Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Mon May 09, 2016 5:05 am


Martial law was declared in Poland on 13 December 1981. The independent trade union Solidarity was suspended, as were other independent trade union and student organizations, and thousands of Solidarity activists and others were interned. The following extracts come from the 'Amnesty International Report 1983' (which each year includes a country-by- country survey of human rights abuses of concern to Amnesty International) and from a paper entitled 'Internment in Poland' issued in 1982.

Internment, introduced with martial law, was most widely applied during the first month, when some 6,800 people were officially acknowledged to have been interned. Although some internees were released in December 1981 and there were releases throughout 1982, new internments continued to take place as late as November. According to official statements, internees were not suspected or accused of any crime; they were interned because their past conduct gave rise to 'justified suspicion that if they remained at liberty they would not observe legal order or would engage in activities endangering the interests of the security or defence of the State'. Internment was enforced by the militia with no court supervision. There was no fixed term for internment, which could, and in some cases did, last for the duration of martial law. Those interned included most members of the National Commission of the independent trade union Solidarity, Solidarity advisers, regional officials, members and supporters, members of independent farmers' and students' unions, members of civil and human rights groups and other people officially regarded as opponents of the government. Lech Walesa, Solidarity's leader, was placed under house arrest.

Internees were held in 'isolation centres' in prisons, reformatories and in worker and army holiday accommodation. With the exception of women detainees and well-known intellectuals held in holiday centres, most internees experienced conditions described as cold, unhygienic and overcrowded. Internees frequently reported that they were interrogated by the state security police and pressed to collaborate with police, to emigrate or to sign a statement that they would not engage in anti-state activity, as a condition for release. A number of internees complained that they had been denied medical treatment or that this had been delayed. There were also allegations that internees had been beaten by guards; such incidents, for instance, were reported to have taken place on 13 February at Wierzchowo Pomorskie, on 25 March at Ilawa and on 14 August at Kwidzyn. In the last case six internees were said to have been badly injured and hospitalized. Priests and delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross were allowed to visit internees throughout the year.

The majority of people imprisoned for political offences during 1982 had expressed opposition to martial law by strikes, demonstrations, leaflets or clandestine trade union activity. Most were convicted of 'martial law offences', that is, of violating Articles 46-48 of the Martial Law Decree of 12 December 1981. This penalized participating in a suspended trade union or association, organizing strikes or protest actions and printing or disseminating 'false information liable to arouse public anxiety or riots'. Most such cases reported to Amnesty International were tried by special summary proceedings introduced under martial law. In these proceedings pre-trial detention was compulsory and most detainees did not have access to a lawyer during investigation; various procedural time limits were reduced and heavier penalties imposed: a minimum of three years' imprisonment and loss of civil rights for up to 10 years. The accused had no right of appeal. In some cases, however, sentences were increased after an 'extraordinary appeal' by the Procurator General. Certain martial law offences were tried by military courts, involving further restrictions, for example on public access to the court and on the accused's choice of lawyer. The majority of sentences imposed under summary proceedings for martial law offences in cases known to Amnesty International were for three to four years' imprisonment. Some lower sentences were imposed under normal proceedings, and there were also acquittals.

Amnesty International was also concerned about allegations that political prisoners had been severely beaten by prison guards. Prisoners in Gdansk prison, including some 15 prisoners of conscience, were reported to have been attacked and beaten by guards on 23 July after rumours had circulated within the prison that inmates were about to start a hunger-strike. Some 20 younger prisoners were forced to take a very hot shower and beaten again. Police dogs were alleged to have been set on certain prisoners.

Published 1984


Conditions of internment

Initial reports received by Amnesty International stated that many internees were held in harsh, cold and overcrowded conditions in internment centres located in evacuated prisons, investigation centres, barracks, reformatories (social rehabilitation centres) and worker and army holiday accommodation.

Several reports indicate that some of the worst hardships initially suffered by internees were due to the fact that local authorities had not made preparations for their reception. On 9 January, the army newspaper Zolnierz Wolnosci quoted an interview with the regional prison chief of Wroclaw who (referring to some 920 people locally interned) confirmed reports of internees being kept in a prison courtyard poorly clothed in sub-zero temperatures. 'Unfortunately such facts did take place ... we were simply not prepared for quickly receiving and accommodating such a number of people. We, too, were surprised by the proclamation of martial law. We did ... everything in our powers to alleviate the hardships of waiting.'

On 21 December an official government spokesman insisted that internees were held in 'bearable conditions and have the right to visits by close relatives, may receive food parcels, have access to religious practices, are receiving books and periodicals and are provided with means of personal hygiene and have medical care. Those who want to can work. Some of the internees are staying at holiday homes. All have the right to contact one another.'

While other reports indicate that by this date conditions in certain internment centres had somewhat improved, most reports agreed that conditions varied considerably from one centre to another and that prominent intellectuals generally had much better conditions than workers. This is also indicated by the experience of Teresa Bogucka, head of Solidarity's Cultural Committee in Warsaw, who was interned following the imposition of martial law but was released on New Year's Eve. Her account was published in the Guardian (London) on 20 January 1982:

'Q What happened the night you were informed?

A: It was late at night. The bell of the door rang very loudly. (Police) explained the situation was 'special', and they would show me a paper in a moment. It was an order for internment in Bialoleka (camp) in connection with martial law ... They played an easy trick on my intelligence. They said 'You know, it is probably a misunderstanding. So after two hours you will come back' ... As a result I took almost nothing with me. At 12.30 I was at the police headquarters in Wilcza street. There was an incredible crowd ... At around 3 am we reached a prison. The staff were upset. They asked us what had happened. They let us into a cell where there were only mattresses. They said the store was closed so they couldn't get us anything. The cell was not heated. It had broken windows through which snow blew in ... In the morning a guard came, took pity on us and gave us blankets. It became clear that there was no water. During the whole time I was there - three days - not once was I brave enough to take off my coat or to undress. We asked to be able to wash our hands and faces at least. So they brought us snow, explaining that the water was cut off. . .'

After three days, she was transferred by helicopter to an army holiday house at Jaworzno, together with a group of other internees, mostly university professors and writers.

'As a vacation house it was poor, as a prison it was luxurious. We found ourselves in a camp, undoubtedly for the chosen few, where we could move between rooms . Complete freedom in the rooms, ... excellent food, . walks. It was served by the normal militia, I think, with police badges, and they treated us politely and even with embarrassment that such amazing people like scientists were here. And that's how it generally looked. We immediately became aware that the intelligentsia was separated from the workers who were left in Bialoleka and Olszynka.'

By contrast, a declaration by internees in Bialoleka, printed in an underground publication of Solidarity in early January, stated:

Bydgoszez prison, Poland, September 1981. The banner on the left reads "We will not give up" and on the right "Solidarity is with us."

'We hereby declare that, despite the assurances issued by the so-called Military Council of National Salvation, our detention is not designed to keep us isolated from society, but most of all is an act of repression and revenge. There are among us gravely ill people. Our repeated demands that they be freed, or at least assured proper medical care, have been ignored .... The conditions in which we are being held do not differ significantly from the conditions existing in the majority of Polish prisons. Our group, of almost 300 people, has been placed in twelve-person cells of 18 square metres each, in unsanitary conditions. There is no hot water or laundry detergents, except soap, which helps disease to spread. There is a flu epidemic in the camp. The prison rules read to us are more severe than those in the Nazi POW camps. We are deprived of the right to move freely within the camp, to maintain contact with prisoners in other cells, and to take part in educational and cultural activities or recreation. Daily collective prayer is also forbidden. The rules are set up so that the camp commandant has unlimited powers. Despite repeated requests, we have not been allowed to study the texts of the international conventions -- especially the Hague and Geneva conventions, ratified by Poland, which regulate the procedures concerned with interned persons -- in order to compare these texts with the prison rules. We have demanded contact with representatives of the authorities and of the International Red Cross -- also to no avail.

'We were granted the opportunity to have our families visit us between Christmas and the New Year. Presently the camp commandant limited the number of family visits to one per month, and only on a weekday during normal working hours. Our families are being misinformed about the dates and possibility of visits. Letters sent by us do not reach their addresses. Letters mailed from outside do not come to us.

'Despite the fact that no criminal proceedings are pending against any of us, we are subject to informal interrogations by secret police. They threaten us with the prolongation of detention if we do not sign the loyalty oath.'

On 8 January the foreign press reported that prisoners in Bialoleka were taking turns to go on hunger strike in support of this protest. Nonetheless, according to some unofficial accounts, conditions in Bialoleka are good in comparison with certain other centres; those at a centre on He! peninsula are described as particularly harsh.

There have been isolated reports of internees having been beaten on arrest or after their internment, but the limited information available at present to Amnesty International suggests that this has not been widespread or

Published February 1982



Batlle Olandabarat Scarrone often took part in the marches of the sugarcane cutters from the north of Uruguay to the capital, Montevideo, to claim better working conditions and wages. During a long and distinguished history of trade union activity he became President of the regional branch of the main trade union confederation in the country, the Confederacion Nacional de Trabajadores (CNT). As such, he was arrested on 20 June 1972, charged with 'Attack on the Constitution' and sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment. As part of a general clamp-down on left-wing organizations, the government banned the CNT itself in June 1973. He was left alone following the death of his brother in 1979 -- his sister having fled into exile in Barcelona.

An Amnesty International group in the federal Republic of Germany took up his case. Apart from the campaigning work they undertook to call for his release, they also offered their moral support to Batlle and his family, continuing to write to him regularly during the years he was incarcerated. When he was released, the group paid for his airline ticket from Montivideo to Barcelona so that they could be reunited.

following his release on 10 March 1985, Batlle wrote to the group: 'To begin this letter, .. it has been shown that there is no distance, nor place or race which can stop human relationships being established and developed through the means of communication which are within our reach. All we have to do is to think and be aware that there are millions of others ... and that one can be of use to a fellow human being from a distance. Through the means of a letter, .. to receive the word "friend" and "brother" comforts us and gives us strength to go on with our principles - to construct a more just and humane world. Today, happily, in freedom and in Spain with my family, censorship cannot prevent me from communicating my gratitude for everything you have done for me.'

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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Mon May 09, 2016 5:05 am


Between 1971 and 1982 Amnesty International adopted as prisoners of conscience people of differing political persuasions and religious beliefs in Egypt. Many were accused of belonging to illegal communist organizations or of participating in their activities. In the following case, published in 'Egypt Violations of human rights', 176 people were charged in connection with 'food riots' that had taken place in January 1977.

On 18 and 19 January 1977 riots and demonstrations took place in Cairo and other major towns throughout Egypt in reaction to a government announcement that, contrary to earlier statements, subsidies on basic foodstuffs and commodities were to be cut in compliance with the terms laid down for a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Many acts of violence took place during the two days and public and private buildings, as well as vehicles, were set on fire. Thousands of people were arrested and there were numerous trials for offences relating to the violence. Among those arrested and detained were several hundred who had not been involved in any violence and were detained solely because of their political beliefs. They were held for several months and it was later announced that 176 of them were to be formally charged and brought to trial.

Fifty-three of the 176 defendants were charged with 'instigation' of the events of 18 and 19 January (usually by means of written material - newspaper articles or messages on student notice-boards - produced in the previous years and months), (Articles 102 (his) and 174 of the penal code). Another 86 were accused of membership of the banned Egyptian Workers Communist Party - principally under provisions of Article 98 of the penal code and, in several cases where individuals were arrested during February 1977, under Law 2 of 1977. The remaining 37 were accused of membership of the banned Egyptian Communist Party (principally under Article 98A of the penal code).

One hundred and thirty-one defendants were present when the trial began before the Supreme State Security Court in Cairo on 16 April 1978; all but six of them were granted provisional liberty. This session of the trial was attended by an Amnesty International observer.

The defence protested that only 15 copies of the case dossier existed and that the price was £500 (Egyptian) a copy. They called for an adequate number of copies to be prepared and made available to lawyers for the defence free of charge. They further requested a postponement of the trial to allow the defence adequate time in which to study the dossier, which then consisted of 11,000 pages. They also asked for the six defendants remaining in custody to be granted provisional liberty.

The court decided that the price of the dossier should be reduced to £200 (Egyptian) and that two free copies should be given to the Egyptian Bar Association. It decided also that the six defendants in question should remain in detention, and it adjourned proceedings for a month.

In response to defence requests, a second postponement of a month was declared on 16 May so that students among the defendants could study and sit for examinations and to allow further time for the defence to study the case dossier, of which 22 copies now existed.

Seven further sessions and postponements took place on 20 June, 18 October, 20 November, 18 and 26 December 1978, 1 January 1979 and 1 February 1979.

On 11 February 1979 the defence protested that another 1,100 pages had been added to the case dossier and that only three complete copies existed. The defence also submitted that the case should be tried in an ordinary court and not an exceptional court.

When the court announced that the trial should proceed, all defence lawyers withdrew in protest and were fined £50 (Egyptian) because of their conduct. The court ordered that these lawyers be replaced and adjourned proceedings to 1 March. Afterwards, the Chairman of the Bar Association intervened, assuring the court that the defence lawyers' sole objective had been to secure all standard defence rights for their clients. The fines were subsequently withdrawn and additional copies of the dossier were made available to all lawyers for the defence. The trial continued without incident for another year. Amnesty International sent delegates to observe part of the proceedings in November 1979.

The verdicts were announced by the Supreme State Security Court on 19 April 1980. Of the 176 defendants, 156 were acquitted; 11 were sentenced to three years' imprisonment and a fine of £100 (Egyptian); and nine received sentences of one year's imprisonment and a fine of £50 (Egyptian). Those convicted did not serve their sentences, however, as the court's decision was not considered final until it had been reviewed by the President of the Republic.

In 1981 the President vetoed the verdicts and ordered a retrial before a different court of the same standing. This began before the State Security Court on 17 April 1982. Further proceedings were adjourned to 23 October 1982, on which date they were postponed to 15 January 1983 -- six years after the alleged offences took place.

Published 1983
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

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Political killings by governments were documented in a special report published in 1983 which detailed evidence in over 20 countries and spearheaded a campaign launched to expose these killings and mobilize public opinion. These extracts are taken from the report and the April 1983 Newsletter.

Close-up of remains from a mass grave at Cheung Ek, Kampuchea, where over 8,000 bodies were discovered. This is one of 50 photographs documenting mass political killings by the Government of Democratic Kampuchea between 1975 and 1979. It comes from "Cambodia Witness," an exhibition sponsored by the United States section of Amnesty International circulating in the United States and Europe as part of Amnesty International's campaign against political killings by governments.


'In 1975 ... we were made to change policy: the victory of the revolution had been too quick. If the population was not wiped out immediately, the revolution would be in danger because the republican forces, the forces of Sihanouk, the capitalist forces would unite against it. It was therefore necessary to eliminate all these forces and to spare only those of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. It was necessary to eliminate not only the officers but also the common soldiers as well as their wives and children. This was also based on revolutionary experience. In the past, Sihanouk had killed revolutionaries, but their wives, children and relatives had united against him and had joined us. That must not be repeated against us now. In the beginning, however, only officers' families were killed. At the beginning of 1976, however, the families of common soldiers were also killed. One day at Choeung Prey, I cried for a whole day on seeing women and children killed. I could no longer raise my arms. Comrade S -- said to me: 'Get on with it.' I said: 'How can I? Who can kill women and children?' Three days later I was arrested, in June 1976.' Testimony of a .former Khmer Rouge cadre to the International Commission of Jurists.

The government-instigated killings in Indonesia in 1965 and 1966 and in Kampuchea in 1975 to 1979 rank among the most massive violations of human rights since the Second World War. A conservative estimate of the number of people killed in Indonesia is 500,000. In Kampuchea the number of victims was at least 300,000.

Both in Indonesia in 1965 and 1966 and in Kampuchea in 1975 to 1979 the governments decided to transform the political map within their countries through the physical liquidation of the political opposition. Elements of such a policy may exist elsewhere, for example in the killing of political leaders or selected members of political groups. The scale of the Indonesian and Kampuchean tragedies resulted from the governments concerned being intent on the permanent physical eradication of all opposition in the case of Kampuchea, and of left-wing opposition in the case of Indonesia.

In Indonesia the principal targets were members of the Indonesian Communist Party and its affiliated organizations -- the trade unions, the women's organization (GERWANl) and the peasants' association (Barisan Tani Indonesia). Their families were killed too. In Kampuchea, the victims came from several categories including personnel of the former government, members of the bourgeoisie and intelligentsia and from currents within the revolutionary movement that were out of line with the leadership. In addition, many members of ethnic minorities were killed in both countries.

In both Indonesia and Kampuchea the killings were not committed in a period of armed conflict. Resistance was minimal in both cases.

