Prisoner of Conscience
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Prisoner of Conscience

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death after he wrote an article critical of religion and the caste system in Mauritania.

A prisoner of conscience (POC) is anyone imprisoned because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, or political views. The term also refers to those who have been imprisoned or persecuted for the non-violent expression of their conscientiously-held beliefs.

Most often associated with the human rights organisation Amnesty International, the term was coined by founder Peter Benenson in a 28 May 1961 article ("The Forgotten Prisoners") for the London Observer.

Definition

The article "The Forgotten Prisoners" by Peter Benenson, published in The Observer 28 May 1961, launched the campaign "Appeal for Amnesty 1961" and first defined a "prisoner of conscience".[1]

Any person who is physically restrained (by imprisonment or otherwise) from expressing (in any form of words or symbols) any opinion which he honestly holds and which does not advocate or condone personal violence. We also exclude those people who have conspired with a foreign government to overthrow their own.

The primary goal for this year-long campaign, founded by the English lawyer Peter Benenson and a small group of writers, academics and lawyers including Quaker peace activist Eric Baker, was to identify individual prisoners of conscience around the world and then campaign for their release. In early 1962, the campaign had received enough public support to become a permanent organization and was renamed Amnesty International.

A protest outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London against detention of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, 2017

Under British law, Amnesty International was classed as a political organisation and therefore excluded from tax-free charity status.[2] To work around this, the "Fund for the Persecuted" was established in 1962 to receive donations to support prisoners and their families. The name was later changed to the "Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund" and is now a separate and independent charity which provides relief and rehabilitation grants to prisoners of conscience in the UK and around the world.[3]

Amnesty International has, since its founding, pressured governments to release those persons it considers to be prisoners of conscience.[4] Governments, conversely, tend to deny that the specific prisoners identified by Amnesty International are, in fact, being held on the grounds Amnesty claims; they allege that these prisoners pose genuine threats to the security of their countries.[5]

The concept of "prisoners of conscience" became a controversy around Nelson Mandela's imprisonment in South Africa 1964. He had initially been adopted as a prisoner of conscience in 1962, when he was sentenced to five years in jail for inciting a strike of African workers.[6] This was reversed after the Rivonia Trial showed that Mandela now had turned to violently opposing the South African regime. The reversal evolved in 1964 into a worldwide debate and a poll among the members of Amnesty International. The overwhelming majority decided to maintain the basic rule, that prisoners of conscience are those who have not used or advocated violence.[7]

The phrase is now widely used in political discussions to describe a political prisoner, whether or not Amnesty International has specifically adopted the case, although the phrase has a different scope and definition than that of political prisoner.[8]

Current Amnesty International prisoners of conscience

Below is an incomplete list of individuals that Amnesty International considers to be prisoners of conscience, organized by country.

Azerbaijan

Bahrain

Belarus

Cambodia

China

Eritrea

Ethiopia

The Gambia

Hong Kong

India

Israel

Iran

Kuwait

Kyrgyzstan

Malaysia

Mauritania

Morocco

Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi was an Amnesty International-recognized prisoner of conscience from 1989 to 1995, from 2000 to 2002, and from 2003 to 2010.[68]

Nigeria

North Korea

Pakistan

Russia

Name Age Location Term Until Reason
Christensen, Dennis 45 Detention Center No. 1, Oryol Region 17 months 2018-11-01 Religious activity
Karimov, Ilkham 37 Detention Center No. 5, Republic of Tatarstan 5 months 2018-10-25 Religious activity
Matrashov, Konstantin 29 Detention Center No. 5, Republic of Tatarstan 5 months 2018-10-25 Religious activity
Myakushin, Vladimir 30 Detention Center No. 5, Republic of Tatarstan 5 months 2018-10-25 Religious activity
Yulmetyev, Aydar 24 Detention Center No. 5, Republic of Tatarstan 5 months 2018-10-25 Religious activity
Mikhailov, Dmitriy 40 Detention Center No. 1, Ivanovo Region 5 months 2018-10-19 Religious activity
Klimov, Sergey 48 Detention Center No. 1, Tomsk Region 5 months 2018-10-31 Religious activity
Osadchuk, Valentin 42 Detention Center No. 1, Primorskiy Territory 7 months 2018-11-20 Religious activity
Bazhenov, Konstantin 43 Detention Center No. 1, Saratov Region 6 months 2018-12-12 Religious activity
Makhammadiev, Felix 33 Detention Center No. 1, Saratov Region 6 months 2018-12-12 Religious activity
Budenchuk, Aleksey 35 Detention Center No. 1, Saratov Region 6 months 2018-12-12 Religious activity
Stupnikov, Andrey 44 Detention Center No. 1, Krasnoyarsk Territory 4 months 2018-11-02 Religious activity
Polyakova, Anastasiya 34 Detention Center No. 1, Omsk Region 5 months 2018-11-20 Religious activity
Polyakov, Sergey 46 Detention Center No. 1, Omsk Region 5 months 2018-11-20 Religious activity
Alushkin, Vladimir 54 Detention Center No. 1, Penza Region 4 months 2018-11-14 Religious activity
Levchuk, Vadim 46 Detention Center No. 1, Kemerovo Region 4 months 2018-11-19 Religious activity
Britvin, Sergey 52 Detention Center No. 1, Kemerovo Region 4 months 2018-11-19 Religious activity
Barmakin, Dmitriy 44 Detention Center No. 1, Primorskiy Territory 4 months 2018-10-27 Religious activity
Moskalenko, Valeriy 51 Detention Center No. 1, Khabarovsk Territory 4 months 2018-12-02 Religious activity
Sorokina, Nataliya 43 Detention Center No. 1, Smolensk Region 1 month 12 days 2018-11-19 Religious activity
Troshina, Mariya 41 Detention Center No. 1, Smolensk Region 1 month 12 days 2018-11-19 Religious activity
Onishchuk, Andzhey 50 Unconfirmed 1 month 24 days 2018-12-02 Religious activity
Korobeynikov, Vladimir 65 Unconfirmed Unconfirmed Religious activity
Suvorkov, Andrey 25 Unconfirmed 1 month 25 days 2018-12-03 Religious activity
Suvorkov, Evgeniy 40 Unconfirmed 1 month 24 days 2018-12-02 Religious activity
Khalturin, Maksim 44 Unconfirmed 1 month 24 days 2018-12-02 Religious activity

Saudi Arabia

Sudan

Syria

Thailand

Tunisia

Ukraine

United Arab Emirates

Uzbekistan

Venezuela

Vietnam

See also

References

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  2. ^ Hopgood, Steven (2006). Keepers of the Flame: The Understanding Amnesty International. Cornell University Press. p. 70.
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  4. ^ "History of Organization". The Nobel Foundation. 1977. Retrieved 2011.
  5. ^ Human Rights and the Dirty War in Mexico by Kate Doyle
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External links


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