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Dismantle the prison walls, free all political prisoners

Prisons all over the world teem with political prisoners. The former symbolizes power, control, repression; the latter, consciousness, freedom, struggle. The former desires to keep the status quo; the latter, to dismantle the unjust structures, free the world from their rein and bring about substantive change.

With the commemoration of the International Day in Solidarity with Political Prisoners on December 3, the cause and aspirations of political prisoners are at the fore, especially because this is an era of the worst imperialist crisis and the onslaught of the gravest imperialist wars and plunder of earth’s land and resources. The Commission 3 (Defense of Human Rights at the Collective and Individual Levels in the Civil, Political, Economic. Social and Cultural Fields) of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) salutes the fortitude and determination of the political prisoners, who have risked their lives in defense of human rights, fundamental freedoms and justice, and now are confined for years in jails. On the other hand, Commission 3 vehemently condemns the diabolical attacks on these rights and freedoms as imperialism struggles from the fetters of its crisis.

Across the globe, anti-terror/national security laws and other legal instruments legitimate arrests and incarceration of activists, human right defenders and revolutionaries. Trumped-up criminal charges are slapped on them to hide the political nature of the violations against them. If they are put on trial, these proceedings are convoluted and lengthy. In detention, they face torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment, compounded by the inhuman prison conditions. The practice of isolation detention is designed to break the spirit of prisoners and force them to denounce their aspirations and political beliefs.

In Palestine, there are more than 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including women and children.

In Peru, Manuel Ruben Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, former professor of philosophy and leader of the Communist Party of Peru (called by the Shining Path release), which launched an armed struggle in May 1980, was captured by the Peruvian government in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of terrorism and treason. Guzmán, 81 years, is currently detained at the maximum security prison of the Callao Naval Base Military, the port of Lima.

Elena Iparraguirre, also a senior leader of the Communist Party of Peru and partner of Guzmán, is imprisoned in Canto Grande prison in Lima. Two years ago, four human rights lawyers, along with 34 political activists, were arrested in Peru on false charges. Lawyers Alfredo Crespo, Carlos Gamero and Manuel Fajardo, are also activists. To date, there are about 300 political prisoners, including five women, with sentences of 25 years to life. Also, having served their 25-year sentences; the government refuses to give them their freedom, in the case of Osman Morote Barrionuevo (70 years old); Margot Liendo Gil (66 years old); Victoria Trujillo and Agurto, (53 years old). The four are survivors of the genocide of the Castro Castro prison in May 1992, where the State killed 42 political prisoners.

Columbia, meanwhile, is regarded as the country with the worst human rights record in the Western Hemisphere with 9,500 political prisoners languishing in its jails without charge or due process.  These include student activists, unionists, human rights defenders, and leaders of indigenous peoples and people’s organizations who are critical of government policies.

In Turkey, many are languishing in jails and have no chance of release under the anti-terror law. Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdish freedom movement, is held for 16 years under strict isolation on Imrali Island in the sea of Marmara after his conviction to life imprisonment. Members of Freedom for Abdullah Ocalan Committee and representatives of Kurdish institutions in Europe held a five-day hunger strike, from September 28- October 2015, to demand the freedom of Ocalan.

In the Philippines, 555 political prisoners, including twenty National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants, are confined in jails and detention centers all over the country as of September 2015. Many of the political prisoners have long been in jail and more are being added to the list, due to the continuing counter-insurgency policy, Oplan Bayanihan, of the US-Aquino regime patterned after the US Counter Insurgency Guide of 2009, which prods the practice of the filing of trumped up charges against activists, peace consultants and alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The consultants of the NDFP to the peace talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH) were illegally arrested and are under detention, in violation of previous peace agreements signed between the two parties, such as the Hague Declaration and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG). Among the peace consultants detained are Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria Tiamzon, who together with their five companions, were illegally arrested in March 2014, in gross violation of the said agreements, while they on their way to monitor the relief, rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts of the revolutionary movement on typhoon Haiyan affected areas. Benito and Wilma Tiamzon are charged with numerous trumped up criminal cases.

These violations are in addition to the numeorus cases of political killings, disappearances, forced evacuation, attacks against schools and other violations against peasants, indigenous peoples, workers, women, youth and other sectors in the context of the burgeoning people’s resistance to imperialist war and plunder.

With the era of imperialist crisis is the time, too, when prison cells swell with indigenous peoples. They, too, are under attack for their defense of their ancestral domains of vast land and rich resources, which are additional frontiers for imperialist greed.

In India, the government, under a US–directed military campaign called “Operation Green Hunt” launched a genocidal war against the Indian tribal group resisting the encroachment of transnational mining corporations on their land.

In Guatemala, leaders of Monte Olivo community and nearby indigenous q’eqchi’ communities were arrested and detained for their opposition to the theft of their land to give way to the construction by the Hidro Santa Rita company of a hydroelectric plant that would sell electricity abroad.  In prison, they were beaten, denied of food and medicine, and experienced other horrific treatment.

In Mexico, its government’s free trade agreements and security alliances with the US and the Merida Plan to supposedly combat narco-trafficking are behind the widespread use of anti-terror, security, and espionage laws to infringe on collective and individual civil and political rights; and of narco-traffickers which are in essence paramilitaries. From 2006 to 2015, there have been 300,000 deaths due to the government’s “war against narco-traffickers” or more aptly put, “war against the population.” Most of those who were killed are trade union and indigenous leaders such as the case of leaders of the Frente Popular Revolucionario (FPR). There are more than 700 political prisoners, including 29 from the FPR; 25,000 disappeared, including the case of the 43 students in Ayotzinapa on September 2014; thousands of displaced and hidden graves; and the use of mass communications to suppress people’s rights.

In the US government’s military industrial complex is its prison system, a system being used to institutionalize injustice and brutalise its perceived enemies in its own backyard and wherever it pursues its war of aggression. At the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center located in the US Naval Base, there are still 148 remaining prisoners out of the 779 held there since it opened in 2002. The inmates, mostly captured by US forces in Afghanistan and detained without the benefit of trial, experienced physical and mental torture that broke down the state of mind of many, the condition that was worse than that of a caged animal.

Mumia Abu Jamal, an internationally known black writer and radio journalist and a former member of the Black Panther Party who has spent the more than 30 years in prison, almost all of it in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania. He was wrongly accused, arrested and detained for murder of a police officer in Philadelphia, and has since been on death row despite a federal court’s overturning of his death sentence.  Despite his incarceration, he has been very vocal against the US military industrial complex, overt and covert US military operations abroad, and its neo-colonial economic policies in underdeveloped countries. The Black community, migrants, and communities of colored people in the US are all similar targets of killings, harassment and mass incarceration.

This current global scenario of gross violations of human rights and freedoms and the incarceration of multitude of peoples, who respond to the call of peoples against oppression and exploitation, exhort us to strengthen our solidarity and resolve to persevere in our struggle against imperialist plunder and wars that spawn a socially unjust and inhuman world.


Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
Secretary General

Angge Santos
Media Liaison

[email protected]

Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Building
#1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
Central District, Diliman,
Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.

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