The government-instigated killings of Communist party members and supporters in Indonesia in 1965 and 1966 rank among the most massive violations of human rights since the Second World War: a conservative estimate put the number of killings at 500,000. This photo shows people about to be massacred.

Indonesia (1965 to 1966)

At the beginning of 1965 the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was the largest political party in the country. It operated legally and had declared its commitment to peaceful social change.

On 30 September 1965 a group of nationalist army officers led by Lieutenant-Colonel Untung attempted to stage a coup against the government of President Sukarno. Six army generals were killed. The coup attempt was crushed by General Suharto in 24 hours.

During the next few weeks the army leadership under Generals Suharto and Nasution consolidated their control over the government. At the same time they linked the leadership of the PKI with the coup attempt and blamed the PKI for the killing of the six generals. As a result of these accusations PKI members were attacked by mobs and several thousand members were arrested in Jakarta. But it was in Central Java, a long-time PKI stronghold, that the killings of PKI members began.

The arrival in Central Java of two battalions of the Indonesian 'Red Berets', or Army Paracommandos (RPKAD), signalled an army decision to crush the PKI in Central Java before annihilating the party throughout the country. The RPKAD began killing PKI members in Central Java in mid-October 1965, when the PKI was already in disarray and was not offering armed resistance. An Indonesian Government White Paper later argued that the RPKAD had arrived in Central Java to prevent a large-scale insurgence, but there is little evidence that there was in fact a threat of insurrection.

There was no set pattern to the killings that then began and that claimed the lives of an estimated 500,000 Indonesians in the following nine months. However, certain features recurred. Everywhere local officials of the PKI and its affiliated organizations were rounded up and shot. In many cases whole families were killed; it was often said by the perpetrators that the liquidation of entire families would serve to eliminate the communist menace for all time.

The first killings in nearly every province were initiated by the army. In some areas the army was assisted by gangs of youths belonging to Ansor, an affiliate of the Nahdatul Ulama, a fundamentalist Muslim party. In Java, Bali and Sumatra, night after night for months, local army commanders loaded lorries with captured PKI members -- their names checked off against hastily prepared lists -- and drove them to isolated spots nearby for execution, usually by bullet or knife. In some cases the bodies were grotesquely mutilated before being buried in hurriedly dug mass graves.

In the town of Kediri in Central Java, a PKI stronghold, some 7,000 PKI supporters are estimated to have been killed. In Banjuwangi in East Java, 4,000 people were killed in a few days. In East Java most people were executed with long sugar-cane knives and sickles; the slaughter often assumed a ritualistic and ceremonial character. In several places the killers held feasts with their bound victims present. After the meal each guest was invited to decapitate a prisoner - apparently to involve as many as possible in the killings.

As the purge accelerated in November 1965 headless bodies covered with red flags were floated down rivers aboard rafts and heads placed upon bridges. Every day for several months riverside residents in Surabaya in East Java had to disentangle bodies that were caught on jetties. At one point so many bodies from Kediri filled the Brantas river that the downstream town of Jombang lodged a formal protest complaining that plague might break out. In the small mill town of Batu so many were executed within the narrow confines of a small police courtyard that it was decided that it would be simpler to cover the piles of bodies with layers of cement rather than bury the victims.

The killings in Bali began sporadically in the west of the island during November 1965. The arrival of RPKAD troops on the island soon ensured that the killings assumed a systematic character. Armed with machine-guns, commandos scoured villages in groups of 25, in some cases executing the entire male population. Hundreds of houses belonging to known communists, their relatives and friends were burned down within a week of the purge being launched. The occupants were slaughtered as they ran out of their dwellings.

A commonly accepted estimate of deaths resulting from the operation in Bali is 50,000, with women and children among the victims. All Chinese retail shops in Denpasar and Singaradja were destroyed and their owners executed after summary judgments were issued convicting them of financing the PKI. The killings of Chinese on Bali were soon followed by persecution elsewhere in Indonesia, claiming thousands of Chinese lives and leading to the exodus of many other Chinese from the country.

By early 1966 the killings had reached virtually all of Indonesia. From Java to Bali they had spread to Sumatra, Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi, Lombok, Flores and Timor. In one incident alone in the city of Medan, North Sumatra, some 10,500 prisoners were reportedly killed in the space of a few days. On the island of Belitung, birthplace of D.N. Aidit, the PKI chairman, hundreds of victims were thrown down disused mineshafts and others towed out to open sea where their boats were sunk.

The responsibility for the killings in Indonesia rested unquestionably with the Indonesian Army which by then effectively controlled the government. Before the killings General Nasution had called for the extirpation of the PKI, and he was reported to have told an army staff conference as the RPKAD arrived in Central Java that 'all of their [PKI] followers and sympathizers should be eliminated'. During a visit to Surabaya he called for the PKI's extinction 'down to its very roots'. In mid-November, as the killings gathered momentum, General Suharto signed an order authorizing an 'absolutely essential clearing out' of the PKI and its sympathizers from the government. This directive, No. 22/KOTI/I965, set up 'special teams' to carry out the order and authorized the teams to request military assistance 'if necessary'.

During the first few months of the killings, President Sukarno and some of his ministers tried to bring them to a halt, but without success. On 11 March 1966 President Sukarno's government was formally replaced by the military government of General Suharto, still in power in 1982.

The precise number of people killed will probably never be known. An inquiry team set up by President Sukarno at the end of 1965 estimated that there had been 87,000 deaths. However, this figure referred only to the island of Java, and the inquiry took place at a time when the killings were just starting in many other places. In late 1966 an investigation commissioned by the army and conducted by the University of Indonesia estimated that one million people had perished since the start of the killings. There are some indications that this estimate may be too high. Admiral Sudomo, the head of the chief government security agency (KOPKAMTIB), later scaled the figure down to 500,000. In addition, some 750,000 people were arrested and detained without charge or trial. Several hundred were still in detention in 1982. In a period of less than a year all the leading figures of the PKI, Indonesia's largest political party, together with countless thousands of its members and supporters, had been killed.

Kampuchea (1975 to 1979)

On 17 April 1975 forces of the revolutionary communist movement known as the Khmer Rouge entered the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, overthrowing the government of Lon 01. This was the outcome of several years' civil war between the Khmer Rouge and the Lon 01 government, which was supported by the United States of America. Upon taking power the new government immediately set out to evacuate all cities and towns and to execute the leadership of the former government.

By 1975 the population of Phnom Penh had swollen to more than two million, roughly one third of the total population, as a result of the civil war and the US bombing and destruction of agriculture. On the morning of 17 April 1975 Khmer Rouge troops toured the city ordering the population to evacuate the city within three days on pain of death. In practice many residents were given less than an hour in which to leave. Those who refused, procrastinated or showed some opposition were beaten or shot dead. Old people, disabled, children, pregnant women and hospital patients were all forced to leave the city without distinction.

During the evacuation many people are known to have died. Some were killed by Khmer Rouge troops in order to keep the marchers moving or to maintain discipline. Refugees from Phnom Penh have spoken of people, particularly the young, dying on the roadside. One of the city's leading physicians, Dr Vann Hay, said that on his march from Phnom Penh he saw the body of a child about every 200 metres.

In the following days other cities and towns were evacuated including Battambang (200,000 inhabitants), Svay Rieng (130,000), Kompong Chhnang (60,000), Kompong Speu (60,000) and Siem Reap (50,000). The loss of life from this gigantic shift of population is incalculable.

The population of the evacuated cities and towns, known as the 'new people' as distinct from the 'base people' (the peasantry), were moved to agricultural sites where they were forced to work long hours on irrigation works and the cultivation of rice under strict discipline. Slight infringements of discipline were frequently punished by execution.

The evacuation of Cambodia's cities was accompanied by the first of several purges -- that of the officer corps and senior officials of the former Lon Nol government. Nearly all high-ranking officers, senior officials, police officers, customs officials and members of the military police appear to have been executed during the days immediately after 17 April 1975. Detailed and independent accounts have been obtained from the towns of Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, PaiIin and Kompong Speu. In some places all officers from lieutenant upwards were executed. Even this distinction of rank was often lost, and in the first few months after the revolution some local authorities were apparently given a free hand in deciding whom to execute. On the forced marches from Phnom Penh Khmer Rouge forces were permitted to pull out of the marching columns anyone they suspected of being associated with the former administration and kill them on the spot.

Many accounts of these killings are now available. For example: 'The chairman of Tuk Phok district, named Miec Vay, summoned 50 guerrillas from various villages of his district and gave them this oral order: "The former Lon Nol soldiers are our enemies. We must kill all enemies to celebrate the day of victory. This is the order of our leader Pol Pot. Anyone who refuses to kill is disobeying orders and must inflict on himself due punishment." We obeyed the district chairman's order and the 50 of us killed 2,Q05 Lon Nol soldiers.' (From evidence before a revolutionary tribunal in Phnom Penh in August 1979.)

It appears from such testimonies that the killings were not simply an act of revenge conducted in the heat of victory but were carried out in fulfilment of a central government policy.

Non-commissioned officers, army privates, minor officials and village headmen were treated differently from region to region. Some were executed in the days following the Khmer Rouge victory, others were sent to hard labour camps while others were allowed to return home. In late 1975, however, the policy towards lesser officials changed; systematic executions of this group then began and continued into 1976.

The killings of former Lon Nol officers and officials extended to their families. Wives and children were executed to prevent them becoming opponents of the new government.

The killings of former government personnel were soon followed by executions of members of the bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. The rationale behind this practice was reflected in a document issued by the Executive Bureau of the Eastern Region Party Committee:

'We must heighten our revolutionary vigilance as regards those elements who have served in the administrative machinery of the former regime, such as technicians, professors, doctors, engineers and other technical personnel. The policy of our Party is not to employ them in any capacity. If we run after this technology, we will feel that they submit to us and we will use them, but this will create the opportunity for enemies to infiltrate our ranks more deeply with every passing year and this will be a dangerous process.'

In line with this policy intellectuals -- often crudely identified as those who wore spectacles -- were singled out for particularly harsh treatment and in many regions of the country were summarily executed. Many refugees report that from early 1976 intellectuals, teachers and students, often described by the Khmer Rouge as 'the worthless ones', disappeared from their places of work and were presumed to have been killed. A former Khmer Rouge cadre recalled that in Kompong Cham province it was decided 'to arrest the worthless ones', in other words, intellectuals, teachers, pupils beyond the seventh grade. The country had to be rid of them. That was the decision of the Central Committee, just as it had been its decision to wipe out the soldiers in 1975-1976.'

Besides the killing of political and social groups designated enemies of the revolution, many thousands of individuals were executed on such grounds as minor infringements of work discipline. Offences such as illicit sexual relationships, criticizing or challenging official instructions, resistance to the introduction of communal eating (after 1977), and even laziness were often punished by death.

From 1975 to 1977 there were regional variations in the pattern of repression. In the Eastern Zone, although former Lon Nol officers had been killed in 1975, conditions do not seem to have been as harsh as elsewhere. This resulted from political differences between regional authorities and the central government in Phnom Penh.

Interior of S-21 (Toul Sleng) detention and interrogation centre in Phnom Penh, Kampuchea, where between 1975 and 1979 nearly 20,000 people were executed, often after torture. Photographs of the prisoners were taken by Democratic Kampuchean officials. After 1979, the prisoners' photographs were displayed on the walls of the ground floor. In the foreground are the leg-irons used to shackle the prisoners.

These differences came to a head in 1978 when the central government leadership under Pol Pot launched what was, in effect, an invasion of the Eastern Zone (which bordered on Viet Nam). The long-simmering conflict between the centre and the more moderate eastern communists exploded into open warfare in May 1978, and the following months saw one of the most massive purges of the entire Khmer Rouge period. Tens of thousands of people including officers and soldiers, together with their fathers, mothers, wives and children were executed. The victims included all Eastern Zone cadres who could be traced, people evacuated from the cities in 1975, and anyone with Vietnamese relatives and connections. It has been estimated that 100,000 people were killed in this purge because the party centre in Phnom Penh had decided that the Eastern Zone was led by 'Khmer bodies with Vietnamese minds'. A former rubber plantation worker, one of many refugees interviewed, said:

'They killed all the Eastern Zone cadres, and ordinary people who committed the most minor offences, such as talking about one's family problems at night. Every day they would take away three to five families for execution. We would hear them screaming for help ...'. (Kiernan, Khmer Bodies with Vietnamese Minds: Kampuchea's Eastern Zone, 1975-1978, Monash University, 1980.)

The local party leader So Phim and almost the entire Zone Committee, the local military hierarchy and all but two members of the regional committees were executed. Executions of cadres are reported to have occurred in almost all districts, sub-districts and villages. A number of villages, including So Phim's home village, are reported to have been entirely wiped out.

Members of ethnic minorities also were the victims of repeated massacres with thousands of Chinese, Vietnamese, Lao and Thai being killed. The Cham, a Muslim people, were singled out for especially harsh treatment. From the early days of the Democratic Kampuchean Government (Khmer Rouge) all religious activity was rigorously repressed and religious leaders executed. In the case of the Cham this was followed in early 1976 by a ban on the use of their native language, the suppression of their religious beliefs and forcing them to raise pigs and eat pork. Cham villages were dispersed and the Cham people told that they were a weak link in the nation. Cadres are reported to have told Cham leaders in 1977 in the south-west region: ' ... the Chams are hopeless. They abandoned their country to others. They just shouldered their fishing nets and walked off, letting the Vietnamese take over this country.'

Executions of Cham leaders and dignitaries and the populations of entire villages soon followed. In Stung Trang, lorries loaded with Chams were reportedly pushed down steep ravines. The district of Kompong Xiem, in the province of Kompong Cham, with five hamlets and a total population of 20,000, was reported to have been razed to the ground and all its inhabitants killed. In the district of Koong Neas, in the same province, out of an estimated 20,000 inhabitants there were reportedly only four survivors. It is now conservatively estimated that more than half of the total 1975 Cham population of 400,000 was killed between 1975 and 1978.

Of all the mass killings carried out during the Khmer Rouge rule of Kampuchea, the most clearly documented are those that took place at Tuol Sleng, also known as S21. Tuol Sleng was a former school in Phnom Penh used by the Khmer Rouge as a centre for torture and execution. Careful records were kept of prisoners and the prison archives, which have survived virtually intact, show that nearly 15,000 people were liquidated there. Some of the victims of Tuol Sleng were Khmer Rouge soldiers from the Eastern Zone; others were members of the government or other Kampuchean communists suspected of opposing the government.

At any one time the prison held an average of 1,000 to 1,500 prisoners. Most were held for a short time, tortured and forced into writing confessions before being killed. The names of alleged co-conspirators elicited through confessions were recorded and elaborate charts drawn up showing lines of ,contacts' in coloured inks.

The rate of executions increased after October 1977. On 15 October 1977 the prison record books show 418 killed; on 18 October, 179 were killed; on 20 October, 88 and on 23 October, 148. The highest single figure was 582 recorded executions on 27 May 1978. In many cases, as with the veteran communist Hu Nim, the cause of death was recorded as 'crushed to bits'.

In January 1979 the Government of Democratic Kampuchea was overthrown by the forces of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation, after an invasion by Vietnamese troops in December 1978. The country was renamed the People's Republic of Kampuchea. The new government established a special tribunal which in August 1979 tried in absentia Pol Pot and leng Sary, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in the Democratic Kampuchea Government. They were charged with genocide and both were sentenced to death. During the trial, witnesses testified to having participated in torture and killings committed on the orders of the authorities. Victims of imprisonment and torture also testified against the accused Khmer Rouge leaders. Documents on prisons and mass graves were presented to the court.

In August 1981 Democratic Kampuchea's Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, attending a United Nations conference on Kampuchea in New York, was confronted with some of the evidence of killings during a press interview. Ieng Sary admitted that the documents were genuine and confirmed the killing of Hu Nim and the existence of Tuol Sleng. He also acknowledged what no other Khmer Rouge leader had admitted before -- that it was official policy to liquidate people accused of opposing the regime. He justified the policy by saying that 'the circumstance was proletarian dictatorship. We were in the middle of class struggle.'

Despite the magnitude of the killings in Indonesia and Kampuchea, the international community did little to try to stop them. The United Nations first took official note of the human rights situation in Kampuchea in March 1978 when there was considerable discussion at the UN Human Rights Commission. It asked the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to consider the matter in 1979. Several governments and non-governmental organizations submitted information and the sub-commission decided to investigate further. The Government of Kampuchea responded by calling it 'impudent interferences in internal affairs'. In January 1979 the commission received a report about human rights violations in Kampuchea, but by that time the Khmer Rouge government had been overthrown.

