dossier to the commune's 'Security Defence Group'. At the same time Deng was sent to the commune and his case was no longer the responsibility of the brigade cadres.

This was the starting-point of a process of reinvestigation which was carried out in three stages. Investigators from the commune were sent to Deng's production team to interrogate the witnesses, especially about factual inconsistencies in the dossier. The commune's investigators, however, began their investigation by assuring the peasants repeatedly that they were 'confident in the masses and in the Party's grass-roots' - a guarantee of protection for the witnesses who confirmed their statements. The dossier on Deng which was finally compiled by the commune contained fewer inconsistencies than the brigade's dossier.

The commune in turn sent its own dossier of recommendations to the county Public Security authorities who, after again investigating the case along the same lines, issued an 'arrest warrant'. Deng meanwhile had been transferred to the county's detention centre and was now formally 'arrested'. As the case was considered important, the county authorities handed the dossier to the higher authorities in the district (zhuanqu).

The third reinvestigation was therefore made by officials from the district Public Security Bureau. This time a more detailed investigation was made. However, in order not to intimidate the witnesses, the district investigators explained again to the peasants that 'they were confident in the masses, in the Party's grass-roots and were standing at their side'. New details about the crimes were therefore discovered which made the final dossier better and fuller. It was sent by the district to Deng's production brigade for approval. The brigade's Party Secretary and the member responsible for Public Security signed it. The district's dossier did not include the original dossiers prepared by the brigade, commune and county, which were never seen again.

Bound prisoners are publicly displayed in Wuhan, China. The placards around their necks state their names and crimes.

The arrest of a prisoner of conscience in China: Ren Wanding is arrested at the 'democracy wall' for putting up a poster criticizing the authorities' March 1979 ban on wall posters considered to be 'opposed to socialism.' He was imprisoned apparently without trial from April 1979 to April 1981.

Several months later, preparations were made for passing judgment on Deng. Some officials from the district came to the production brigade for 'consultations with the masses', and copies of Deng's dossier were distributed to the production teams. In addition to information about the case, some space was reserved in the dossier for the 'opinions of the masses' and for the 'opinion of the Party's grass-roots'. A meeting was organized for this purpose, but people did not quite know what to say and proposed all sorts of things; some shouted 'execution'. The brigade's Party Secretary, on the other hand, seemed to feel some remorse and wrote on the dossier: '[Deng] admitted his crimes, cooperative attitude, [he] deserves clemency'.

The district officials left the brigade after having collected the 'opinions of the masses' and judgment was decided upon outside the brigade. In November 1970, a district Public Security Bureau public notice announced sentences passed on a number of offenders. Deng was on the list. He had been sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment with three years' deprivation of civil rights after release, for slandering Chairman Mao on several occasions between 1967 and 1969. He is reported to have been sent to a labour camp. His present fate is unknown.

Published November 1978
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sun May 08, 2016 8:31 am


By1978 Amnesty International had grown to 2,173 adoption groups in 33 countries, with more than 200,000 individual members and supporters around the world. The preface to the 'Amnesty International Report 1978' reflects upon this growth and sets down some of the guiding principles of the movement's approach.

A demonstration called by Amnesty International to draw attention to "disappearances."

Amnesty International is a dynamic movement. Within less than two decades it has grown into a worldwide organization with members in more than a hundred countries. During the last two to three years especially there has been considerable growth, both in membership and activities. The movement meets with great sympathy from the public in many countries; it has been honoured by awards and prizes of high reputation.

This fame has created problems. There is a tendency to weave a myth around Amnesty International. The organization is expected to act in almost all countries on almost all violations. We are sometimes treated with a respect which we do not deserve and are faced with expectations which we cannot fulfil. It is now more important than ever for us to explain who we are and what we do: not because we want to defend ourselves, but to ensure results in our future work.

Amnesty International is not a do-gooder for all possible causes; it has a restricted mandate. It works for the release of prisoners of conscience and against torture and executions, but is not involved in work against unemployment, starvation or other social diseases. Our platform is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted thirty years ago by the nations of the world. Within that frame Amnesty International concentrates its resources on particular basic civil and political rights.

We do not cover a broader spectrum. This is not because we ignore the importance of all the other rights, but because we recognize that we can only achieve concrete results within set limits.

