Prisoners-of-Conscience

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Hilary Mantel calls it, “brilliant” and Colm Toibin says it is “likely to become a classic.” Serious praise from folks who know.  Never better earned.  The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between is the new memoir by Libyan novelist, Hisham Matar.

Finn’s disobedience and defection: Parallels to real-life resistance against Nazi Germany

Finn’s resistance against the First Order, both from within as a Stormtrooper and later as a Resistance fighter, reflect and parallel real-life dissent and resistance against fascism. This post will discuss some of those parallels.

I will confine my discussion of historical precedents to Europe in World War 2, partly because the First Order itself draws from Nazi imagery and history and, as @attackfish has pointed out, The Force Awakens uses Holocaust motifs quite effectively in depicting the First Order’s crimes. Another reason is that Finn’s actions in combination have the distinctive characteristics of resistance both from within and outside of Germany during World War 2.

The three main parallels in Finn’s actions to historical resistance are as follow: Conscientious objection to a criminal order, the rescue of a pilot from enemy territory, and direct action to rescue a prisoner. Below I will discuss each of these categories in more detail and end with a coda on parallels to German defectors who took up arms against the Nazis.

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The Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) is an anarchist support organization. The group is notable for its efforts at providing prisoners with political literature, but it also organizes material and legal support for class struggle prisoners worldwide. It commonly contrasts itself with Amnesty International, which is concerned mainly with prisoners of conscience and refuses to defend those accused of encouraging violence. The ABC openly supports those who have committed illegal activity in furtherance of revolutionary aims that anarchists accept as legitimate.

“We believe, as most Anarchists do, that prisons serve no useful function and should be abolished along with the state. We believe in the abolition of both the prison system and the society which creates it. We believe in direct resistance to achieve a stateless and classless society. We share a commitment to revolutionary Anarchism. We see a real need for Anarchists to bemilitantly organized.”

UPDATE 5-Struck by liver cancer, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo dies in custody

(Corrects year of birth to 1955 in paragraph 17)

By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING, July 13 (Reuters) - Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, a prominent dissident since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, died on Thursday after being denied permission to leave the country for treatment for late-stage liver cancer.

Liu, 61, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms.

Mourning his death, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Liu a “courageous fighter for civil rights and freedom of expression”, while the French and U.S. governments called on China to allow Liu’s family to move around freely.

Already seriously ill, Liu, a thorn in the ruling Communist Party’s side since he helped negotiate a deal to allow protesters to leave Tiananmen Square before troops and tanks rolled in, was moved last month from prison to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang to be treated.

The Shenyang Bureau of Justice said in a brief statement on its website that Liu had suffered multiple organ failure and efforts to save him had failed.

Despite being given multiple forms of treatment his illness had continued to worsen, it added.

The hospital treating him confirmed in a separate statement the cause of death. Though allowed out on medical parole he was never freed, spending his final days in the hospital surrounded by security guards.

The leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee which, to Beijing’s ire, awarded Liu the peace prize in 2010, said the Chinese government bore a heavy responsibility for his death.

“We find it deeply disturbing that Liu Xiaobo was not transferred to a facility where he could receive adequate medical treatment before he became terminally ill,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen in an emailed statement.

China said at the time that Liu’s award was an “obscenity” that should not have gone to a man it called a criminal and a subversive.

Carl von Ossietzky, a pacifist who died in 1938 in Nazi Germany’s Berlin, was the last Nobel Peace Prize winner to live out his dying days under state surveillance.

REFORM CALL

Western government and rights groups expressed sorrow at Liu’s death, and criticised Beijing for not allowing him to seek treatment for his cancer overseas.

“China has lost a deeply principled role model who deserved our respect and adulation, not the prison sentences to which he was subjected,” said U.S. ambassador to China Terry Branstad in a statement that also called on Beijing to release all prisoners of conscience.

Tsai Ing-wen, the president of self-ruled Taiwan which China regards as a wayward province, said on her Facebook page the island hoped China could now show self-confidence and promote political reform following Liu’s death.

“Only through democracy, in which every Chinese person has freedom and respect, can China truly become a proud and important country,” she said.

In China, while mention of Liu’s passing was swiftly removed from Weibo, the country’s answer to Twitter, images and comments were shared on the WeChat messaging service.

Some activists shared a picture of a black screen with the years 1955-2017 - his lifespan - or of a single candle superimposed over his face.