To some extent this inaction may have been caused by lack of information at an early date. The killings in Indonesia and Kampuchea took place in conditions of considerable secrecy and in some cases it was weeks and even months before any details became available outside the country. When information did emerge, there were accusations that it was exaggerated for political reasons. Prompt research by impartial external investigative bodies, using such techniques as interviews with refugees, might have led to earlier and more effective measures to counteract the killings.

In Indonesia the killings subsided only when the principal target, the communist party, had been destroyed. In Kampuchea they ended only when the government was overthrown.

Published March 1983



Political killings by governments take place in different parts of the world and in countries of widely differing ideologies. They range from individual assassinations to the wholesale slaughter of mass opposition movements or entire ethnic groups. The scale of the crime is sometimes not known to the international community before it has reached proportions that will damage a whole society for generations to come.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the past 10 years have been killed by the political authorities in their countries. The killings continue. Day after day AI receives reports of deliberate political killings by the army and the police, by other regular security forces, by special units created to function outside normal supervision, by 'death squads' sanctioned by the authorities, by government assassins.

The killings take place outside any legal or judicial process; the victims are denied any protection from the law. Many are abducted, illegally detained, or tortured before they are killed.

Sometimes the killings are ordered at the highest level of government: in other cases the government deliberately does not investigate killings or take measures to prevent further deaths.

Governments often try to cover up the fact that they have committed political killings. They deny that the killings have taken place, they attribute them to opposition forces, or they try to pass them off as the result of armed encounters with government forces or of attempts by the victims to escape from custody.

The pattern of killings is often accompanied by the suspension of constitutional rights, intimidation of witnesses and relatives of victims, suppression of evidence and a weakening of the independence of the judiciary.

These political killings are crimes for which governments and their agents are responsible under national and international law. Their accountability is not diminished because opposition groups commit similar abhorrent acts. Nor does the difficulty of proving who is ultimately answerable for them lessen the government's responsibility to investigate unlawful killings and take steps to prevent them.

Official cover-up

The facts about political killings by governments are often hidden or distorted by those responsible. The official cover-up may take many forms: concealing the fact of the killing, for example by making prisoners 'disappear'; blaming killings on opposition forces or independent armed groups; or passing off unlawful killings of defenceless individuals as the result of armed encounters or escape attempts.

The graves of Teodoro Aligado and Epifanio Simbajon, arrested without warrant by members of the Philippines Constabulary on 25 June 1981 in Barrio Lourdes, Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur province. They were detained on suspicion of being members of the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The two were removed from Pagadian City Jail on 29 June for further interrogation -- later that day they were shot dead. Police officers alleged that they had been killed while trying to escape, but friends and relatives of the dead men have disputed the official version of events.

Student leader Peddi Shankar, aged 23, was shot dead in an alleged "encounter" with the police on 2 November 1980 in Moibinpetta village, Sironcha Taluka, Chandrapur district, Maharashtra state, India. Villagers testified that Peddi Shankar was shot in the back in broad daylight from a distance of some 50 feet by a squad from the State Reserve Police of Maharashtra, and that neither he nor his four companions (who escaped) had fired a shot.

One means of covering up political killings by governments is to conceal the identity of the perpetrators, claiming that the killings were the work of clandestine groups over whom the government has no control.

In the Philippines, the authorities have commonly responded to allegations of human rights violations by claiming that they are the result of armed conflict, particularly with the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. People reported to have 'disappeared' are described as having 'gone underground'. Those killed by military personnel are said to have been killed in combat.

In India, in December 1980 the Minister of State for Home Affairs informed the lower house of the Indian parliament that 216 'Naxalites' -- members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) -- had been shot dead by police in Andhra Pradesh state since 1968. He added that the shootings were 'a sequel to armed attacks launched by Naxalites on police'.

Eye-witness accounts obtained by AI and other investigating bodies indicate that a number of the victims had been arrested and, in some cases, tortured before being shot.

Creating a cover-up can involve fabrication of evidence. For example, in Colombia, there have been a number of unexplained killings by official forces in rural 'militarized' zones, where the army has for some years had violent clashes with guerrillas.

On the morning of 26 April 1981 an army patrol entered the ranch of Ramon Cardona in Albania, Caqueta, dragged him and two others from the house and took them into the nearby hills. Screams were heard. The next day the three men were found dead, their bodies bearing signs of severe torture. According to reports of the incident, neighbours were ordered to transfer the bodies to a clearing, where soldiers placed a small quantity of food, an empty army knapsack and a camouflage shirt by the bodies. The soldiers then told local people and army officers who arrived to view the bodies that the supplies were evidence that the men had been guerrillas. An army press bulletin subsequently declared that the men had ambushed an army patrol and been killed in an exchange of fire.

'Disappeared' victims

Many political killings by governments have been concealed because the victims have 'disappeared' after being taken into custody: the authorities have tried to hide both the fact of the killing and their own responsibility. Sometimes the victims of 'disappearance' are later discovered in prison, or released; sometimes it is learned that they have been killed.

Since the March 1976 military coup the Argentine armed forces have killed many real or imagined opponents of the military government as part of a 'war' against subversion. It is impossible to know the precise number of victims. This is partly because of the secrecy surrounding the 'war' against subversion and partly because most of these killings have been linked to the practice of 'disappearances' carried out by the armed forces after the coup. Most of these 'disappearances' occurred between 1976 and 1978.


Libyan assassinated in London ... police activity around the body of Mahmoud Abdul Salam Nafi', shot dead in the doorway of the Arab Legal Centre on 25 April 1980. The two Libyan gunmen who shot him were captured, tried for murder, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. At their trial they said that their victim had been sentenced to death by a revolutionary committee and they had taken it upon themselves to execute the sentences. At least 14 Libyans have been killed or wounded in assassination attempts outside their country since February' 1980 when the Third Congress of the Libyan Revolutionary Committees issued a declaration calling for the 'physical liquidation' of enemies of the 1969 revolution living abroad.

The Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, has explicitly sanctioned the international assassination campaign against his opponents in a number of official statements and press interviews. On 17 February 1983 the General People's Congress (the body assigned to ratify official policy in Libya, adopted a resolution calling for the renewal of the assassination campaign against Libyans abroad, who were classified as 'hostile: The resolution stated that 'every citizen is responsible for the liquidation of the enemies of the people and revolution'.

Typically, the victims were taken from their houses at night by men who identified themselves as agents of the police or armed forces. A few were subsequently released or acknowledged as official detainees. Usually the victims were taken to secret camps run by the armed forces or police, where almost all are believed to have been tortured. The majority of these 'disappeared' people have never been seen again.

Hundreds of people -- including a number of 'disappeared' individuals -- are believed to have been buried in unmarked graves discovered recently in at least nine cemeteries in the Buenos Aires area. Investigations carried out since October 1982 have revealed that up to four hundred bodies may have been buried in unmarked graves in the Gran Bourg cemetery alone.

In Guatemala, many victims of ,disappearances' have been killed -- only extremely rarely has a 'disappeared' person later been found in custody or reappeared alive.

It has, however, often been difficult to verify the fact that an individual who has 'disappeared' has died. Bodies have been recovered from secret graveyards in such a state of decomposition that identification was impossible. Corpses have been found at roadsides far from where abductions took place, mutilated beyond recognition.

In Guinea, President Sekou Toures government has failed to account for approximately 2,900 prisoners who 'disappeared' after being arrested for political reasons between 1969 and 1976. Many are believed to have died as a result of torture, execution, deliberate starvation or inhuman prison conditions.

In Afghanistan, thousands of people 'disappeared' after the People's Democratic Party (PDP) government came to power following a military coup in April 1978. The precise number of 'disappearances' and killings is not known.

In December 1979 the new government of President Babrak Karmal took power and declared a general amnesty. During an AI mission to Kabul in February 1980 delegates met relatives of some of the thousands of prisoners who were known to have been arrested but who had not been released under the general amnesty. The Karmal government has said that all those not released in December 1979 had been killed before it came to power. Government officials told A! that they had a list of 4,584 people who had been killed, but that they believed the number of killings and 'disappearances' was actually higher.

Since December 1979 A! has received reports of killings of civilians in areas of armed conflict in Afghanistan. The reports have alleged killings by both government forces and insurgents. Detailed and precise accounts have been difficult to obtain.

The killings

Political killings by governments have been committed in most, if not all, of the regions of the world. The cases in this report show that they are not confined to anyone political system or ideology. Further examples are given here of political killings since 1980 believed to have been carried out by official forces or others linked to the government. The circumstances of the killings and the nature of government involvement vary from country to country. Some governments have been shown to be responsible by their wilful failure to investigate adequately or to prevent further killings.

The victims -- individuals and entire families -- have come from all walks of life and from many political persuasions and religious faiths. Politicians, government officials, judges, lawyers, military officers, trade unionists, journalists, teachers, students and schoolchildren, religious workers and peasants: all have lost their lives. In some cases well-known political figures have been publicly assassinated; in others whole villages have been wiped out, and the news has not reached the outside world for weeks or months. Often, the victims belonged to the political opposition -- often they were simply members of a particular ethnic group or lived in an area targeted for security operations.

In El Salvador, thousands of people have been killed by the security forces since the military coup of October 1979. The victims have included not only people suspected of opposition to the authorities, but thousands of unarmed peasant farmers living in areas targeted for military operations in the government's counter-guerrilla campaign. People monitoring government abuses, such as journalists and human rights workers, as well as church activists, community workers, political militants and trade unionists, have been arrested and killed. Patients have been abducted from hospital beds by security forces and killed.

Testimonies received daily by AI implicate all branches of the Salvadorian security services in the killings. In addition to the regular armed forces El Salvador also relies on special security forces such as the National Guard, which combines police and military functions, the National Police and the Treasury Police. All these units have repeatedly been named in reports of political killings. So has a nominally civilian paramilitary unit called ORDEN (now renamed Frente Democratico Nacionalista, Democratic Nationalist Front), established in 1967 to carry out a clandestine 'counter-terror' campaign against government opponents. New 'civil defence brigades' set up under military control are also reported to have carried out killings in rural areas. Recently the Atlactl Brigade, one of the special new units trained by US military advisers, has been blamed repeatedly for killings of unarmed peasants.

The Salvadorian authorities continue to maintain that any abuses were perpetrated by security or armed forces personnel exceeding their authority. They have also on several occasions stated that officers or troops implicated in these abuses have been removed from duty, or assigned to non-combatant positions.

The authorities have also claimed that atrocities in rural areas were perpetrated by independent extremist groups or 'death squads' out of government control. Other reports, however, have indicated that the so-called 'death squads' are made up of members of ORDEN or other off-duty or plain-clothes security personnel acting in cooperation with the regular armed forces.

In Libya, the Third Congress of the Libyan Revolutionary Committees issued a declaration in February 1980 calling for the 'physical liquidation' of enemies of the 1969 revolution living abroad. Since then at least 14 Libyan citizens have been killed or wounded in assassination attempts outside Libya.

In Uganda, the widespread unlawful killings of the eight-year military government of President Idi Amin ended only with the overthrow of the regime in 1979.

In the aftermath of the armed conflict, a high level of criminal violence continued, with many unexplained but possibly politically motivated murders.

Opponents and supporters of the government and members of the security forces were killed under the successive governments of Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Binaisa, and the Military Commission.

Former President Milton Obote returned to power after elections in 1980. Instability continued, and early 1981 saw a series of guerrilla attacks. Many civilians -- particularly alleged political opponents -- were arrested by the army and there were reports of torture and killings in military custody. Unarmed civilians are also reported to have been killed by security forces operating against guerrillas in the countryside.

In Iran, in addition to the large number of officially announced executions which have taken place since the revolution of February 1979 (more than 4,500 by the end of March 1983), AI has received many reports of executions which have not been announced and may not have been preceded by a trial. In other cases it is clear from the circumstances of the killings that no legal proceedings took place.

Some months after the 1979 revolution, fighting broke out between government forces and members of the Turkoman ethnic group. Four Turkoman leaders were arrested and imprisoned in Evin Prison, Tehran, from where they were kidnapped and killed. The then President of Iran, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, sent two missions to discover how the Turkoman leaders had died and the findings of both missions were that they had been kidnapped and killed by the Revolutionary Guards.

Members of the Baha'i religion have been killed in circumstances suggesting official involvement. AI knows of no case in which anyone has been prosecuted in connection with such a killing.

Kurds have also been killed in circumstances which suggest strongly that extrajudicial executions have taken place. One report described the killing of 18 workers on 14 September 1981 at a bricklaying factory near the village of Saroughamish. According to the report Revolutionary Guards arrested the workers, put them against a wall and machine-gunned them.

Fifty-one villagers are reported to have been killed by Revolutionary Guards in the village of Dehgaz in the Caspian region between June and September 1981. Those killed were allegedly sympathizers of the opposition People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran.

In Chad, there have been reports of killings of civilians and soldiers no longer in combat by forces loyal to Hissein Habre (who was sworn in as President on 21 October 1982) after they occupied the capital, N'Djamena, in June 1982 and moved on to consolidate Habre's control of the country. Eye-witness accounts have described defeated soldiers of the opposing Forces armees tchadiennes, Chadian Armed Forces, and some of their civilian collaborators, being killed by the pro-Habre forces, the Forces armees du nord, Armed Forces of the North.

In Namibia, South African military forces are in conflict with nationalist guerrillas belonging to the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO). Church leaders and others have reported that civilians have been killed by South African soldiers because they were thought to support or sympathize with SWAPO.

In Bolivia, following the July 1980 military coup, AI received reports that security forces were involved in numerous 'disappearances' and political killings.

In the mining areas of Huanuni, Catavi and Siglo Veinte, where strikes against the coup had been organized, troops used tanks and heavy weapons to put down resistance to the military take-over.

In Chile, during the first few months after the 1973 military coup thousands of people were reported to have been summarily executed; between 1973 and 1977 hundreds -- mainly political activists, trade unionists and peasants -- 'disappeared' after being arrested by the security forces. The 'disappearances' and killings which took place between 1973 and 1977 remain officially unexplained.

Since 1977, a number of alleged members of banned political parties and organizations, such as the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR), Movement of the Revolutionary Left, have died in the custody of the Chilean secret police, the Central Nacional de Informaciones (CNI), in circumstances which indicate that they may have died after torture, or may have been deliberately killed by other methods. A number of other killings have been described officially as the result of 'confrontations' with members of the security forces, such as the CNI.

In some instances of alleged 'confrontations' and deaths in custody, official investigations have been started, but reports indicate that once the CNI or other security forces have been implicated the investigation has been passed from the civilian courts to the military courts. Military courts have consistently failed to bring those responsible to justice.

In Mexico, there have been reports of a number of killings in which regular army units have been involved or some other official link is known or suspected. On 25 July 1982, for example, a military detachment entered Coacoyult in the municipality of Ajuchitlan, Guerrero, and took 13 peasants away with them. Of the 13, five were later found dead.

In East Timor, which has been occupied by Indonesia since December 1975, there have been numerous reports of people being executed after surrendering to, or being captured by, Indonesian armed forces.

In the Republic of Korea (South Korea), at least 40 people were killed when army paratroopers dispersed a peaceful student demonstration in Kwangju on 18 May 1980. AI has received reports and eye-witness accounts alleging that paratroopers clubbed people on the head indiscriminately and bayoneted them; that many of the dead were shot in the face, and that others were stabbed to death.

At least 1,200 civilians are reported to have died in disturbances in the following nine days; the South Korean authorities said that 144 civilians, 22 soldiers and four police officers died.

Tens of thousands of Guatemalans have been killed for political reasons under successive governments since 1966. They have been killed by regular military and police units, both on and off duty, in uniform and in plain clothes; by official security guards assigned to government functionaries; by private security guards often led by former police or military personnel; and by 'death squads' -- armed groups, often made up of off-duty military and security personnel, which AI believes are linked to the government.

The victims have come from all sectors of Guatemalan society: peasants and Indians, trade unionists, church activists, political leaders, journalists and members of the legal profession.

Peasants have been massacred in areas where guerrillas were believed to be active, apparently to prevent the guerrillas gaining supplies and support, and to intimidate the population.

In Syria, since 1980 there have been several reported incidents of killings by the security forces. On 27 July 1980 hundreds of prisoners -- most of them believed to have been members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood -- were reported to have been killed in Palmyra (Tadmur) desert prison by the Saray al Difa'. Special Defence Units, a special military force under the command of President Assad's brother, Rifa'at Assad. On the night of 23 April 1981 Syrian security forces reportedly sealed off parts of the town of Hama, carried out house-to-house searches, dragged people from their homes, lined them up in the streets and shot them. AI received the names of over 100 of those reported killed.

On 2 February 1982 violent clashes between security forces and Muslim Brotherhood fighters, following the discovery of a hidden cache of arms, developed into a near-insurrection in the town of Hama.