In fact, we believe that there is a close relation between different rights. When exploited people cannot make their voices heard, both political and socio-economic rights are violated. Very often there is an inter-relationship between the two -- the most obvious example being when trade unionists are imprisoned. Amnesty International neither understands nor accepts the attempts sometimes made to create a conflict or a contradiction between these two sets of rights.

Nor do we accept a contradiction between the rights of peoples or nations on the one hand and the human rights of individuals on the other. Human rights have many times been violated in the name of so-called higher interests, such as the 'nation', the 'party' or the 'struggle'. But experience shows that these causes undermine themselves if they need the support of terror. Basic human rights must stand above all other political ambitions and should be respected under all circumstances and in all situations. And again, in the long run, civil and political rights are the basis of the other rights, and also of those of a collective nature.

This is how Amnesty International understands its role in the field of human rights: a limited mandate but an appreciation of the close relationship between the rights it defends and all other human rights.

Another of our characteristics is impartiality. Amnesty International does not take a stand for or against any religion, political party, ideology or economic system. Here again, we restrict ourselves to the narrow scope of political life which deals with specific basic rights. Of course we realize that there is a link between general politics and the rights we try to defend; changes of government often result in arrests or releases. But this fact does not make us change our approach. We simply take facts into account, without hiding some of them or emphasizing others, according to regime or ideology.

Our impartiality is not always appreciated or even understood by governments. This is not surprising: the questions Amnesty International deals with are highly sensitive 'political dynamite' in several countries. The very rights we defend are often one of the main issues in national political battles. Therefore, our reports are sometimes seen as support for the opposition. We are criticized for 'interference', branded as 'agents' for particular nefarious interests. Our purpose, of course, is not to help any side in political power struggles, but we cannot be silent about grave violations just because the facts we know could influence the reputation of certain politicians, for better or worse. Our impartiality could never mean neutrality on human rights, not even in the most politically tense moments.

Our basic approach to governments is always the same: we seek a dialogue. We are willing to talk as long as this might help our aims. We are not negotiating - we have nothing to 'sell' -- but we want discussions within our mandate and opportunities to present our facts and recommendations. This means that we do not fight governments as such. Neither do we propose boycotts or cuts in aid. That kind of economic pressure is not within our mandate and is not our way of working.

Even non-governmental organizations and individuals sometimes have difficulty in understanding our efforts to safeguard impartiality and independence. We are restricted when it comes to cooperation with other organizations and we scrutinize each proposed donation according to rigid rules before accepting it. This, again, is for the sake of maintaining independence and being seen to do so.

To be impartial it is important to be correct. Amnesty International spends much of its limited resources on checking facts, to make sure that its reports do not contain distortions, false information or misunderstandings. Mistakes have been made - fortunately, very seldom - but they have been corrected. Amnesty International is always willing to put right errors of fact.

In fact, Amnesty International is less often attacked for what it publishes than for what it does not report. We are sometimes criticized for being unbalanced, for reporting too little or too much on a certain country or group of countries.

Balance for the sake of balance would be artificial. We work with realities. If there were gross violations of human rights in one group of countries and only minor infringements in another, we would mot spend fifty per cent of our resources on each. But as the world is today, a human rights organization with an impartial and serious approach must work on all continents and in countries with the most differing political systems. This, too, is a reality and has created a need for work that is geographically 'balanced'.

That balance is not easy to establish. There are still some few countries where the authorities refuse to have any communication with Amnesty International: they will not admit observers or representatives and our letters and cables receive no reply. These same regimes have a restrictive approach to the international media and little, if any, detailed information on the human rights situation in their countries therefore exists. Our movement has made great efforts to break through such situations; the result for the past year can be seen in this Report.

During the past year human rights have been a major issue in international politics within United Nations bodies and regional organizations such as the European Conference for Security and Cooperation and the Organization of American States as well as in bilateral relations between governments.

This increasing interest in human rights is welcome, even if the declarations from some quarters have not always sounded genuine. It is important that so many governments now accept that human rights are an international concern. Formally, this has been so ever since the Universal Declaration was adopted. Still, many governments have for years talked about 'interference' when human rights violations have been observed. The new awareness should give bodies such as the UN Commission on Human Rights more room for forceful action.

The marchers wear placards round their necks, each bearing the name of a missing victim.

Published 1979
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sun May 08, 2016 8:32 am


Revelations of the killing and merciless ill-treatment of school children in the Central African Empire in 1979 provoked a world outcry against Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa. First reports of the deaths were verified by Amnesty International and published in early May 1979. The following account comes from 'Children', a report on human rights violations perpetrated against children.