“Mr. Liu, rest in peace,” wrote rights lawyer Zhang Peihong on his WeChat account.

State news agency Xinhua reported the death only in English in a brief story that noted he had been seen by “China’s top-rated cancer experts”.

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged China to guarantee his widow, Liu Xia, freedom of movement, and allow her to travel abroad should she want to. Liu Xia has lived under house arrest since 2010.

“Despite the imprisonment and separation from the wife he adored that could have fuelled anger and bitterness, Liu Xiaobo declared that he had no hatred for those who pursued and prosecuted him,” Zeid said.

Rights groups and Western governments had urged China to allow Liu and his wife to leave the country to be treated abroad, as Liu had said he wanted.

But the government had warned repeatedly against interference and said Liu was being treated by renowned Chinese cancer experts. The hospital had said he was too sick to travel.

Beijing did allow two foreign doctors, from the United States and Germany, to visit Liu on Saturday and they later said they considered it was safe for him to be moved overseas.

The doctors said Liu and his family had requested that the remainder of his care be provided in Germany or the United States.

Family friend and fellow dissident Hu Jia said the ruling Communist Party would not let him die in peace.

“To some extent, this was an attempt by the party to show their strength, to show that they control your life if you live in China,” he told Reuters.

“But I think the historic message they are leaving is very different. By letting a Nobel peace prize winner die in custody they lost a chance to show humanity and instead proved their cold-blooded nature.”

In the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, which enjoys broad freedoms not granted in mainland China, around 100 protesters gathered in silence within an hour of the news of his death being announced outside of the Beijing representative office in silence, some quietly sobbing and others with their heads.

Many held signs reading “The people’s hero, he’ll always be remembered,” “the murder of a dissident” and “free Liu Xia”.

“What happened to Liu Xiaobo tells the whole world about the human rights situation in China,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung. (Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd, and James Pomfret and Venus Wu in Hong Kong, J.R. Wu in Taipei, Tom Miles in Geneva, Gwladys Fouche in Oslo and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Alex Richardson)

If you are innocent you have nothing to hide

People who say “if you’re innocent you’ve nothing to hide” are either spectacularly ignorant of how fast new authoritarian regimes across the world, across history, have appeared and cracked down on legitimate dissent or are wilfully stupid in blindly supporting a policy that might one day see them on the wrong side of the law, for their sexuality, political persuasion, religion or ethnic background and having blithely surrendered all the information needed to track them down and disappear them.

I’m not saying the security services don’t need more powers. I’m not saying there’s not legitimate arguments to be had about how much data is collected and for how long. But that truism about having “nothing to hide” presumes we will always have a stable and tolerant government in the future. And the growing tide of UKIP, Europe’s far right successes, increase in anti-Semitic attacks…none of that, to me, says we can take liberal democracy for granted in the here and now.

Human rights activist working for freedom of prisoners of conscience who are in jails despite completing their sentences. On 16 January 2015, Surat Singh Khalsa began a hunger strike which is still ongoing.He has refused food and water for more than 3 months to seek the release of Sikh political prisoners who have completed their court sentences. Where he is seeking release of Sikh political prisoners, he has also called for unconditional release of prisoners of all religions who have completed their terms. On 11 February 2015, Surat Singh Khalsa wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi[4] explaining the motive of his hunger strike. In his letter, Surat Singh Khalsa summed up his demands in two points 1; Treat all Sikh prisoners under trials and those sentenced in cases relating to the Sikh struggle- as political prisoners 2; Release all prisoners who have completed their full jail terms and are legitimately due for release, exactly in the same manner, as other prisoners are so released in various other parts of the country.

“Whatever harm the evil may do, the harm done by the good is greater. Their stupidity is unfathomably shrewd. Their spirit is imprisoned in their conscience. They are the pharisees who must crucify him who invents his own virtue. The creator they hate most, for he breaks tablets and old values. The good are unable to create. They are always the beginning of the end.”

—F. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Part Three, “On Old and New Tablets,” §26 (edited excerpt).

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Human rights defender @NabeelRajab gives a reaffirmation of his dedication to human rights in Bahrain as dozens of police stand at his door ready to arrest him.

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Amnesty Reunions (by AmnestyUSA)

Amnesty International Holiday Card, celebrating freed prisoners of conscience.