Syrian troops and security forces encircled the town and bombarded it from the air and the ground. A news blackout was imposed by the authorities but in early March, after the fighting had ended, reports of massacres and atrocities began to reach the outside world. Most reports indicated that at the start of the fighting government officials and their families in Hama were systematically sought out and killed by the rebels. Later, however, massacres were reported to have been committed by government forces, partly through aerial bombardment but also by troops on the ground as they regained control of the town.

In the aftermath of the Israeli invasion into the Lebanon, hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the refugee camps of Chatilla and Sabra in West Beirut were massacred between 16 and 18 September 1982, by armed Lebanese militia members. The Israeli armed forces were in military control of the area at the time.

An Israeli judicial commission was later established to determine whether the Israeli authorities had any responsibility for the killings. Headed by the Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, the commission met in open and closed sessions and took evidence from front-line commanders and high-ranking military officers and cabinet officials, including the Army Chief of Staff, the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister.

The commission reported in February 1983. It concluded that Israeli forces had 'absolutely no direct responsibility' for the massacres but that Israeli officials, 'because of things that were well known to all', should have foreseen that the danger of a massacre existed if the militia members entered the camps without preventive measures being taken. The commission concluded also that Israeli officials did not take 'energetic and immediate' actions to restrain the Lebanese militiamen or to put a stop to their actions. The commission recommended that measures be taken against certain named officials, including the Israeli Minister of Defence.

In Iraq, several political suspects in custody were allegedly poisoned in 1980 shortly before they were released. Two of the cases involved Iraqis who were examined by doctors in the United Kingdom after they had left Iraq. Both were found to be suffering from thallium poisoning. (Thallium is a heavy metal used commercially in. rat poison.) One of the two died; the other was said to have recovered.

Well over 20 Yugoslav political emigres have been assassinated since the early 1970s, including two in 198b, and emigre circles have frequently alleged that Yugoslav state security service (SDS) agents were responsible. The findings of courts outside Yugoslavia have in several cases supported such allegations.

In Ethiopia, thousands of people were unlawfully and deliberately killed by the security forces after the Provisional Military Government assumed power in 1974 -- particularly during the government's 'Red Terror' campaign in 1977 and 1978. Between November 1977 and about February 1978, an estimated 5,000 political opponents of the government were killed in Addis Ababa alone.

In Burundi, at least 80,000 people are believed to have been killed in May and June 1972 after a rebellion inspired by the numerically larger Hutu ethnic group against the dominant Tutsi group.

AI Newsletter April 1983



The Chilean artist Hugo Eduardo Riveros Gomez, 29, found dead on the outskirts of Santiago on 8 July 1981 -- his hands had been tied behind his back and he had been stabbed three times. Apiece of cardboard had been left on his chest; written in blood on it was the letter 'R' -- a symbol intended to represent the 'Resistance', a name used by left-wing opponents of the government. The day before, three men had blindfolded him and dragged him out of his home. He had been under surveillance by men in plain clothes for several days beforehand. He had recognized one of the men as a secret police agent who had reportedly tortured him in October 1980, when he had been detained incommunicado for more than a fortnight. After that spell of detention he was charged, on 5 November 1980, with belonging to a banned organization. In March 1981 he was released on bail. At the end of June the prosecution recommended that he be sentenced to 541 days' relegacion, internal exile. He was murdered about a week later. His wife's request for an investigating judge to be appointed to inquire into the killing was refused by the Santiago Appeals Court in July 1981. Proceedings were in fact initiated by the 18th Criminal Court -- but it closed the case without having found anyone responsible for Hugo Riveros' death. Amnesty International believes that the 'Resistance' symbol left on his body was put there to mislead investigations and that there are grounds to believe that the security forces were involved in Hugo Riveros' death: for example, the fact that he had been under surveillance and the way he was abducted are consistent with methods used by the secret police.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Mon May 09, 2016 5:31 am


A detailed description of living conditions in a Soviet labour camp for political prisoners was published by Amnesty International in 1984.

Balys Gayauskas, a Lithuanian. pictured with his wife. He is one of at least 15 prisoners of conscience in special regime camp VS389-36/1, in Perm region. Since 1948 he has been sentenced to a total of 40 years' imprisonment on political grounds.

Amnesty International has received a detailed first-hand description of living conditions in a special labour camp for political prisoners singled out by the Soviet authorities for particularly severe treatment. The document confirms previous information of harsh conditions in the camp.

The description by a prisoner of conscience held at the 'special regime' camp near Perm, some 1,200km east of Moscow, tells of men being confined to tiny, stinking cells in which flickering electric light burns night and day; living on poor rations and brackish water; having to fulfil excessive work norms; receiving inadequate medical treatment; and being denied many of the rights of most 'non-political' labour camp inmates.

'Special regime' camps are designated by the Soviet penal system for 'especially dangerous' prisoners. At least 15 of the men held in special camps VS 389-36/1, however, are known to be there after having been prosecuted repeatedly for non-violent attempts to express their beliefs. All 15 were convicted of 'anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda' and sentenced to at least 10 years' imprisonment.

The camp, set up in 1980 and attached to a larger 'strict regime' corrective labour colony in the Ural Mountains, held over 30 prisoners at last report. The description, which reached AI in October 1983, was written in April 1982. AI was not able to corroborate the details, but they are consistent with other information received by the organization. AI has decided to make the account public in the belief that it is authentic.

The material published below comes from the prisoner's description, which was sent abroad through unofficial channels. His account, about 1,000 words long, includes descriptions of the different types of cell in which the inmates are confined during the years of their imprisonment: living cells, work cells and exercise cells -- the last being known as 'barrels', concrete rectangles half a dozen paces long and covered with a barbed wire grid; medical treatment, food, letters and infrequent visits are also dealt with. The following are excerpts translated from the original Russian.

'They take away from every prisoner the legal documents relating to his case. In other words, they remove the possibility of protesting about the case -- a prisoner does not have the material he needs in order to struggle for his rights.

'Since our cases are shams -- unsubstantiated fabricated claims made by the KGB -- they do not want such material to find its way abroad.

'To all our complaints regarding our cases the authorities give a standard answer: the case has been examined thoroughly and the sentence of the court is correct: 10 years' [imprisonment] plus five years' [internal] exile. To other complaints the Procuracy usually answers: the facts have not been proved. Often complaints are sent for investigation to the very person about whom you are complaining.

'The regime in the camp is like that in a KGB investigation and isolation cell. In particular they try to isolate us from society and from each other. Between two and five prisoners share a cell. Each is allotted two square metres of space in the cell, which is crammed with ... bunks and a table.

'We do not meet prisoners from other cells: we work in separate cells and only with those with whom we live. The exercise cells are arranged so that it is impossible to pass on notes -- and to prevent us exchanging a few words a guard walks along a catwalk above. If we begin to talk we are taken away from the exercise cell.

'The living and work cells are equipped with toilets. Last year they put up a partition about I.5m high in the living cells ... but all the same the toilet is not screened off from the rest of the cell. There is no ventilation and so it stinks. In the work cells there is not even this formal partition ....

'The work cells are dark: electric light is necessary by day.... The light burns at night too.... In autumn and winter the electric light is very weak and flickers. It is very difficult to read; it ruins your eyes ... many prisoners have weak and aching eyes. The work is light but the work norms are high and few fulfil them; some are punished as a result. The privileges provided for by the labour code for the sick and disabled are not applied here. They must work to death.

'After lunch a few rays of sunlight fall into the exercise cells. But you are not allowed to take off your jacket -- this must be buttoned right up. Some guards do not even let you take off your headgear.

'In all there are five exercise cells -- known as 'bochki' ('barrels'). Three of them are approximately 3m by 5m and 2.5m high. Two of these are made of concrete and are enclosed above by a barbed wire grid. The exercise period lasts one hour. The two other cells are 2m by 2m and 2.5m high. The sun never reaches them. This is where prisoners in solitary confinement may exercise -- their exercise lasts half an hour.

'The food is bad ... Groats, meat (a piece of gristle, bone) which is often rotten. We hardly ever get vegetables - and when we do they are never fresh. In the [camp] shop you can spend up to four roubles a month on margarine, vegetable oil, sweets .... Sometimes there is tinned fish, occasionally processed cheese, and biscuits. The water is very bad. Sometimes they bring drinking water into the kitchen, but most frequently there is none -- and then they boil stagnant water, which is very dirty ... it stinks, but you have to drink it.

'For two camps there is one doctor, who does not visit every day. The dentist and other specialists come very rarely. The medical treatment is merely first aid. There are not enough medicines. The hospital is at camp 35. People who have been there say it is better in the camp lock-up here than in the hospital. The hospital cells are like those in the lock-up: small and dark, and cold in winter. The medical treatment is a formality. There is nowhere [separate] to wash. The bath is in the toilet [section]. In winter it is very cold and it is better not to wash as you risk catching a chill. The exercise cells in the hospital are the same as our small one: "barrels". Prisoners on special regime in the hospital are kept in maximum isolation.

'Letters not written in Russian take six to eight weeks to reach us. [The home language of prisoners may be Ukrainian, Lithuanian or anyone of the USSR's national languages.] We receive letters only from close relatives: those from other people do not in practice arrive. Apparently they are forbidden. Very often the authorities even confiscate letters from our wives, mothers and children -- and even our own letters [to them]. Greetings on religious holidays are forbidden. All postcards are confiscated. They explain this by saying that they are ideologically and politically harmful, or that they contain conspiracies.

'If you begin to inquire why they are not handed over, or write to the Procurator about it, they answer that the letter has been rightfully confiscated and destroyed. They maintain that they have the right to destroy correspondence. The Procuracy always justifies the administration in advance. We do not receive any letters from abroad.

'Prisoners convicted of "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" are often deprived of meetings with visitors. And when anyone does receive a visit then it is usually for one or two days [instead of the three days allowed for by law]. Short visits take place here or else you are taken to camp 36. These visits are conducted through a double window and last for an hour or two. Since it is a very long way for friends and relatives to travel for a meeting, many prisoners refuse them.

'We are not allowed to keep anything we write down .... They take it away. Their explanation is: you have the right to write, but you do not have the right to keep what you have written. Therefore, as soon as you have written a sentence, the guard has the right to take it away. Recently they took away our books, journals and exercise books. They left us with only five books or journals each. It is therefore very difficult to study anything.

'Our conditions differ from those in other camps. They are considerably harsher than the conditions of special regime camps for criminal prisoners. The rules laid down by the code on the maintenance of prisoners are not applied to us. In many cases we are at the mercy of the local administration. '

'Wilful disobedience' by inmates now punishable by up to five years' further imprisonment

A new law providing for up to five years' further imprisonment for 'wilful disobedience' by inmates of corrective labour institutions has been introduced into the Russian Penal Code.

It was introduced under an ukaz (decree) issued on 13 September 1983 by the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR). It came into effect on 1 October. Article 188-3 reads as follows:

'Wilful disobedience to the legitimate demands of the administration of a corrective labour institution, or any other form of resistance to the administration in the carrying out of its duties by a person serving a term of imprisonment -- if in the course of one year this person has been subjected to punishment for violating the requirements of the regime, by way of transfer to premises of the cell-type (solitary confinement) or by transfer to a prison ... is punishable by imprisonment of up to three years.

'The same actions committed by an especially dangerous recidivist or a person convicted of a grave crime ... is punishable by imprisonment for a period of one to five years.'

The terms of the new law are extremely vague. They do not specify what is meant by 'legitimate demands' on the part of the administration, nor what constitutes 'wilful disobedience' or 'any other form of resistance' on the part of the prisoner. The grounds for pressing charges against a prisoner under this article depend on the subjective assessment of the administration of the corrective labour institution.

Most Soviet prisoners of conscience known to AI are serving terms of imprisonment in corrective labour institutions. In the 10 months leading up to the introduction of the new law AI learned of 12 prisoners of conscience who had been sentenced to further imprisonment on fresh charges while they were completing their first term. In each case investigation has shown that the prisoner was re-imprisoned for continued peaceful exercise of his or her human rights.

Most of these prisoners were serving their first sentence alone in corrective labour institutions designated for criminal prisoners, and there are grounds for believing they may have been victimized.

Many of them were tried within the corrective labour institution itself, or with only criminal prisoners and members of the administration acting as witnesses. AI is concerned that internationally agreed standards of fair trial may not have been observed in their cases.

AI fears that the introduction of Article 188-3 into the RSFSR Criminal Code makes prisoners of conscience in corrective labour institutions in the Russian Republic increasingly vulnerable to lengthy reimprisonment on vague and arbitrary grounds.

AI Newsletter February 1984




Le Thi Som Mai, a Vietnamese prisoner of conscience, was finally released from prison in early 1983 and is now back home with her brothers and sisters. Le Thi Som Mai, aged 21, was arrested in December 1981 with a group of other young people after trying to escape illegally from Viet Nam. She was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in July 1982. It campaigned for her immediate release on the grounds that her detention violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International had also been concerned that her health was deteriorating as a result of lack of food and medicine and having to undertake hard physical labour. In the camp where she was held, the duties consisted of clearing virgin land for cultivation. Several young people are reported to have died there of malaria and dysentery.

Le Thi Som Mai and her six brothers and sisters had been the targets of official harassment on a number of occasions because of their parents' prominence as non-Communist writers under the pre-1975 South Vietnamese Government. Her father, Tran Da Tu, was a well-known poet, broadcaster and journalist and her mother, Nha Ca, a distinguished novelist. Both were arrested in April 1976 during a government campaign against 'decadent' literature. Her mother was released in December 1976 but her father is still detained without charge or trial [his case is under investigation by Amnesty International).
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

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


In 1984 a fresh drive to end torture was launched: the Campaign for the Abolition of Torture. 'Torture in the Eighties' chronicled reports from 98 countries and contained a 12-Point Program for the Prevention of Torture which formed the basis for the campaign.

While government representatives universally and collectively condemn torture, more than a third of the world's governments have used or tolerated torture or ill-treatment of prisoners in the 1980s. Political suspects and other prisoners face torture in police stations, secret detention centres, camps and military barracks.

In a major new report, 'Torture in the Eighties', Amnesty International cites allegations of torture and ill-treatment in some 98 countries - documenting complaints by victims in every region of the world, from security headquarters in Spain to prison cells in Iran, from secret police centres in Chile to special psychiatric hospitals in the Soviet Union.

The report cites cases involving systematic torture during interrogation -- electric shocks, severe beatings and mock executions; harsh prison conditions; the participation of doctors in the process of torture; and punishments such as flogging and amputation.

The report is part of Amnesty International's continuing campaign against torture and it spells out a global program for the abolition of this abuse.

Thousands upon thousands of Amnesty International volunteers around the world are working together to eradicate torture and prevent cruel treatment of prisoners. In the next two years they will be taking part in a special drive to try to rid the world of these violations of human rights.

Torture as an institution

Torture does not occur simply because individual torturers are sadistic, even if testimonies verify that they often are. Torture is frequently part of the state-controlled machinery for suppressing dissent. Concentrated in the torturer's electrode or syringe is the power and responsibility of the state. However perverse the actions of individual torturers, torture itself has a rationale: isolation, humiliation, psychological pressure and physical pain are means of obtaining information, of breaking down the prisoner and of intimidating those close to him or her.

It is very often used as an integral part of a government's security strategy. If threatened by guerrillas, a government may condone torture as a means of extracting vital logistical information from captured insurgents. If the government broadens its definition of security, the number of people who appear to threaten it become larger.

The implication of others in banned activities or the intimidation of targeted social sectors like students, trade unionists or lawyers may become the rationale for torture in the new circumstances.

Emergency legislation may facilitate torture by giving extensive powers of detention to the security forces. This process may be accelerated if the military take over governmental, police and judicial functions.

The Uruguayan Government's fight against the urban guerrilla movement Movimiento de Liberacion Nacional (or Tupamaros), Movement of National Liberation, is an example.

Torture began as a police method of interrogation in the 1960s. After the army entered the conflict in 1971, torture continued to be used mainly for the interrogation of suspected guerrillas, though on a much larger scale. The Law of State Security and Internal Order, granting broad powers to the security forces, came into effect in 1972, and a year later the military took effective control of government behind a civilian facade.

The result of these changes is that the emergency legislation introduced in 1972 has been the formal basis for the detention of hundreds of people suspected of non-violent political or trade union activities. Many have been tortured -- long after the Tupamaros were defeated -- by one of several security units of the armed forces and convicted by military courts to long-term sentences.

The illegal methods first applied to suspected 1itpamaros became, by 1975, routine treatment for virtually any peaceful opponent of the Uruguayan Government who fell into the hands of military units.

A specific motive for using torture is often to intimidate the victim and other potential dissidents from further political activity. Students detained for demonstrating or leafleting in the Republic of Korea have been tortured and beaten routinely at police stations, then released without charge.