The Central African Empire briefly became the focus of world attention during 1979 after Amnesty International condemned the killing and merciless treatment of hundreds of school children who were arrested in April.

The children, aged between 8 and 16, had originally protested in January against new regulations compelling them to purchase and wear government uniforms. At the time the students had not been paid their study grants and many of the school children's fathers who were employed by the government had not received their wages for several months.

The protest about the uniforms therefore grew into a broader protest against the government's management of the country's economy. Students and school children also began demanding the restoration of the Republic (the Central African Empire was the Central African Republic until Jean-Bedel Bokassa made himself Emperor in December 1976).

The January demonstrations in the capital city, Bangui, were followed by protests in the provinces, and by numerous arrests. The arrest of four students in early April resulted in a students' and school children's strike on 9 April.

By mid-April young people began stoning government cars, including that of the Emperor. On 18, 19 and 20 April the Imperial Guard, which functions under the personal command of the Emperor, searched homes for children involved in the protests and took large numbers into custody.

More than a hundred children are known to have been taken on 18 April to Bangui's central Ngaragba Prison where they were held in such crowded conditions that in one cell alone between 12 and 28 of them were reported to have suffocated to death.

Other children were reported to have been stoned by members of the Imperial Guard to punish them for throwing stones at the Emperor's car. Some were bayonetted or beaten to death with sharpened sticks and whips. One boy was reported by a survivor to have been killed with the pocket knife he was carrying in his pocket when he was seized by the Imperial Guard.

Amnesty International has received reliable reports that between 50 and 100 children were killed in prison. One witness said he had counted the bodies of 62 dead children.

Several days later Emperor Bokassa described himself at a public function in Bangui as 'the father and protector of children' and said that the remaining children in prison would be released. As international protests grew over the reports of the killings, he denied that any such deaths had occurred but later admitted that some 'grown-up youths' had been killed.

High-level confirmation of the killings came from an unexpected source. General Sylvestre Bangui, Ambassador in France and the United Kingdom for the Central African Empire, called a news conference at his embassy in Paris on 22 May to announce his resignation as ambassador and to reveal eye-witness descriptions of the killings.

Political prisoners detained by former Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Empire (now Republic) await their imminent release after a change of government. Bangui, 26 September 1979.

Students and children in Ethiopia have, for several years, been victims of political arrest, torture and killing under the country's Provisional Military Government, the Derg, which came to power in 1974. Students in Ethiopia have a tradition of radical political protest, developed in opposition to the government of Emperor Haile Selassie under which they were frequently subjected to arbitrary arrest and torture. Many have also opposed the policies of the Provisional Military Government, and have met a similar fate.

One of the worst incidents known to Amnesty International took place on 29 April 1977 when soldiers and paramilitary guards in Addis Ababa attacked gatherings of students and other young people at night on suspicion that they were preparing a May Day demonstration against the Derg. It is estimated that about 500 young people were killed that night. The Secretary General of the Swedish Save the Children Fund, Hakan Landelius, reported: 'One thousand children have been massacred in Addis Ababa and their bodies, lying in the streets, are ravaged by roving hyenas ... The bodies of murdered children, mostly aged from 11 to 13 years, can be seen heaped on the roadside when one leaves Addis Ababa'.

In November 1977 Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, the chairman of the Derg, ordered that 'Red Terror' should be inflicted on 'counter-revolutionaries' in response to assassinations which the Derg claimed had taken the lives of many government officials since October 1976. The 'Red Terror' campaign lasted from November 1977 to June 1978. It involved mass arrests of students and young people as well as the systematic use of torture and the summary execution of large numbers of these young people. Summary executions frequently took place in public places at night, with the victims' bodies being displayed with placards warning, 'This was a counterrevolutionary', 'The Red Terror will flourish'. Victims' relatives were ordered, at times, to join In public condemnation of those killed. At other times they were permitted to purchase the bodies for burial -- 'paying for the bullet', as it was called.

It has been estimated that about 5,000 young people aged between 12 and 25 years were killed in Addis Ababa during the 'Red Terror', particularly between December 1977 and February 1978, when killings and imprisonment reached a peak, and when about 100 or more were reported killed each night. In early 1978 the campaign spread to other towns and rural areas too, although by May bodies were rarely seen exposed in the streets of the capital and many of those arrested had been released. In June 1978 the government ended its reference to 'Red Terror', but similar practices have been reported in Ethiopia since then.

Just prior to the January 1979 Conference of Latin American Bishops San Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Romero issued a decree in which he suspended all religious services in his country following the killing of young catechists by security forces.

On the weekend of 20 January a Roman Catholic priest, Father Octaviano Ortiz Luna, had gathered together some 40 young people between the ages of 12 and 19 for a Christian study program. Security forces broke into their meeting house at dawn and carried out arrests and killings. Father Octaviano and David Alberto Caballero, Jorge Alberto Gomez, Roberto Orellana and Angel Morales -- all boys -- were shot dead.

The government-controlled press published photographs of the dead, announcing the liquidation of a nest of guerrillas.

The remaining young people were charged with preparing subversive material and with opposing authority. Following widespread protests, they were released from custody.

Published October 1979
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sun May 08, 2016 8:33 am


Every October Amnesty International organizes a week-long publicity campaign highlighting prisoners of conscience. The theme of the campaign in 1979 was Children. This extract from the report 'Children' shows that the treatment meted out to children was often little different from that imposed on adults.

Children are subject to arrest and detention, not only because they may have been taken to prison with their parents, but also because they have been imprisoned for their own beliefs -- or what the authorities believe to be their beliefs.

Some are put into prison for no reason at all.

A child of 11, Veneque Duclairon, was among the peasants of Plaine de Cul-de-Sac, Haiti, who were arrested in 1969 following protests against deteriorating economic conditions. All were imprisoned without charge or trial.

Under the conditions which have applied to detainees in Haiti, the child found himself completely isolated from the outside world and without any chance of obtaining the assistance of a lawyer. If he is still alive today, he is 21 years old. But those who have tried desperately to obtain information about him now fear that he may have died in prison.

A former Haitian political prisoner has reported that Veneque Duclairon died in 1973 in the national penitentiary. This information cannot be confirmed; however, he was not among the group of 104 Haitian political prisoners released by a presidential decree in September 1977.

On the other side of the world, a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Sumilah, was arrested in October 1965 at the time of the attempted coup in Indonesia. Amnesty International has no reason to believe that she was involved in the attempted coup, or in the violence which followed.

She was detained in various camps but was never taken before a court or given the right to contact a lawyer. After 14 years in detention she was released in April 1979.

This photograph, taken secretly in Alexanderplatz, East Berlin, shows the arrest in 1977 of the Gerdes family who had, minutes before, unfurled a homemade banner in support of their request to be allowed to leave the German Democratic Republic. Prior to demonstrating in public they had submitted 10 unsuccessful applications for permission to leave the country. In February 1978, the parents were sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment. Their children, Claudia and Ralf, were aged 12 and 13 at the time of the arrest. They were held in a children's home until their parents were released and allowed to travel to West Berlin.

Among Indonesia's thousands of political prisoners are many who, like Sumilah, are now in their 20s. Among them are youths who were arrested in 1965 at a government paramilitary training centre for young people at Halim airport, just outside Jakarta, which served as a military airbase. During the events surrounding the attempted coup in 1965, all those at the young people's training centre at Halim airport were arrested, regardless of whether they were airforce personnel or trainees. Most of those arrested have never been charged or tried. As a consequence young people whose sole offence was that on 30 September 1965 they were at the Halim centre have spent the past 14 years (in many cases this is more than half their lives thus far) in prison.

In South Africa in recent years children have been detained without trial under the Terrorism Act and other security laws. They do not appear to be given different treatment to adults detained under the same laws: they are subject to interrogation and brutal treatment by security police and are frequently kept incommunicado and in solitary confinement.

Although the South African authorities have admitted that a large number of children are in detention, they have refused to give details about their ages. On 21 February 1979 the Minister of Justice stated in Parliament that 252 young people under the age of 18 had been detained under the Terrorism or Internal Security Acts during 1978. Twenty-five of these were girls.

The South African authorities are not obliged to give information to the parents of children detained incommunicado under the Terrorism Act. The parents are not allowed to visit the children and cannot demand habeas corpus or any form of effective legal protection for the children.

Children are also subject to prosecution and imprisonment for political offences on the same basis as adults. In answer to a question in Parliament in June 1978 the Minister of Justice admitted that six children, one of 14 and five of 15 years of age, were imprisoned on Robben Island, the prison island off the Cape Town coast -- the maximum security prison for black prisoners.