The intimidation of rural populations by means of torture and killings has been part of government strategies to bring the population or particular parts of the country under government control. Guatemalan counterinsurgency operations in the early 1980s, for example, included the terrorization of targeted rural populations in an effort to ensure that they did not provide support for guerrillas. Tortured, dying villagers were displayed to relatives and neighbours, who were prevented from helping them. Newspapers in urban areas during this period were allowed to publish photographs of mutilated bodies, ostensibly as an aid to families seeking their missing relatives, but also as a warning to all citizens not to oppose the government.

In specific instances the torturers may want to keep their practices hidden from the local populace. According to a secret Indonesian army manual used in East Timor and obtained by Amnesty International in July 1983, 'if the use of force is required [for interrogation], there should not be a member of the local population present ... to witness it so that the antipathy of the people is not aroused'.

Armed conflict in Afghanistan has led to the involvement of the military and the state security police in torture to obtain intelligence information about guerrillas, to intimidate the population from supporting them, and to discourage strikes and demonstrations in the towns.

If detainees are charged and eventually tried, a confession may be the primary evidence against them. The increased number of assaults during interrogation during and after 1976 in Northern Ireland was partly a result of a governmental security strategy to obtain confessions that could be used in court. In Spain, torture and ill-treatment are still used in some police stations to obtain confessions from suspects charged under the anti-terrorist law.

Torture and ill-treatment are also used as punishments, sometimes in addition to prison sentences. In Pakistan since 1977 and Mozambique since 1983, prisoners have been flogged, sometimes in public, while serving sentences for political or criminal offences. Caning, flogging and, in a few countries, amputation are inflicted as judicially prescribed punishments.

Prisoners often face further ill-treatment after interrogation, sentencing or confinement. Prisoners on hunger-strike against harsh prison conditions or against their own torture have been severely beaten in the Republic of Korea. One is known to have died in 1982 following such a protest; others have needed hospital treatment. At least 15 military prisoners in Morocco are reported to have died in custody during the 1980s, in part as a result of diseases caused by appalling conditions and of a complete lack of medical care. In the USSR in the 1980s, medical personnel, in collaboration with the secret police, continued the practice of administering powerful pain-causing and disorienting drugs to prisoners of conscience who are forcibly confined to psychiatric hospitals for political rather than authentic medical reasons.

Isolated incidents of torture do occur without governmental approval -- but it remains the government's duty to investigate them and discipline the offenders; failure to do so may well be taken as a signal that such abuses are officially tolerated.


The methods vary: for example, the long-used falanga (beating on the soles of the feet, also called falaka); the Syrians' 'black slave', an electrical apparatus that inserts a heated metal skewer into the bound victim's anus; the cachots noirs in Rwanda, black cells totally devoid of light in which prisoners have been held for as long as a year or more. Some methods can make the verification of torture and ill-treatment especially difficult -- pain-causing drugs administered forcibly to prisoners of conscience in Soviet psychiatric hospitals, the forcible use of techniques of sensory deprivation, and the electrodes that have become an almost universal tool of the torturer's trade.


Victims include people of all social classes, age groups, trades, professions and political or religious views. Criminal suspects as well as political detainees are subject to torture in many countries, although the information available to Amnesty International deals mostly with political cases.

In El Salvador, children have reportedly been tortured, and in Iran under the government at the time of writing, children held with their mothers in the women's block of Evin Prison have been forced to witness the torture of their mothers. Women often face special degradation at the hands of their male torturers. Relatives of wanted people in Syria, including adolescents, have reportedly been held as hostages and tortured to force suspects to give themselves up. Foreign nationals seeking asylum in the Congo have allegedly been tortured to force them to confess to espionage. Victims in Ethiopia have allegedly included members of several ethnic and religious minorities suspected either of supporting armed groups fighting for territorial independence or of obstructing the revolution.


The agencies involved in torture give an indication of the degree of governmental responsibility for it. Frequently several military and police intelligence units as well as police forces and prison employees are implicated, thus demonstrating the widespread institutionalization of the practice.

The general picture that emerges of torture agencies is often one of groups specially trained to torture, who have an elevated view of their role in protecting state security against 'subversives'. State propaganda reinforces this view, as does any real violence perpetrated against the state or their colleagues by opposition groups. If they are aware that their acts are criminal, they also know that their superiors will protect them in the unlikely event that the state attempts to prosecute them.


Torture most often occurs during a detainee's first few days in custody. These critical hours are usually spent incommunicado, when the security forces maintain total control over the fate of the detainee, and deny access to relatives, lawyers or independent doctors. Some detainees are held in secret, and the authorities may deny that certain detainees are held, making it easier to torture or kill them or to make them 'disappear'.

The suspension of habeas corpus and other legal remedies, trials of political detainees in military courts and the lack of any independent means of examining and recording a prisoner's medical condition allow the security forces to conceal evidence of torture from lawyers, civilian magistrates, independent doctors and others who would be capable of taking action against their illegal activities.

Further incentives are trial procedures that do not exclude from evidence statements extracted under torture or during long periods of incommunicado detention, a government's refusal to investigate allegations of torture, its peremptory denial that torture occurs in the face of mounting evidence such as deaths in custody, its obstruction of independent domestic or international investigations, the censorship of published information about torture, and the immunity from criminal and civil prosecution given to alleged torturers.

A calculated assault on human dignity

Smolensk Special Psychiatric Hospital

Chernyakhovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital

Oryol Special Psychiatric Hospital

Torture is often inflicted as part of government suppression of dissent. In the Soviet Union people who have been detailed for criticizing the authorities have been confined in psychiatric institutions where some of them have been given pain-causing drugs.

Apologists for torture generally concentrate on the classical argument of expediency, which purports to justify undesirable but 'necessary' suffering inflicted on an individual only for the purpose of protecting the greater good of the greater number.

This apology ignores the fact that the majority of torture victims, even in countries beset by widespread civil conflict, have no security information about violent opposition groups to give away.

They are tortured either to force confessions from them or as a savage message not to oppose the government.

Even if torture could be shown to be efficient in some cases, it is never permissible.

Torture is a calculated assault on human dignity and for that reason alone is to be condemned absolutely. Nothing denies our common humanity more than the purposeful infliction of unjustified and unjustifiable pain and humiliation on a helpless captive.

Once justified and allowed for the narrower purpose of combating political violence, torture will almost inevitably be used for a wider range of purposes against an increasing proportion of the population.

Those who torture once will go on using it, encouraged by its 'efficiency' in some cases in obtaining the confession or information they seek, whatever the quality of the material thus obtained. They will argue within the security apparatus for the extension of torture to other detention centres; they may form elite groups of interrogators to refine its practice; they may develop methods that hide its more obvious effects; they will find further reasons and needs for it if particular segments of society become restive .... What was to be done 'just once' will become an institutionalized practice.

The process of torture

No experience of torture is typical, but there are discernible patterns in the thousands of personal testimonies, affidavits and statements that have reached Amnesty International in the 1980s.

For the individual victim torture can mean being seized at night, violently, while family and neighbours are terrorized into helplessness; being blindfolded and beaten in the police van or the unmarked car; the vague reasons, if any, given for the detention; the threats of execution, of rape, of family members being killed in 'accidents'; the preliminary questions at the police station or army barracks about present health, medicines, past illnesses, so as not to go too far in the procedures that follow; the sometimes senseless questions ('Why were you born in Tunceli?') for which there are no answers -- and throughout, the anticipation and the fact of brute force, without limit, without end, the feeling of being totally at the mercy of those whose job is to have no mercy.

Torture usually means isolation: abduction, secret detention, incommunicado detention beyond the reach of family, friends and legal assistance. Blindfolding during days of interrogation and torture serves to increase the sense of being alone and defenceless. Iranian political prisoners released in 1982 tell of how it is used at Evin Prison, the Revolutionary Court headquarters in Tehran:

'The worst thing in Evin is being held blindfolded for days on end waiting for someone to tell you why you are there. Some people are left blindfold for days, weeks or months. One man has spent 27 months like this. None of the prisoners appear to know what he is being held for. After 27 months, he sits, largely in total silence, wagging his head from one side to the other. Sometimes he just sits knocking his head on the wall.'

Essential to torture is the sense that the interrogator controls everything, even life itself.

'This is nothing but the introductory exercise,' a South Korean security agent told a prisoner in 1979 after beating and stamping on him and burning his back with cigarettes. 'You can test the limit of your spiritual and physical patience when you are taken to the basement, where there are all kinds of torture instruments from ancient times to the modern age.'

Torture means degradation: insults, sexual threats or assaults, forcible eating of one's excrement, humiliation of one's family.

Torture often means breaking down under extreme pressure and severe pain, whether the confession signed or information given is true or false.

Some prisoners are singled out for special treatment. Muteba Tshitenge, a former civil servant, was held incommunicado for 13 months in Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire. He was subjected to mock executions, and said: "Special instructions were given on how I was to be treated: no contact with the outside world; no family visits; solitary confinement; lashings morning, noon and night; no food. This special treatment is expected to result in death by torture, starvation or sickness ... (they) also hope that the prisoner will go mad."

'Eventually, I was forced to answer in the way they wanted me to since the pain became intolerable,' said Fernando Benjamin Reveco Soto, who was tortured in 1982 by the Central Nacional de Informaciones (CNI), the Chilean secret police.

'They applied intense electric current to my hands ... For 21 days I was held in the CNI's hidden premises ... On each of the first 14 days which followed my arrest I was subjected to both physical and psychological torture ... I was seen by the doctor after nearly all the torture sessions ... I was given a document to sign which stated that I had been well treated. It also contained statements which I had made under pressure, and included others which I had never made at all. When I refused to sign I was threatened with further torture. Under such circumstances, I had to sign.'


Torture is a violation of human dignity and international law. In many countries human rights groups have organized protests against its continued use, but those in the front line of the effort to stop torture often take great personal risks. Here, demonstrators march against martial law in Kwangju, South Korea, in May 1980. Following such demonstrations, many protesters were arrested and interrogated under torture, and eight were beaten to death.

In the USSR psychiatrists administer drugs as a form of punishment to prisoners of conscience detained in psychiatric hospitals. The drugs may serve to compel the prisoner to renounce his or her religious or political beliefs, or they may be given as 'treatment' for a prisoner's continuing 'delusions'. In the summer of 1980, for example, Vladimir Tsurikov, a 35-year-old worker from Krasnoyarsk, was interned for the third time in the USSR in connection with his peaceful attempts to emigrate. He describes the effect of drugs forcibly given to him:

'The triftazin [stelazine] made me writhe, and my legs began to twist about in a ridiculous way. I lost the ability to walk, while simultaneously feeling very restive and also feeling sharp pains in my buttocks at any movement - a result of the sulfazin [a one per cent solution of elemental sulphur in oil]. Fainting fits began, recurring very often: I fell and hit my head on the floor and on the brick walls. The pain prevented me sleeping or eating. The sulfazin made my temperature rise, and it then stayed around 40 degrees centigrade. Sometimes I experienced slight shivering and my tongue hung out ... '

Like at least nine other known dissenters who were forcibly confined to psychiatric hospitals shortly before foreign visitors arrived in Moscow to attend the Olympic Games in July 1980, Vladimir Tsurikov was released shortly after the Games ended.

Many victims remain in prison, their situation uncertain and vulnerable. International support for them remains vital. After an Amnesty International mission in 1981 to Morocco, where delegates visited Kenitra Central Prison, Amnesty International received this message from a prisoner currently held there who had previously been tortured and had campaigned together with other prisoners of conscience for improved conditions:

'It is incontestable that our situation has improved in prison, but our situation is very precarious, since it is based on no judicial text (the government does not recognize having political detainees, and we are officially considered common criminals). In other words, the 'privileges' we have obtained thanks to the struggles we have waged in prison and the support given to us at the international level by many organizations, above all Amnesty International, all these 'privileges' are constantly threatened.'

The prevention of torture

Amnesty International believes that any government that wishes to stop torture has the means to do so. It is a question of political will. In adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration against Torture and other instruments of international law and human rights, governments have accepted the illegality of torture and agreed to abolish it.

Two instruments currently being elaborated by bodies would give additional protection.

The first is the draft Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which could give legally binding force to the standards included in the Declaration against Torture for states which ratified the Convention. It would establish 'universal jurisdiction', meaning that an alleged torturer could be brought to justice wherever he or she might be and whatever the nationality of the perpetrators or victims. It would provide that no one should be forcibly returned to a country where they risked being tortured.

The second is the draft Body of Principles for the Protection of all Persons Under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment which could establish additional safeguards. It could provide, for example, that relatives should be promptly informed of the whereabouts of prisoners; that prisoners should be promptly informed of their rights; and that there should be inquests into deaths in custody.

These two instruments should be adopted as soon as possible, in a form which provides the strongest possible measures of protection against torture.

Also currently under discussion, both regionally and in connection with the draft Convention and the draft Body of Principles, are proposals for national and international systems of independent visits of inspection to places of detention, which would help to provide additional protection against torture.

Without waiting for these new international instruments to be adopted, however, governments should review the safeguards against torture available in their own countries in the light of the provisions of the Declaration against Torture. Among other measures to be taken, they should make the text of the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials available to all law enforcement officials in their own languages.

Amnesty International has compiled a list of some of the principal measures which governments should take to prevent torture. The following 12-point Program for the Prevention of Torture has been compiled from existing international standards and from the recommendations which Amnesty International itself has made over the years to governments of countries where torture is inflicted. The organization believes that the program and the standards on which it is based should be publicized widely. The various points in the program can be used as a test of a government's willingness to prevent torture.

Governments must act to fulfil their responsibility for the prevention of torture but efforts can also be made by non-governmental groups in combating torture by disseminating practical information to victims and potential victims on prisoners' rights, procedures to be followed in lodging complaints of torture, or on what medical, financial or legal aid is available.

Blindfolding increases the feeling of being alone and defenceless. 'The worst thing is being held for days on end waiting for someone to tell you why you are there .... for days, weeks or months ... They keep people like that to add to the fear ... but when they suddenly whip off the folds to question you, you are almost blind, the light is painful and you can't concentrate on a single thought.' -- An Iranian political prisoner released from Evin Prison in 1982.

Bar associations and individual lawyers and judges can press for the adoption of legal safeguards against torture; members of parliament can send appeals through international channels and seek to prevent torture through investigative missions and special reports or hearings; journalists can expose torture by locating torture centres, identifying individual torturers and obtaining testimonies and photographic evidence.

Once reports of torture are published, the news media should follow up the story to see whether the government conducts an impartial and effective investigation of the allegations and brings those responsible to justice.

Among other individuals and groups which can help to prevent torture are religious leaders, who can denounce torture as incompatible with religious teachings and encourage action against it; trade unionists, who can mobilize support for their colleagues and others who have been tortured at home or abroad; women's organizations, which can take action concerning the special degradation faced by women at the hands of male torturers; and teachers' organizations, which can ensure that the issue of torture is raised within schools and universities in the context of human rights education.

Medical organizations can investigate allegations that members of their profession had participated in the infliction of torture and can impose appropriate disciplinary sanctions where involvement is proved.

Organizations of military, police and prison officials can press for training programs which instil a personal conviction that torture must not be inflicted.

Elsewhere, individuals should raise their voices to appeal for an end to the illegal and shameful use of torture, either working on their own or through the various non-governmental organizations engaged in programs of education and action, of which Amnesty International is one.

'The torturer has become ... an enemy of all mankind'

In a case of international significance, the father and sister of Joelito Filartiga, a 17-year-old Paraguayan youth who died under torture in 1976, filed a civil action for damages in a US court against their compatriot Americo Pena Irala, who was Inspector General of Police of Asuncion at the time of the alleged torture.

Although the initial ruling in the federal district court found that the US courts did not have jurisdiction to hear the case, in June 1980 the US Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that torture, when officially condoned, is a violation of international law under the Alien Tort Statute (Title 28 of the United States Code, Section 1350).

This was a landmark decision that opened a new domestic remedy in international human rights law, and an important precedent in a world where the enforcement of human rights law remains principally at the national level.

In the words of the US Court of Appeal's judgment, 'the torturer has become, like the pirate and slave trader before him ... an enemy of all mankind'.

AI Newsletter April 1984



Torture is a fundamental violation of human rights, condemned by the General Assembly of the United Nations as an offence to human dignity and prohibited under national and international law.

Yet torture persists, daily and across the globe. In Amnesty International's experience, legislative prohibition is not enough. Immediate steps are needed to confront torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment wherever they occur and to eradicate them totally.

Amnesty International calls on all governments to implement the following 12-Point Program for the Prevention of Torture. It invites concerned individuals and organizations to join in promoting the program. Amnesty International believes that the implementation of these measures is a positive indication of a government's commitment to abolish torture and to work for its abolition worldwide.