Carlos Patricio Farina Oyarce

Carlos Patricio was 13 years of age when he was detained on 13 October 1973 in his home in Santiago, Chile.

A few days before his arrest, he had been taken by his mother to a juvenile court after an accident in which another child playing with Carlos Patricio was wounded by a pistol shot.

The judge sent him to a reformatory from which he escaped, claiming he had been threatened and sexually assaulted by older boys. His mother wanted to return him to the court but the boy was ill with a fever. He remained in bed until the morning of 13 October when a group of soldiers and policemen surrounded the house. Two policemen, four soldiers and two civilians broke into the house and demanded that his mother hand over the boy. Without accepting the mother's explanations, the two policemen pulled the child out of bed. One of them hit him in the chest with the butt of his rifle, knocking him to the ground. The boy was then taken to the Santiago National Football Stadium where he was placed with the political prisoners who had already been taken there after the coup.

His mother's pleas were in vain. Carlos Patricio was last seen in the prison camp of the Mounted Infantry Regiment No. 3 of Sen Filipe. But a search of the camp proved useless, as did inquiries about the boy at police stations and military regiments. No trace of the boy's whereabouts could be obtained despite repeated appeals by his mother to the authorities from 13 October 1973 to 6 September 1976. On that day the Chilean Government informed the United Nations Human Rights Commission that the person in question 'had no legal existence'.

Senora Oyarce died of cancer on 22 November 1977 without further news of her son.


This is Carla Rutilo Artes from Bolivia. Her mother, Graciela, is Argentinian but has lived in Bolivia since she was nine years of age.

On 2 April 1976 both mother and daughter were arrested by the Bolivian Police, taken to the capital city, La Paz, and separated. The mother was held in the Ministry of the Interior where it is alleged that she was subjected to torture. Her daughter Carla was sent to an orphanage where she was registered under a false name.

On 26 August 1976 Carla was removed from the orphanage and three days later both mother and child were handed over to Argentinian authorities at the border of the two countries. There had been no formal extradition order.

Relatives of the family state that the mother had no known political affiliation. The sole motive for the arrest would appear to be her support, as a representative of a students' organization, for the Bolivian tin miners' strike.

Carla was found in August 1985 when a man wanted in connection with crimes attributed to an Argentinian "death squad" was arrested. She had been living as his adopted daughter since 1977 when he had adopted her and changed her name. Carla was returned to the care of her maternal grandmother after a federal judge was presented with evidence confirming her identity. However, to date there has been no news of her mother.

Published October 1979
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Sun May 08, 2016 8:34 am


Ali Lameda, a Venezuelan poet, worked as a translator for the North Korean Government. He had contacted the North Koreans in 1965 when they were recruiting translators and editors and was invited to work in the capital, Pyongyang, where he arrived in mid-1966. Two years later, after being accused of sabotage and spying, he was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment; he was released in 1974. Ali Lameda was adopted as a prisoner of conscience. Here is the account he wrote of his arrest, trial and imprisonment.

Ali Lameda, a Venezuelan poet imprisoned in North Korea while working as a translator.

To understand fully my experiences in detention in North Korea, it is necessary first to explain a little why I was in Korea and the prevailing atmosphere in the country from the point of view of a foreigner. This will perhaps explain some of the limitations of my experience and knowledge.

During the time I was working in Korea, at the invitation of the North Korean government, I was almost totally isolated from Korean people generally. I dealt only with certain individuals, who were responsible for my work and worked directly with me. No other personal contact was possible. Apart from the Koreans who worked in the Department of Foreign Publications in Pyongyang who supervised my work, I did not have regular communication with functionaries of the governing North Korean Communist Party ...

However much my sympathy lay with the great work of national construction of the Korean people, I could never communicate directly with them and learn more about the workings of Korean society, but constantly felt the barrier which had been erected around me.

Briefly, my work in North Korea involved translation into the Spanish language of certain materials, such as the collected works of Kim II Sung and the promotion of these texts throughout the Spanish-speaking world. I worked at the Government Department of Foreign Publications, with other foreigners engaged on similar projects also at the invitation of the North Korean government ...

First arrest and detention in an internal security prison

My arrest came as a complete surprise. Only three days earlier, I had been present at a big dinner given by the Director of the Department of Foreign Publications (who was, I believe, later arrested and imprisoned in connection with the charges against me), and I was not aware of any undue tension. Not long previously I had expressed some uncertainty about my work, as did my colleague Sedillot; we both felt that the exaggerated claims that were being made by the North Korean authorities regarding the progress made in their country would be considered too blatant propaganda in the societies we were trying to reach through our translations, but such reservations had been voiced only privately in the Department.

Nine people came to my apartment to arrest me. Two of them were in the uniform of the police, the others were agents of what is called Public Security. I was told I was being arrested as an enemy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, having violated Korean law. Nothing more specific was said to me, and they were not willing to discuss the laws or charges related to my arrest.

I was taken to a prison cell and interrogated by the authorities. It was demanded that I 'confess'. I was denied food, on occasions taken out of my cell at 12 noon and not allowed to return until midnight, during which time I was continuously interrogated. There were many ways in which they would apply pressure. The usual pattern of the interview would be that I was ordered to 'confess'. To this I would reply 'To what do I have to confess?' I would then be told: 'You know what there is to confess. Talk'. I would insist: 'But if it is you who are accusing me, you tell me'. So it went on, always. They sit a man down and try to convince him he has committed crimes, they insult him and demand a 'confession'.

Hunger was used as a control. No more than 300 grams of food per day was given to each prisoner. The conditions of the prison were appalling. No change of clothes in years, nor of food plates. The place lacked proper sanitary facilities. And then there was the isolation of prisoners. Young prison guards newly assigned to the camp often expressed their amazement at such conditions.

The food provided in the prison was fit only for animals. For months a prisoner is deprived of adequate food. In my opinion, it is preferable to be beaten, as it is possible to grit one's teeth and withstand physical beating. To be continually starving is worse. They didn't beat or torture me like they did the others. However, once the guard gave me a beating and kicked me with his boots, also hitting me on my bare feet which were badly swollen. He kicked and punched me just for not having saluted him or something like that. No, I was not tortured, if by this one means the systematic infliction of pain but, if terrible hunger and continual nastiness come under this definition, then I was.

In fact, beating was also used as a means of persuasion during interrogation. Whilst in my cell, I could hear the cries of other prisoners. You can soon learn to distinguish whether a man is crying from fear, or pain or from madness in such a place. I could not change my clothing at all, and a prisoner is soon covered in dirt, living in those filthy cells. The cells are also damp, and I should say that for eight months during my first period in detention I was sick with fever. I believe at times I lost consciousness.

It is impossible for me to say how many people were at that prison. It could certainly have been more than a thousand. The cells are extremely small, perhaps two metres long by one metre wide, and three metres high. There are no rights for the prisoner, no visits, parcels of cigarettes or food or opportunity to read a book or newspaper, or write. The process of 'rehabilitation', as they call it, must start straightaway, the 'self-examination' of the crimes that the prisoner has reportedly committed, to purify the self.

Apart from the noise of people crying out and screaming which could be heard at times, I also knew of people who coughed blood. There was very little medical attention; if the doctor did visit it was only to prescribe something for the fever from which all prisoners suffered. I once spoke to such a doctor, who did in fact tell me that he was unhappy with the work he was detailed to do by the Ministry of Security, since his medical practice consisted of dispensing palliatives for fever and diarrhoea. As far as I know, the only medicines used to treat the prisoners were Terramycin and edible oil.

Prison regimen was always the same: the prisoner sat for 16 hours a day looking at the warders and the prison bars. The cell had bars from the ceiling to the floor, and in the middle was a passage where the guards patrolled. Prisoners must stay awake throughout the day, the official explanation went, since how could a prisoner continually ponder his guilt if he slept?

We were given food rations three times a day: at seven o'clock, one o'clock and then again at seven o'clock. The meal consisted of a piece of dirty bread, weighing about 250 grams, and a bowl of soup, which was water with a few pieces of vegetable in it. The metal dishes the food was served from were always filthy, the same ones the prisoners had been using for years.

Release and second arrest

I was held prisoner by the Ministry of the Interior for a year. In the meantime, my companion had remained living in our apartment. When I was released a year later, I was in a terrible physical condition due to the treatment I had received in prison. I was led to believe that, after going through a period of house arrest of two months, I was to be released unconditionally, that I could not leave the country with my companion, but let her set off first. I was allowed to accompany her to the airport, and I returned to the apartment to pack my bags.