1. Official condemnation of torture: The highest authorities of every country should demonstrate their total opposition to torture. They should make clear to all law enforcement personnel that torture will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

2. Limits on incommunicado detention: Torture often takes place while the victims are held incommunicado -- unable to contact people outside who could help them or find out what is happening to them. Governments should adopt safeguards to ensure that incommunicado detention does not become an opportunity for torture. It is vital that all prisoners be brought before a judicial authority promptly after being taken into custody and that relatives, lawyers and doctors have prompt and regular access to them.

3. No secret detention: In some countries torture takes place in secret centres, often after the victims are made to 'disappear'. Governments should ensure that prisoners are held in publicly recognized places, and that accurate information about their whereabouts is made available to relatives and lawyers.

4. Safeguards during interrogation and custody: Governments should keep procedures for detention and interrogation under regular review. All prisoners should be promptly told of their rights, including the right to lodge complaints about their treatment. There should be regular independent visits of inspection to places of detention. An important safeguard against torture would be the separation of authorities responsible for detention from those in charge of interrogation.

5. Independent investigation of reports of torture: Governments should ensure that all complaints and reports of torture are impartially and effectively investigated. The methods and findings of such investigations should be made public. Complaints and witnesses should be protected from intimidation.

6. No use of statements extracted under torture: Governments should ensure that confessions or other evidence obtained through torture may never be invoked in legal proceedings.

7. Prohibition of torture in law: Governments should ensure that acts of torture are punishable offences under the criminal law. In accordance with international law, the prohibition of torture must not be suspended under any circumstances, including states of war or other public emergency.

8. Prosecution of alleged torturers: Those responsible for torture should be brought to justice. This principle should apply wherever they happen to be, wherever the crime was committed and whatever the nationality of the perpetrators or victims. There should be no 'safe haven' for torturers.

9. Training procedures: It should be made clear during the training of all officials involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of prisoners that torture is a criminal act. They should be instructed that they are obliged to refuse to obey any order to torture.

10. Compensation and rehabilitation: Victims of torture and their dependants should be entitled to obtain financial compensation. Victims should be provided with appropriate medical care and rehabilitation.

11. International response: Governments should use all available channels to intercede with governments accused of torture. Intergovernmental mechanisms should be established and used to investigate reports of torture urgently and to take effective action against it. Governments should ensure that military, security or police transfers or training do not facilitate the practice of torture.

12. Ratification of international instruments: All governments should ratify international instruments containing safeguards and remedies against torture, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol which provides for individual complaints.

The 12-Point Program was adopted by Amnesty International in October 1983 as part of the organization's Campaign for the Abolition of Torture.
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Mon May 09, 2016 6:08 am


The case of Wei Jingsheng from 'China: Violations of Human Rights'. Wei Jingsheng was one of the leaders of the 'democracy movement' that flourished in China in the late 1970s -- his trial marked the end of a period of 'liberalization'.


The trial of prisoner of conscience Wei Jingsheng: the trial that marked the end of the period of "liberalization" that had begun in 1978 and that had seen the emergence of the "democracy movement." Prisoners usually have their heads shaved if they are convicted of a crime. Wei Jingsheng's head has already been shaved -- before the outcome of his trial. He was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment on 16 October 1979 for "counter-revolutionary crimes." In the photograph a public security agent shows Wei a copy of the unofficial journal Exploration, in which he had published articles criticizing aspects of official policies.

Wei Jingsheng, editor of one of the unofficial magazines banned in 1979, was tried in Beijing on 16 October 1979 for 'counter-revolutionary crimes' and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment and an additional three years' deprivation of political rights.

Wei Jingsheng, a 29-year-old electrician and editor of Exploration, was arrested at the end of March 1979, two days after Beijing Municipality declared a ban on all wall-posters and publications 'opposed to socialism and to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party'.

An unofficial movement calling for 'democracy and human rights' had developed in late 1978 after a relaxation in official policy had encouraged people to express their opinions and grievances. Wall-posters calling for democratic reforms and respect for human rights soon appeared in the main cities of China. Small unofficial magazines were started which often printed the texts of the wall-posters.

Between late 1978 and his arrest, Wei Jingsheng had published wall-posters and articles criticizing the political system in China and advocating democracy. In December 1978 he published an essay entitled 'The Fifth Modernisation' in which he argued that China needed not only to modernize its economy but also a political modernization: democracy.

Wei Jingsheng was tried by Beijing Intermediate People's Court in October 1979 and convicted of passing on 'military secrets' to a foreigner and conducting 'counter-revolutionary propaganda and agitation' through his writings. The first charge refers to information about the Sino-Vietnamese conflict of March 1979. Wei Jingsheng was accused of having given it to a foreigner while the fighting was still going on. According to unofficial sources, this information had in fact been published in Reference News, an official paper circulated to a large number of cadres in China although not available to the general public.

The trial was not open to the public or to foreign observers although a selected audience -- 400 people according to official sources -- was admitted into the courtroom. Those allowed in were given admission tickets in advance. Friends of Wei Jingsheng and others waiting outside the courtroom were refused entry.

Short extracts of the trial were shown on Chinese television. However, the official press did not publish any substantial report of the proceedings - only a summary of the prosecution case against Wei Jingsheng. The account of the trial published by the New China News Agency on 16 October 1979 did not mention any of the arguments put forward by Wei Jingsheng in his defence. This account revealed that the trial lasted just over seven hours and that the verdict was announced as follows:

'In order to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat, safeguard the socialist system, ensure the smooth progress of socialist modernization and punish counter-revolutionary criminals, the chief judge said, the court had sentenced Wei Jingsheng to 15 years' imprisonment, depriving him of political rights for an additional three years in accordance with the provisions of article 2, item 1, under article 6, items 2 and 3, under article 10, article 16 and article 17 of the Act for the Punishment of Counter-revolution. '

(New China News Agency, 16 October 1979) Shortly after the trial, an unofficial transcript of the proceedings was circulated in Beijing. It was distributed at the 'democracy wall' by supporters of various unofficial magazines, some of whom were arrested after a large crowd had gathered to buy copies. The unofficial transcript was later published in Hong Kong and elsewhere. This was the first transcript of a Chinese dissenter's trial to become available outside China.

According to the unofficial transcript, three judges (one presiding judge and two assessors) conducted all the proceedings at the trial. This included the cross-examination of the defendant, Wei Jingsheng, and of the two prosecution witnesses. No defence witnesses were called in court. There was no defence lawyer, apparently because Wei Jingsheng had asked to conduct his own defence. The procurator read the charges against Wei Jingsheng at the beginning of the trial. The judge cross-examined the defendant and witnesses and the procurator then presented the indictment. Wei Jingsheng then read his defence statement and the procurator replied with a lengthy counter-argument. After an adjournment for a meeting of the 'judicial committee', the Chief Judge announced the verdict.

Several aspects of the trial proceedings are particularly interesting. For instance, the judge who cross-examined Wei Jingsheng on the first charge -- 'passing on military secrets to a foreigner' -- was mainly concerned with whether Wei Jingsheng knew he was doing something wrong when he gave information to a foreigner about China's conflict with Viet Nam. The question of whether or not this information was secret was not even mentioned in court, except by Wei Jingsheng. He said in his own defence that he never thought such information was secret as it was already circulating widely among Chinese citizens. The second charge -- 'conducting counter-revolutionary agitation and propaganda' -- was based only on articles written by Wei Jingsheng criticizing China's leadership and social system. Extracts of this and other articles were cited in court as incriminating evidence.

The two witnesses brought to court by the prosecution had formerly been involved with Exploration, the unofficial magazine edited by Wei Jingsheng. They confirmed that Wei was the author of articles cited by the prosecution and gave information on his past activities and contacts with foreigners. One of the two witnesses, Yang Guang, mentioned in his testimony that on 4 February 1979 he had borrowed a report by Amnesty International from a foreign journalist. It concerned political prisoners in China and extracts were later printed in issues two and three of Exploration.

After the trial, Wei Jingsheng appealed against the verdict and the case was heard by the Beijing High People's Court on 6 November 1979. According to an official account, Wei Jingsheng had asked a member of the Beijing Lawyers Association to act as his defence lawyer in this new hearing. The High Court confirmed the verdict and sentence against him. Chinese law allows only one appeal against a verdict and the judgment of the High Court was final.

During the weeks after the trial the official Chinese press published many articles about Wei Jingsheng. They appeared to be running a campaign aimed at justifying the sentence against him and denigrating his character, as well as acting as a warning to other young activists.

During this press campaign, several unofficial publications in Beijing published articles and wall-posters in defence of Wei Jingsheng. They pointed out that even if Wei could be considered to have made a mistake by revealing information on the military situation, this could not be treated as 'the crime of offering secret military intelligence to a foreigner'. They also said that Wei had taken no action that constituted an 'attempt to overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat' and that, if no violence had been incited, it could not be said that a criminal act had occurred.

The large number of articles published in the official press justifying the verdict against Wei Jingsheng gives an indication of the significance of his case. As well as a warning to other activists, his trial marked the end of the period of liberalization which had started in 1978. During this period criticism of official policies, and unofficial publications, had been tolerated to a certain extent. According to unofficial Chinese sources, his trial was also meant to test reactions to the new laws and procedures due to come into force in January 1980.

Following his trial, Wei Jingsheng was reported to have been held for several years in solitary confinement in the detention centre adjacent to Beijing Prison No. 1. According to a former prisoner who was held in the Banbuqiao detention centre adjacent to the prison during 1980 and 1981, Wei Jingsheng was then detained in isolation in cell No. 11 of section 2 -- a block reserved for 'major criminals'. He reported that Wei Jingsheng went on hunger-strike once during that period, and that in April 1981 he was suddenly moved from his cell because he was constantly 'making trouble' and it was feared that his rebellious spirit would influence the other prisoners.

In mid-1983 Wei Jingsheng was reported to be still confined in isolation in his cell, being allowed out for exercise only once a month and not allowed to meet other prisoners or to receive visits from his family. Amnesty International launched several appeals for his release and said it feared his health might be affected by the length of time he had spent in solitary confinement. The authorities, however, did not respond to these appeals. In May 1984 it was reported that Wei Jingsheng had twice been transferred to a hospital as his mental health had suffered, and he was reported to need treatment for schizophrenia.

Published 1984
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Tue May 10, 2016 3:14 am


Most of the estimated 40,000 people killed in political violence in El Salvador between 1978 and 1983 were murdered by government forces which openly dumped mutilated corpses in an apparent effort to terrorize the population, concluded the report of a 1983 Amnesty International mission of inquiry. The mission studied official post-mortem investigative procedures in extrajudicial executions -- political killings by military and security forces operating both in uniform and in plain clothes in the guise of so-called 'death squads'. The delegates concluded that Salvadorian medical, police and legal institutions were not fulfilling their forensic duties and that 'as a result, the existing system of certifying deaths seems ... to facilitate the murder of individuals on a large scale.' The following case study is from the report 'Extrajudicial Executions in El Salvador, Report of an Amnesty International Mission to examine post-mortem and investigative procedures in political killings, 1-6 July 1983'.

US journalist John Sullivan 'disappeared' from his hotel room in San Salvador in December 1980, shortly after arrival in the country. His whereabouts were unknown until the trunk of his decapitated corpse was identified by a forensic pathologist in the United States in February 1983. The sequence of events in the Sullivan family's quest for information about the fate of their 'disappeared' son illustrates how the absence of a central, public record on violent deaths can hinder efforts to locate the missing and identify the dead. The case also indicates ways in which forensic evidence can be manipulated or concealed by the Salvadorian authorities, when related to extrajudicial executions by government forces.

John Sullivan was last seen at the Hotel Sheraton in San Salvador on 28 December 1980. His 'disappearance' followed in close succession upon the arrest and extrajudicial execution in November of six prominent Salvadorian opposition leaders, and the murder in December of three US nuns and a religious layworker. Some days after Sullivan's 'disappearance', two US labour advisors and the President of the Salvadorian Agrarian Reform Institute were killed in the coffee shop of his hotel by members of government security forces.

Items published in the Salvadorian press around the time of these events indicated disapproval in high-level government circles of foreign church and assistance agency personnel, particularly those associated with efforts to introduce agrarian reform or to seek conciliation with the armed opposition rather than military victory. Articles in the government-controlled press also attacked foreign journalists for allegedly advocating the guerrilla cause abroad.

US journalists who have studied the Sullivan case closely on behalf of his family have suggested that he may have been abducted by mistake for a Belgian priest associated with the 'popular' wing of the Roman Catholic church whom he superficially resembled. The priest had co-officiated at the funeral of the six prominent opposition leaders referred to above, who were detained and murdered the month before John Sullivan's 'disappearance'. The priest had later received death threats and went into hiding three days before Sullivan 'disappeared'. Alternatively, it has been suggested that Sullivan's attempts to contact Salvadorian guerrilla groups in order to interview them may have prompted his abduction.

It was later learned that the residents of Nuevo Cuscat1<in, a small town south of the capital, heard explosions on the night of Sullivan's 'disappearance', and that next morning they found the mutilated corpse of what appeared to be a foreign caucasian male. The body was buried under the direction of security personnel in the presence of local civilian officials. Local people who assisted were paid in US coins from the pockets of the deceased. The Justice of the Peace and a local clerk prepared a burial report which stated that the corpse's hands had been amputated and the body dismembered, apparently by dynamite. Had the finding of the body been reported immediately to a centralised agency in El Salvador and the burial report inspected, it would have provided early indication, such as the size of the man's shoes, and the US labels in the clothing, that the body might have been that of John Sullivan. A hand found nearby that appeared to be from the same body could have been analysed for finger-prints at this stage and a positive identification probably made almost immediately. But evidently the hands were severed and the body mutilated in order to prevent identification. The failure of local security personnel and civil officials to take steps to either identify the body, or to make information on the finding of the body public, may also have been deliberate. It seems the local Justice of the Peace either did not inform civilian or military superiors that the body of an apparent foreigner had been buried in the area, or else tried to do so but the matter was not pursued.

The burial report itself was not uncovered by United States Embassy officials until after Sullivan's body had been identified in the United States more than two years later. The report had not been sent to any public records office in the nation's capital but was in a local government office in Santa Tecla, where it had not even been filed with other official documents but had simply been placed in a corner among a pile of miscellaneous papers.

On 30 December, two days after his 'disappearance', the maid at Sullivan's hotel in San Salvador realised that he was not using his room and notified the hotel manager of this each morning for the next five days. However, it was not until the morning of 4 January 1981, when the two American labour advisors were killed together with the President of the Salvadorian Agrarian Reform Institute in the coffee shop of Sullivan's hotel, that the hotel manager took action and notified a US military advisor, also resident in the hotel, of Sullivan's 'disappearance'.

Shortly after the US military advisor learned that Sullivan was missing, the Department of State was notified and the journalist's family learned the news. It was at this point, Salvadorian officials later maintained, that they issued a directive to all frontier posts and security services to conduct an 'urgent and exhaustive' search for John Sullivan. Whether or not the bulletin was ever actually issued, certainly no relevant information was released by the authorities in the ensuing months.

U.S. journalist John Sullivan, who was killed in El Salvador in late 1980 after he "disappeared."

Sullivan's family first received specific information regarding his possible death when a major US newspaper received a letter from Nuevo Cuscatlan in October 1981. The writer claimed to be a Treasury Police agent with direct knowledge of Sullivan's arrest, torture and manner of death. The letter advised the family that the corpse of a caucasian male foreigner which might be John Sullivan had been found at a spot near Nuevo Cuscatlan, which was often used by government security forces for dumping the victims of extrajudicial executions. The letter stated that the local authorities knew that a caucasian male had been buried there. It appeared to have been written in response to a series of advertisements which the Sullivan family had placed in Salvadorian newspapers asking for information as to the journalist's whereabouts.

A second letter delivered to the US Embassy in Honduras some months later claimed to be from the same writer and gave additional information regarding the alleged burial site. The writer suggested a way to confirm the letter's contents. The Embassy did not inform the Sullivan family of this second letter for some time. Later, Embassy officials claimed that this was because the letter appeared to be from an entirely different person than the first one, and that its writer appeared to be primarily interested in obtaining a financial reward.

The Sullivans also learned that neither the Salvadorian authorities or US Embassy staff had taken finger-prints from either of the letters, followed up on the information contained in them, or questioned a man who presented himself at the US Embassy in Honduras claiming he could act as intermediary between the Embassy or the family and the letter-writer. US officials said they lacked the authority to take such steps.

In the following months, the Sullivans received other letters concerning the case. Their writers repeatedly stated that the Treasury Police had been responsible for the 'disappearance' and death of a man believed to be John Sullivan. The family was unable to investigate these reports without assistance from the Salvadorian authorities.