Then, at about five or six o'clock in the evening, the police returned. They seized all my belongings in the apartment and told me to make a note of everything I had there, my books and so on. The behaviour of the arresting officers was much more brutal and abrupt than it had been at the time of my first arrest. I asked why I was being arrested a second time, and was given the answer: 'You know why'. They told me that I had failed to keep my word, and had made certain denunciations, again resorted to propaganda against Korea, resuming my role as an imperialist spy. Presumably, they had installed a microphone in our apartment and recorded my conversation with my companion. What did they expect me to say to her, when I returned from a year's detention in such a bad physical condition, having lost 22 kilograms in weight, my body covered in sores and suffering haemorrhages. I was a very sick man, and it was obvious to my companion what treatment I had suffered in detention without my having to spell out what I had undergone. My literary work had been confiscated on the orders of the Party Central Committee; it was described as 'bourgeois filth', and the authorities wanted me to tell my companion that on my own orders it was to be burnt. It was unbelievable that I should tell her any such thing about my work, my life's work. Certainly, this period when I was re-arrested, after believing I was at last to be released, was one of the worst moments I was forced to endure.


Again I was interrogated, and this time the conditions, the food ration, were even worse. However, I was brought to trial before a tribunal, if it is possible to call what happened a trial. The tribunal was under the direction of the Ministry of Internal Security and, apart from members of the tribunal, there was a representative from what they call the High Court who acted as the judge and a prosecutor; I was provided with a so-called defence counsel. The only people present apart from members of the tribunal were two uniformed policemen and a young man who acted as interpreter. The trial lasted for one day, from nine o'clock in the morning till five o'clock in the afternoon. I was suffering from fever and did not eat all day. It was stressed throughout the trial that I had committed a political offence, which was considered far worse than offences by common criminals.

The pattern of my trial followed the interrogations I had undergone. It was demanded that I confess my guilt. The tribunal did not make any specific accusations - there were no formal charges -- but the accused has to accuse himself before the tribunal. Thus there was no necessity for the tribunal to produce any evidence. I had no right to defend myself, I could only admit guilt. The basis for the tribunal's condemnations .is the confession of the prisoner and the prosecutor told me that I should speak out and confess everything, to rid myself of my crimes. I insisted that I had committed no crimes, that I had only come to Korea as a servant of the government. During the trial, I asked for a lawyer of my choice and that the tribunal should be made open, but such demands were dismissed as bourgeois. When I tried to ask questions, I was abruptly interrupted and told that I had no rights in defending myself. The prosecutor eventually informed me that I had been in Korea to sabotage, spy and introduce infiltrators. To this I could only reply that I had been invited to Korea by the government and that allegations that I was under the control of the CIA were absurd. The prosecutor read a small extract from the Penal Code, which emphasized the gravity of my crime. As a political offender, I had committed a crime against the basis of the Korean state. In summing up, the prosecutor demanded the maximum penalty for the crimes I had committed. The so-called defence counsel, whom I had seen for just half an hour, made a lengthy eulogy of Kim II Sung, and in lodging my plea, asked for 20 years' imprisonment. The tribunal retired for just five minutes and then returned to sentence me, to 20 years' imprisonment with forced labour.


Border guard, North Korea

Ten minutes after I had been sentenced, I was brought a bowl of soup, since I had been before the tribunal all day without even drinking a glass of water. I was told that I would be sent to a prison camp, for rehabilitation, where I was to learn an occupation, thus rehabilitating myself through work. At the end of my trial, I asked if I would be allowed to receive letters from my family and friends whilst in detention at the camp, and I was assured that this would be so by members of the tribunal. However, I received absolutely nothing during my terms of imprisonment, in spite of the numerous parcels and letters that were apparently sent by my family and friends in Europe. I appealed to the camp authorities several times during the early period of my detention, that I should be allowed to write to my family to ask for a small amount of money with which to buy some sugar, for example, but my requests were continually refused. They never gave me the chance to learn a trade as they had claimed. They may have decided not to let a foreigner such as myself mix with hundreds of Koreans in the camp or in the workshop.

I was transferred to the concentration camp by van, handcuffed to the bars of the van. The temperature outside was very much below freezing point. Opposite me in the van, sitting on a chair, was the guard, who throughout the journey spent his time loading and unloading his gun in a threatening manner. The roads along which we travelled were dirt tracks. Outside, the howls of wolves could be heard. The journey lasted about three hours, and by the time I arrived at the camp, I was in such a poor condition that the captain who initially received me immediately sent for medicines. I was then pushed into a filthy hole, where I slept on the bare floor, with no blanket or mattress, in freezing temperatures. This was, however, only a temporary cell, where I remained constantly handcuffed for the three weeks that I was there, so that I felt my wrists would break with the strain.

Following this, I was transferred to the main camp, only a couple of kilo metres away. This was done at about ten o'clock at night, still in the middle of winter. The cell I was then taken to again had no heating, except for a pipe running through it which became warm for approximately five minutes each night. The windows were iced up and my feet froze. My feet remained in this condition for a month and a half, my toes were swollen with frostbite. I can still feel the effects of this to the present day. Some doctors did eventually come to see me, but by then my toenails had all dropped off and my feet were covered in sores.

I later learned that the name of the camp was Suriwon, after the nearby town, and that I had been put in a punishment cell, which should not really have happened, but since I was a foreigner, and it was the first time a foreigner had ever been held at the camp, there was no isolated cell in which to hold me. As a foreigner, I was not to be allowed to come into contact with the other prisoners who had not been sentenced or with those who had disobeyed camp regulations, wilfully damaging a machine during work or some such offence. The periods these prisoners spent in the punishment cells, however, were comparatively short, since every prisoner in isolation there was not available for work, and no prisoner is permitted to remain idle during detention in this camp.

There were some 6,000 or more people held at the camp, according to information gleaned from the guards or orderlies. Some of the guards and orderlies would communicate with the prisoners. Apparently, the camp was a huge circular place, with an enormous courtyard. One doctor told me that there were about 1,200 people sick in the camp, who were kept in a special part, so with that large number sick, I calculated, using all the information I could gather, that the total number of prisoners would be no lower than 6,000 to 8,000 people. The prisoners were forced to work for 12 hours a day, mechanical work, making jeeps for example, which was, of course, unpaid. There was no agricultural work done at this camp. But outside the camp there were several farms worked by political prisoners, and potatoes, root vegetables, pumpkins and 'ahuyama' were grown there ...

Women were also held at the camp. One day, when I had been in the punishment cell, in isolation, I observed by chance a group of about 200 women arriving at the camp. Later, I discovered that some of them were imprisoned for theft, for example, and one of them, I was told, was imprisoned because of her habit of smoking cigarettes. Apparently she was the wife of an employee of the Ministry of Commerce, about 33 years old or so, and had two daughters. The woman had had to keep the fact that she smoked secret even from her husband, and would smoke only in the toilet of their apartment. It was whilst at the office where she worked that she was accused, by a colleague, of smoking, since the colleague could smell stale cigarette smoke about her person. The woman was summoned by the party cell to which she belonged and was what they call 'sent down to production', which meant being sent to work in either the iron or mining industry. She spent two years doing this harsh labour, separated from her husband and family.

Sometimes conditions in the camp were made even worse. During my third year of imprisonment, the food ration, meagre as it was, was suddenly decreased and in addition the work targets set for the prisoners were raised. This sort of treatment reduced grown men to weeping over the food they were given ...

A periodical was produced at the camp, which was aimed at assisting the prisoners in rehabilitation. It was entitled Marching Forward and gave news of the great deeds being performed by Kim II Sung, to spur on the prisoners to greater efforts. In fact, it was possible for a prisoner to have his sentence reduced through maintaining good work performance. Thus a prisoner might serve only 12 years out of a IS-year sentence. But my experience, of serving only seven years out of 20 would not happen to a Korean prisoner. In this I was privileged.

Published February 1979



After two and a half years' detention in El Salvador, this mother and her son are finally back together again. In prison she received letters from all over the world bringing her emotional and moral encouragement. Without the help of Amnesty International, she says, "our conditions would have been disastrous".

Vida Cuadra Hernandez was working as a journalist in El Salvador when she and her colleagues were arrested in January 1981. Their office was ransacked by uniformed members of the National Police and Vida and seven others were taken to the Central Headquarters. For a month they were continuously interrogated, given rotting food and held in atrocious conditions. In February 1981 Vida was transferred to Ilopango's women's prison where there was no medical care and the women were forced to look after emergencies themselves.

The prisoners eventually staged a series of hunger strikes as a result of which they managed to win about 70 per cent of their demands. The food improved and they were allowed to cook it themselves. There were also improvements in the medical conditions of prisoners and family visits were permitted. Throughout her imprisonment, Vida's son, Alfonso, aged five, was looked after by his grandparents. But they wouldn't let him go out of doors for two and a half years because of the risk from the death squads. Alfonso is so happy to be free he now says he wants to kiss everybody he meets.

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