In June 1982, yet another letter arrived, referring to unidentified bodies buried at Nuevo Cuscatlan, including one which might be John Sullivan. A map was enclosed showing the alleged burial site. The US Embassy in San Salvador sent an investigation team to the area. Local officials named in the letter as having been present at the burial of the as yet unidentified corpse first denied any knowledge of the matter, but then admitted that they were often asked to arrange and witness the burial of unidentified corpses in the area. It was only at this point that much of the information above regarding the discovery and burial of a white caucasian male on 29 December 1980 was obtained.

On 11 July 1982, after continued pressure by the Sullivan family and members of the US Congress who had become involved in the case, a body was exhumed at the point indicated on the map and the Salvadorian Government appointed a forensic pathologist to examine the corpse. He concluded that the remains were those of a man in his 40s (Sullivan was in his 20s) and of shorter stature than Sullivan.

Five victims of Salvadorian "death squads."

By the time this examination took place, the mutilation the corpse had sustained, including the effects of the explosion which may have been the cause of death, as well as natural decomposition of the remains, made it impossible to use certain techniques, such as examination of the teeth or cranium in order to identify definitely the remains. US consular officials stated that the Salvadorian laboratory conditions under which the examination had been carried out would be considered sub-standard and unscientific in the United States. Sources in El Salvador suggested to Sullivan's family that the Salvadorian pathologist who had examined the remains at government request would have been in danger had he found the corpse to be that of Sullivan.

Given all of these reasons for doubt, the Sullivan family sent X-rays of the exhumed corpse to eight forensic specialists in the United States. All concluded that the X-rays were of a male in his mid to late 20s. A radiologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, stated that X-rays from Sullivan's records showed more similarity with the body in El Salvador than the Salvadorian report allowed. The Sullivans then began pressing to have the remains sent to the United States for further tests. The Salvadorian authorities refused to permit this, maintaining that according to Salvadorian law an unidentified body could not leave the country until it had been proved it was that of a foreigner - one of the issues in dispute.

A visit to El Salvador by a congressman from Sullivan's home state eventually provided the political impetus to move the Salvadorian authorities to release the body. The congressman managed to reach an ad hoc understanding with the President of the Salvadorian Supreme Court that the body could leave the country if the local magistrate in Cuscatlan signed the necessary release paper. Eventually, an official from another town signed the paper. Once the remains had been returned to the United States, a leading US professor of forensic pathology examined them, compared them with X-ray pictures in John Sullivan's medical records, and concluded in February 1983 that the corpse was that of John Sullivan, 'beyond all reasonable doubt'.

The US pathologist's post-mortem examination indicated that the body had been blown up, possibly by a stick of dynamite in the mouth. Because of the extensive damage which the corpse had sustained (the upper part of the body was destroyed, ribs were shattered, shoulder blades and the sternum missing) he was unable to determine whether the explosion had occurred before or after death.

Although John Sullivan's body was eventually found, identified and returned to his family for burial, many questions remain unanswered about deficiencies in the investigation of his death, in particular why the Salvadorian authorities have not even now questioned local officials who authorised and witnessed Sullivan's anonymous burial, or investigated allegations of the involvement of the Treasury Police and other named individuals in the killing.

Published May 1984
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Tue May 10, 2016 3:15 am


The challenge of developing Amnesty International as a truly worldwide movement, particularly in the developing countries, was recognized by Martin Ennals in his piece 'Amnesty International in the Eighties'. In November 1984 the movement held its first developmental conference in Africa.

Once a month a group of villagers from the coastal district of Lungi, near Freetown in Sierra Leone, meets to discuss human rights and to work on behalf of victims of abuses of these rights in different parts of the world.

The villagers include peasant farmers, workers at a small airport in Lungi, a couple of school teachers and several unemployed people. In older to meet they have to walk from their villages -- some of them for miles -- converging on the village of Kambia, which they must reach well before dusk because their meeting place that day may lack electricity.

These people are members of Amnesty International who have formed its first all-village group in Africa. This year, as part of worldwide campaigns by the movement, they have sent out appeals to government authorities urging the release of prisoners of conscience in Romania, Israel, Libya, Thailand, Mauritania and Viet Nam.

Nearly 5,000 miles from Kambia, on the other side of the continent, another Amnesty International group of teachers and post office workers on the tiny Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, Mauritius, also meets monthly and sends off letters to government leaders worldwide, appealing for the release of prisoners of conscience, for fair trials for all political prisoners and for an end to torture and the death penalty.

Similar appeals are going out regularly from other Amnesty International groups in Africa, from members and sympathizers throughout the continent. They include people from all walks of life -- among them farmers, trade unionists, students, judges, lawyers, community workers, doctors, nurses, labourers, technicians. All are participating in Amnesty International's global campaign against human rights violations -- and together they have served to make Amnesty International a reality in Africa.

It is in this context that the movement is launching a developmental conference in Arusha, Tanzania -- the Amnesty International Africa Regional Conference, 15 to 18 November -- which will be attended by participants from 26 countries, 17 of them African: Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Among the African participants will be representatives of nine non-governmental bodies working in the field of human rights; they include legal, church and student organizations.

Two of the principal speakers are former prisoners of conscience, the Rev. Simon Farisani, of South Africa, and Naby Moussa Toure, Guinea.

The conference will be addressed by Tanzania's Prime Minister Salim A. Salim.

The Arusha conference is a follow-up to Amnesty International's establishment in 1979 of an organized membership development program for Africa. In the five years since then it has been able to create and strengthen national sections, each consisting of several groups, in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Senegal, and also to set up groups in Mauritius, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Tunisia.

In addition, the movement's publications -- including its monthly newsletter and annual report -- are now mailed to a wide range of subscribers and supporters all over the continent.

However, Amnesty International's Secretary General, Thomas Hammarberg, stresses that the movement's work in Africa to date is but a beginning.

'The need now is to expand the Amnesty International movement there; more members, more helpers, more people taking part in the battle against human rights abuses world-wide,' he says.

Analysis of Amnesty International's working methods and their application to Africa will form an important part of the Arusha conference. However, Secretary General Hammarberg is insistent that the organization will not meet in Arusha 'simply to teach what we have learned -- but also to learn from others.

'We will be calling in particular on the advice of representatives of African non-governmental organizations, such as the Arab Lawyers Union, the All-Africa Conference of Churches and the Association des juristes afriCains.'

He stresses that Amnesty International is not holding a conference in Africa to tell people what the problems are in Africa -- but rather that it will 'draw attention again to the fact that human rights are under threat in every region of the world under governments of all persuasions - and the movement will try to enlist Africa's help to meet that continuing threat.'

Former prisoner of conscience the Reverend Simon Farisani, a principal speaker at the Amnesty International Africa Regional Conference, Tanzania, 1984.




The Amnesty International Jhargram group, West Bengal, India, organised a poster exhibition for its launch in 1983.

AI Newsletter November 1984
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

Postby admin » Tue May 10, 2016 3:17 am


As part of the continuing Campaign for the Abolition of Torture, the Amnesty International Newsletter regularly includes a supplement called the File on Torture. In December 1984 the countries highlighted were Afghanistan and the Philippines.


Amnesty International has received persistent reports of widespread and systematic torture of political suspects in Afghanistan under the government of President Babrak Karmal, who came to power in December 1979. Testimonies and other information received by the organization indicate that torture is inflicted in detention centres throughout the country which are administered by the State Information Services, Khedamat-e Alla't Dawlati, known as the KHAD.

Despite the release in early 1980 of many political prisoners held by former governments, and promises to improve the human rights situation in the country, opposition to the present government has been systematically suppressed and its opponents tortured.

Numerous reports have indicated that the treatment meted out to suspects by KHAD agents has followed a pattern: they are arrested and taken to one of many KHAD detention centres -- Amnesty International knows of eight in Kabul alone -- where they are first subjected to various forms of deprivation and then soon afterwards intensively tortured.

Suspects are reportedly deprived of all contact with family, lawyers or doctors, or even other prisoners, by being held incommunicado and in solitary confinement. During this period they may be continuously interrogated, threatened and deprived of sleep or rest; cases have also been reported of detainees having been deprived of food.

Former detainees have told Amnesty International that suspects who fail to cooperate with the KHAD are then tortured -- the methods reported have included threats of execution, electric shocks, beatings, burning with cigarette ends and dousing with water.

Detainees are also known to have been kept in shackles or bound hand and foot for prolonged periods.

In some cases prisoners are reported to have been forced to watch their relatives being tortured.

Prisoners are reported to have suffered permanent injury as a result of torture and several are said to have died while they were being tortured.

Although Amnesty International has received reports of torture under all three governments since the 'Sawr' revolution of April 1978, when the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan assumed power, it was only after the formation of the KHAD in late 1979 that the practice was reported to have become systematic.


The duties of the KHAD are widespread and include responsibility for supervising party members, the armed forces and ideological training for new party cadres. It is also charged with arresting and interrogating political suspects.

The KHAD is reported to have Soviet advisers attached to its main offices and there have been allegations of Soviet involvement in torture -- several former prisoners have told Amnesty International of the presence of Soviet advisers in detention centres.

Each provincial capital has a KHAD office and detention centre.

• In Kabul, the prisoners are reported to have been tortured in the following eight detention centres: (I) the KHAD headquarters in the Sheshdarak district; (2) the Internal Affairs Ministry building; (3) the Central Interrogation Office, known as the Sedarat; (4) the office of the military branch of the KHAD, known as KHAD-e Nezarni; (5) KHAD 'Office Number Five', known as KHAD-e Pan}; two private houses near the Sedarat building; (6) the Ahmad Shah Khan house; (7) the Wazir Akbar Khan house; and (8) the KHAD office in the Howzai Barikat district.

According to information received by Amnesty International, an internal KHAD report in late 1981 stated that four prisoners out of every 100 detained at the Sheshdarak detention centre in the preceding 12 months had died.

• In the city of Kandahar, there are reported to be five KHAD detention centres: its headquarters in the former offices of the Morrison-Knudsen Construction Company in Manzal Bagh; the Vilayat, formerly the office of the central government in Kandahar; the detention centre of the KHAD-e Nezami (military KHAD) in the army base at Kandahar; and two private houses in the Shahr-e au district near the Musa Khan mosque.

• In the city of Jalalabad, the main KHAD detention centre is situated behind the Nangarhar University Hospital.

• Other detention centres where torture has been reported are in the towns of Faizabad (Badakhshan province) and Andkhoy (Faryab province).

In September 1982 the Afghan Government promulgated a 'Law on the Implementation of Sentences in the Prisons', Article 3 of which reinforces the prohibition of torture already contained in the constitution. At the same time the government stated that a number of police officers were being tried on charges of having tortured prisoners. No independent confirmation of this, however, was received.

Afghanistan acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on 24 January 1983.

In October 1983 Amnesty International \\Tote to President Karmal expressing grave concern at reports of ill-treatment and torture of detainees in the custody of the KHAD. The movement urged the government to establish an immediate inquiry into interrogation procedures used by the KHAD and that, if torture reports were found to be true, the responsible officials be charged and tried in conformity with Afghanistan's Penal Code. Amnesty International has received no reply or comment on these recommendations.

Arbitrary arrest of people alleged to be opposed to President Babrak Karmal's government appears to be widespread and it is rare for prisoners to be formally charged. To Amnesty International's knowledge, no laws relating to arrest and detention have been made public.

These arrests are carried out by the KHAD and detainees are then taken to one of the detention centres mentioned above. They are often held there incommunicado for many months and, in some cases, reportedly for years. Amnesty International was told of a man who was arrested by the KHAD in June 1981 and held in the Sheshdarak detention centre incommunicado until 1983.

No access to family or lawyers is allowed in these centres and it is extremely unusual for a prisoner to be allowed to see a doctor. After interrogation at these centres, some detainees may be released, but most are transferred to Pul-e Charkhi Prison in Kabul, where they are held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Although many of those tortured appear to have been involved in armed resistance to the government, other victims include civil servants, teachers and students who have been detained merely on suspicion of opposition to the authorities. Many of those arrested claim not to have been involved in politics at all but to have been detained as a deterrent to others or on the basis of false information from spies.


The following are extracts from testimonies of former prisoners interviewed by Amnesty International, or whose testimonies were sent to the organization, after they had left the country. Their names are withheld at their request because all have relatives remaining in the country.

A is a former senior civil servant in the Public Works Department in Kabul who was arrested in July 1982 for alleged involvement with a group organizing armed resistance to the government. His wife and three children were detained at the same time and held incommunicado in the Sedarat detention centre; they were not ill-treated. A was held at the Sedarat for three and a half months before being transferred to Pul-e Charkhi.

'For the first 12 days of my detention I was held in solitary confinement. Thereafter I shared a cell with nine others. I was taken for questioning on many occasions and each time 1was beaten on the head and body and kicked in the lumbar region and in the legs. Once I was questioned by teams of interrogators and allowed no sleep for 48 hours. On three occasions I was subjected to electric shock treatment which was administered by electrodes being attached to my tongue and toes. I fainted each time and was doused with water; then the treatment began again.'

He was released uncharged from Pul-e Charkhi Prison in June 1983.

B, another senior civil servant at the time of his arrest in August 1982, was held by the KHAD for six weeks in a former private house near the Sedarat detention centre. In a message to his family after his release he wrote:

'Since I have been out of hospital my health has not been good ... [During detention] My nails were pulled out after nearly four-inch needles had been stuck into my finger tips. Sometimes at night 10 or 11 people assaulted me by jumping on me. I was given electric shocks and suffered [ill-treatment] for five and a half months continuously ... '

C was a senior high school student at the time of his arrest in the city of Jalalabad in January 1983. Many members of his family are reported to be involved in the armed resistance to the government and this may have been the reason for his arrest.

'I was held in the KHAD detention centre in Jalalabad for over a month. I was questioned almost every evening, the interrogation beginning punctually at 10.00pm. I was beaten frequently with sticks and on six occasions electric shocks were administered to my fingers and toes. One of my cellmates had wires connected to his genitals.

'Each interrogation session lasted about four hours. Shouts of pain could be heard all through the night. Prisoners were brought back from the interrogation rooms with marks of beatings visible all over their bodies.

'One night a captured guerrilla was brought to the prison. He was wounded in the arm. During the interrogation the officials would extinguish their cigarettes on his body. One of them put a lighted cigarette into the wound. The man was shrieking.'

D, a 60-year-old businessman at the time of his arrest in April 1981, stated that he was detained on 25 April after two vehicles carrying KHAD personnel had drawn up outside his house.

'I was bundled into the first vehicle while men from the second came out and searched my house. I was never to set foot in my home again. I was taken to a large private house near the Sedarat ... known as the Ahmad Shah Khan house ...

'At 2 am the following day I was taken out ... to be interrogated by five Afghans all in civilian clothes. I was asked why my son-in-law had defected to the Americans and told that all my children had now defected to the imperialist west. I was warned that if I did not make a full confession I would be killed.

'When I denied all knowledge of my son-in-law defecting, which was completely true, they started beating me. I am an old man and my health had been poor for some time. They beat me until I fell to the floor and lost consciousness. When this happened they would throw water over me and try to bring me round. This process lasted for two hours. By the end I was not able to stand.

'For the next 18 days I was detained in the same room. Each alternate night, exactly at 2 am, I was taken out ... for interrogation. The pattern was always the same: questions, then beatings and then more questions ...

'I was never subjected to electric shock treatment. One evening, however, when I was brought to the interrogation room, on a table in a corner were several torture instruments, indeed they were referred to as such. They included a baton with wires attached and a cap to be placed over the head, and used for the administering of electric shocks.

'As the days went by my eyes became swollen and blurred. My body was bruised all over. My clothes were filthy with blood and I was allowed no change of clothing. My wife had no idea where I was or why I was being imprisoned.'


Amnesty International has regularly received reports of systematic torture in the Philippines since the imposition of martial law there in September 1972. Despite the lifting of martial law in January 1981, members of the armed forces have retained extensive powers of arrest and detention in cases involving 'subversives' and other 'public order violators' .

Although an extensive legal framework exists to provide safeguards in cases of such arrests, suspects have commonly been abducted without warrant and detained incommunicado and in violation of other procedural safeguards.

In many cases, detainees have been taken to undisclosed and unauthorized interrogation centres, known as 'safehouses', where interrogation by members of the armed forces intelligence agencies has been accompanied by torture. Detainees have been held in 'safehouses' for periods ranging from a few days to several months. Amnesty International knows of instances where detainees held in such 'safehouses' have not been seen alive again and are presumed or, in some cases, known to have died as a result of ill-treatment.

Allegations range from 'man-handling' by police and armed forces personnel in rural areas and the regular use of intimidation during interrogation, to the infliction of electric shocks, cigarette burns, near suffocation by water or plastic bags, sexual abuse and rape, being forced to stand or squat for long periods, and threats of execution.

Most allegations of torture refer to intelligence personnel from the Philippines Constabulary and other branches of the armed forces.

Pul-e-Charki prison in Afghanistan, where hundreds of political prisoners are held.

The Philippines Government has been active in condemning torture in international fora, being a sponsor of the Declaration Against Torture adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 and making a Unilateral Declaration in October 1979 stating its intention to comply with the Declaration and implement its measures in national legislation and other effective measures. Nevertheless detainees have had great difficulty in getting allegations of ill-treatment or torture impartially investigated.

An illustration of the difficulties faced is provided by the case of 25 people who were detained after a series of arrests in the Manila area between 26 February and 1 March 1982. They included eight active trade unionists and others alleged to have been members of the banned Communist Party of the Philippines. All 25 were held in detention centres, including 'safehouses', and were interrogated by intelligence personnel from different branches of the armed forces. During the interrogations, most of the detainees were kept incommunicado. Most of the men later testified that they had been intimidated, threatened, deprived of sleep and given beatings, which included being punched in the stomach, struck on the ears, and hit on the head with rifle butts.

Four detainees, Marco Palo, Danilo de la Fuente, Edwin Lopez and Noel Etabag, said they had been tortured with electric shocks. Marco Palo subsequently received hospital treatment for over three weeks.

On 3 March writs of habeas corpus and detailed complaints of torture and ill-treatment were submitted by 17 of these detainees to the Supreme Court, which then ordered medical examinations of the detainees.

The medical reports on several mention tenderness of the head, neck, chest and stomach areas, and various scars. The report on Noel Etabag noted pairs of scars caused by punctures on his arms which, he claimed, were caused by electrodes used in his torture; that on Marco Palo noted multiple skin lesions with pairs of scars caused by punctures on his arms and legs.

On 17 April 1982 the 17 detained men individually filed complaints of ill-treatment with the Office of the Inspector General of the Armed Forces. To Amnesty International's knowledge, no public investigation into these complaints has been made nor have the findings of any government inquiry been made public.

On 29 July 1982 complaints of torture were submitted on behalf of 23 of the 25 arrested to the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. The detainees have also filed a civil suit for 6.5 million pesos (almost $US 500,000) damages against various named military officers responsible for their arrest and detention. The submissions to the Supreme Court were dismissed in November 1983. The detainees have since filed a motion for a reconsideration of their petitions.

Torture alleged after arrest of 'subversives'

Amnesty International has received persistent reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees who have been arrested after accusations of subversive activities, particularly detainees suspected of association with the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

In one case this year, three farmers from East Kahayagan in Aurora, Zamboanga del Sur, were reportedly tortured by members of the Civilian Home Defence Force and members of a military airborne division while undergoing interrogation about alleged NPA activities after their arrest on 20 March 1984. They are reported to have made sworn statements that they had been tortured while at Camp Dos in Aurora. According to the reports:

• Pio Bercede said he was repeatedly beaten with a radio antenna, hit several times in the face and abdomen, hung by the neck from the ceiling and had several lighted matches put in his mouth.

• Felipe Solon said he was made to eat coal and soil, and Pablo Ponce alleged that he was given electric shocks.

After their transfer later that day to the airborne division's headquarters in Molave, they were reportedly further ill-treated by being kicked, forced to eat rice mixed with hot pepper, and made to squat for long periods. They were released on 22 March, reportedly after having been made to sign statements that they had been humanely treated, and having agreed to kill other suspected members of the NPA.

According to church sources, they have since been subjected to intimidation by military personnel who have allegedly ordered them to withdraw their complaints.

Many of the people who have made allegations of torture to Amnesty International have been active in church-sponsored human rights work or trade unions.

• Rolieto Trinidad, who works for the Justice and Peace Ecumenical Group and is a former director of the Social Action Centre in Tagum, Davao del Norte, was arrested with six others on 16 January 1982 apparently while they were preparing for a seminar on human rights the following day.

Rolieto Trinidad later testified to the following: they were taken to the Philippines Constabulary headquarters in Tagum, where he was beaten while naked and blindfolded, hot pepper was applied to his eyes, mouth and genitals, and his head was covered with a wet cloth which almost suffocated him. On 18 January he was transferred to the intelligence unit (R-2) attached to the Military Command, Region XI, in Davao City, where, amongst other tortures his fingernails were burned with cigarettes and he was repeatedly nearly suffocated by having a polythene bag put over his head. Eventually he made a statement which, after further torture on 21 January, he signed.

Rolieto Trinidad, who was adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, was later charged with subversion and detained for over two years until his acquittal on 20 February 1984. In dismissing the charges, his trial judge ruled that his confession had been extracted under torture and was therefore inadmissible as evidence.

• Five trade unionists (Cesar Bristol, Romeo Castilla, Danilo Garcia, Herminia Ibarra and Fernando Reyes), all organizers with the independent trade union confederation Kilusang Uno Mayo (KMU), First of May Movement, or its affiliates, were arrested early on 22 July 1984 while taking part in a meeting the day before a planned mass rally in Manila. The detainees were reportedly held incommunicado and interrogated in the Military Intelligence and Security Group (MIS G) station in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig, Metro Manila.

A protester makes the peace sign while being hosed down with water during a rally in Manila, the Philippines, in December 1984. The rally was broken up by the police.

They later alleged that they were tortured by beatings, cigarette burns and electric shocks. At a court hearing for the preliminary investigation of their case before the City Fiscal (prosecutor) of Pasig, their defence lawyers are reported to have displayed to the court evidence of injuries suffered during their detention. The lawyers later wrote to the commander of Camp Bagong Diwa asking for a medical examination of the detainees. No reply had apparently been received by September 1984.

• Ruben Alegre was arrested on 26 August 1984 by a military intelligence official at a house in Las Pinas, a suburb of Manila. A subsequent police statement alleged that he had been responsible for the killing in May 1984 of Brigadier General Tomas Karingal, commander of the Quezon City police, and that he was commander of an NPA liquidation squad. The NPA are reported to have claimed responsibility for the killing. Ruben Alegre himself claimed that he was solely a trader in pork and fish.

After arrest he was taken to the Military Intelligence Security Group (MISG) station at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig, Metro Manila, where he was reportedly held incommunicado. According to press reports, he told a Supreme Court habeas corpus hearing on 6 September that he had been tortured for three days: given electric shocks to the genitals, tied up and struck on the chest and thighs. At this hearing lawyers acting for him were said to have submitted a medical report concluding that he had been kicked in the head, hit on the thighs with a hammer, struck on the nape of his head with an iron bar, and given electric shocks on his genitals.

Call for preventive measures

Amnesty International has consistently urged the Philippines Government to take steps to prevent torture by ensuring strict implementation of existing safeguards and taking firm disciplinary action against people found responsible for such practices. The Report oj an Amnesty International Mission to the Republic oj the Philippines, 11 -28 November 1981, published in September 1982, included reports the mission had received of torture and ill-treatment and recommended various measures for the prevention of torture in the Philippines, such as the abolition of 'safehouses', the abolition of waivers of detention whereby detainees waive their right to be presented to a judicial authority, and stricter implementation of existing safeguards. Amnesty International also called for independent investigations into the allegations of torture published in its report.

In reply, the Philippines Government dismissed Amnesty International's recommendations, asserting that existing procedures were adequate and rejecting evidence that they had been systematically violated.

AI Newsletter December 1984
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Re: Voices for Freedom: An Amnesty International Anthology

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Albania has been largely isolated from the rest of the world since it was established as a communist state at the end of the Second World War. Despite the difficulties of extracting and checking information about political imprisonment, in 1984 Amnesty International considered that the information it had gained concerning human rights violations in Albania merited publication. This extract, describing conditions in a labour camp, is from the report 'Albania: Political Imprisonment and the Law'.

Spac labour camp for political prisoners is in Mirdite district, a major copper-producing region, and prisoners in the camp are employed in the mining of pyrites, from which copper is extracted.

The mining area lies within the camp itself, which is surrounded by several rows of barbed-wire fencing 3m high, with watchtowers manned by armed guards at regular intervals. The camp's outer perimeter is patrolled by military guards with dogs. At night spotlights are trained on the fences.

The following information about conditions in Spac is based on the testimony of former prisoners.

Prisoners are housed in unheated concrete barracks with some 300-400 prisoners to each unit, divided among 12-15 rooms. They sleep on straw mattresses on three-tier wooden platforms along each side of the room and are provided with two to three blankets, and (since 1975) with sheets, which are changed once a month. There is a separate washroom with showers, but these are apparently frequently out of order and prisoners usually wash at cold taps in the washroom or in the mine galleries, where water is available. In an annexe to the washroom, prisoners can sometimes heat water for cooking or to wash themselves and their clothes. Work uniforms of heavy cotton are issued once a year, helmets every two years and boots every six months.

The daily food ration for prisoners who work is said to be as follows: bread (often made with maize flour) - 800-900g; potatoes - 245g; sugar - 10-25g; jam - 150g; oil - 15g; meat - 30-45g; beans - 150g; condensed milk - 15g. Prisoners who do not work receive much less. Without exception former prisoners have stated that the food was very poor and the diet seriously deficient in protein, fresh vegetables and fruit. Prisoners commonly suffer a severe loss of weight.

The main meal is usually bread and soup with beans and rice or macaroni. Prisoners supplement these rations with food sent by their families (they may receive up to 10kg a month, but it seems that few receive regular parcels) and with purchases of oil, macaroni, rice and biscuits at the prison canteen (which also sells cigarettes).

The prison has a small infirmary with some 10 beds; both the doctor and dentist are themselves prisoners and can only provide the most basic treatment (dental care is said to be limited to extractions). Prisoners have complained that unless they are running high fevers they are forced to work. Gravely ill prisoners are sent to Tirane prison hospital. Some former prisoners have referred to the problem of mental disturbance and illness among inmates. One prisoner who was detained in Spac in the late 1960s alleged that he had seen mentally ill prisoners throw themselves on the barbed-wire fence surrounding the camp, where they had been shot by guards.


Prisoners work eight hours a day in the mines, six days a week. It is apparently not uncommon, however, for them to be required to work on the seventh day as well. The work consists primarily of opening up and securing galleries, drilling rock to lay charges (these are set off by civilian non-prisoners) and loading the broken rock onto wagons. Work norms are reported to be high and prisoners who fail to achieve them may be required to work extra hours, or be punished by deprivation of visits or solitary confinement. Those who achieve work norms are reportedly paid between two and a half and three leks a day, and most prisoners average about 60 leks a month (the average civilian wage for comparable work is about 480 leks a month). Industrial protection is said to be very poor. A prisoner who was released from Spac in November 1982 stated that towards the end of his time there cotton masks were not replaced when they wore out. Prisoners were told that new machinery using water would be introduced which would render the use of protective masks unnecessary; however, this did not materialize while he was there and thus some prisoners worked without the protection of masks. Lack of industrial safeguards has reportedly led to serious accidents. A former prisoner held in Ballsh in the late 1970s recalled the arrival there of four prisoners from Spac who had become partially paralysed after the collapse of a gallery.


Prisoners are allowed half-hour visits by relatives once, or sometimes twice, a month. In practice, comparatively few prisoners seem to receive regular visits, either because their families are intimidated or because they lack the necessary time or money to make long journeys.

Visits generally take place in a room outside the camp, in the presence of a guard. Prisoners and visitors are separated by bars. Members of the Greek minority have complained that they were forbidden to speak to their relatives in their mother tongue and were obliged to use Albanian.

Relatives may bring food and clothing for prisoners. The latter may receive any number of letters but may write only two a month. All correspondence is censored.

Education, recreation

Ex-prisoners have reported that they were given regular political lectures by the camp's Political Commissar but the frequency of this form of education appears to have varied considerably.

No vocational training is provided and prisoners are not allowed to study or teach each other foreign languages. There is a library which is said to be stocked almost exclusively with official texts by Party leaders, and prisoners may subscribe to the official daily press. In the evening radio programs are broadcast over a loudspeaker and prisoners may watch television for a few hours. A film is shown once a month. Prisoners are permitted to play dominoes or chess (not cards) and volley-ball. In the past there was reportedly a prisoners' orchestra, but this was banned after a prison riot in 1973.

Discipline and punishments

A prisoner who quarrels with other inmates or with guards, who breaks camp regulations or fails to achieve work norms may be punished in a variety of ways: by deprivation of the right to visits, correspondence or parcels, by being given reduced rations and by solitary confinement in a small, windowless cell known as a biruce. The prison authorities may impose the latter punishment for up to one month, which may be extended to three months with the approval of the district procurator. During confinement in the biruce prisoners do not work.

A former prisoner has alleged that he was punished by three months' solitary confinement in the early 1980s after he had tattooed an eagle (the Albanian national emblem) without an accompanying communist red star symbol on his body. He said the cell measured no more than 2 m by 1.5 m. He slept on a mattress and had only one blanket. (Other former prisoners have alleged that they were sometimes forced to sleep on the cell's bare cement floor or were at best given a blanket or board to sleep on.) While undergoing this punishment he was denied letters and visits, received reduced food rations and was allowed only three cigarettes a day, he said.

Another former prisoner detained during the 1970s in Spac alleged that on three occasions guards had stripped him to the waist, tied him to a post and beaten him with a length of rubber hose filled with gravel.

This plan of Spac labour camp 303 is based on sketches by former prisoners who were there between the mid-1970s and 1982. The camp is said to be ringed by several high barbed-wire fences.

Strikes and violent protests by prisoners in Spac camp

The severity of conditions and treatment in Spac camp have provoked prisoners to engage in strikes and violent protest on at least two occasions, in 1973 and 1978. Both times the protests were ruthlessly suppressed by the authorities and the leaders were executed. The most detailed account received by Amnesty International concerns the events of 1973; it was given by a former prisoner who had participated in the Spac strike that year.

A forced labour camp in the Malt Valley, Albania. The photo was taken from a moving bus while the guide's attention was diverted by other passengers: there were strict orders against photos being taken during the bus ride.

'At 6.30 am on 19 May, as we were about to begin the first shift, we heard guards beating our fellow-prisoners in the camp cells. We demanded that the camp and prison authorities should put an end to this. But our demand was met with threats and blows. We were isolated in a corridor leading out of the camp to where we worked. Soon other prisoners came to our aid and there followed clashes with the guards. After about 20 minutes we forced the guards to withdraw. We then organized a meeting in the camp dining-hall and came to a unanimous decision to seek the help of the United Nations with a view to getting their representatives to intervene on our behalf as soon as possible. We forwarded this request to government representatives in Tirane. This request was repeated in large letters on a cardboard placard ...

'Large army and police forces arrived at the camp, together with senior government officials and the Camp Commandant, Muharrem Shehu; the Camp Commissar, Shahin Skura; the head of the Department of Internal Affairs of Mirdite district, Pandi Kita; the Chief Security Officer of Mirdite, Gjergj Zefi; the camp Security Officer, Fejzi Aliaj, and others. They appealed to us over the loudspeaker to end the strike and retract our demands. If we persisted [they said] they would use force and gas against us.

'Because we rejected this appeal, the authorities turned off the drinking water and stopped all food supplies at 12 noon on 19 May. Then at 9.00 am on 22 May, after we had been on strike and endured hunger and thirst for three days, we were suddenly attacked by large units equipped with truncheons. The camp army and guards were joined by 200 special riot police sent from Tirane.

'After clashes lasting an hour, we were too exhausted by hunger and thirst to carry on the fight. We were finally overwhelmed and handcuffed in pairs. On the prisoners' side no one was killed; the riot police suffered two casualties. We were immediately subjected to the most brutal tortures which went on for 24 hours.

'Then a special military tribunal sent from Tirane sentenced to death four prisoners aged from 24 to 32. They were Skender Demiri, from an orphanage in Tirane; Zef Pali, from Sukthi in Durres district; Hajri Pashai, from Llakatund in Vlore district, and Skender Shohollari, from Pogradec district. Our friends were executed near the camp at 3.40 pm on 24 May 1973. We all heard the shots. Besides this, 56 prisoners were given additional sentences ranging from 10 to 25 years.'

The same source stated that he had been informed that a similar strike took place in 1978, after which three political prisoners were executed: Vangiel Lezha and Fadil Kokomani, both previously correspondents for Albania's leading daily Zeri i Popullit, and Xhelal Koprencka, from Korce, who had worked as a surveyor in Shkoder before his arrest and imprisonment. On this occasion, too, many other prisoners were reportedly punished with additional sentences of up to 25 years' imprisonment. (A second source has independently informed Amnesty International of the execution of Xhelal Koprencka in 1978 after a strike by prisoners.)

Published December 1984
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