From the 7th to the 10th of December in 1990 the Special International Tribunal on the Human Rights Violations against Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War in the United States was held at Hunter College in New York City. The tribunal was sponsored by eighty-eight organizations from various sectors. More than 1200 people attended, from ten countries representing every continent and fifteen states of the US.
The tribunal assumed jurisdiction under international law approved by the UN. The US refuses to accept universally recognized humanitarian protections for peoples fighting colonialism, apartheid and alien domination. The US government has given strong selective support to the freeing of political prisoners throughout the world, while denying the existence of political prisoners in the US, claiming that these political prisoners and prisoners of war are "terrorists" and "criminals.
" The US must be held to the same standard of international law and human rights as other countries around the world. The US' denial of the existence of political prisoners and prisoners of war in its prisons, and consequent failure to afford such prisoners the fundamental protection of humanitarian international law, constitutes serious violations of human rights requiring immediate attention of world public opinion and rectification by US government.
The tribunal conclusively found that the US government's handling of political prisoners and prisoners of war constitutes torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of various International Laws as well as it is in breach of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment of its own Constitution. here is a growing awareness of the injustices regarding US imprisonment of political prisoners.
Despite the US' refusal to acknowledge the existence of political prisoners they do exist, and activists, humanitarian organizations, and an increasing number of the general public are working to free them through the US system itself as well as international law. This is not enough. While it offers solace to believe that there is an inherent good, an inherent fairness or justice, none exists in this situation. Women in control units are told that they will die there unless they "change their associations" meaning renounce their revolutionary politics and provide information about their comrades and organizations on the outside (Rev Worker).
An increasing number of people have been imprisoned in the September 11th aftermath, and the amount of political prisoners will continue to increase if the public is willing to accept further infringements on their rights in the name of protection and security. Little solace can be offered as the prison system continues to increase exponentially. The conditions of prisons are horrific. Former political prisoner Laura Whitehorn states: I consider the prison system today to be a form of genocide. Prison has been used against third-world populations inside the United States, in particular African American and Latino populations…
Families are destroyed by prisons… When you're a prisoner, you're needy. It's emotionally, psychologically devastating… I understand something of why people don't want to know about prisons, because it's too hard… It is incredibly difficult to have this knowledge of the corruption and injustice within the prison system, regarding prisoners, women prisoners and political prisoners. This knowledge disrupts the belief in the US as a land of rights and freedom. Marilyn Buck is a political prisoner serving fifty years in addition to twenty years prior convictions for conspiring to commit bank robbery.
When asked what she needs from people on the outside she responded: What I need from people is what we all need: to seize our human liberation as much as possible as women, as lesbians, as heterosexuals; to support the right of human beings to have their own nations, their own liberation, and their own justice. If we stopped police brutality; if Black women and men were treated like equal human beings, that would make me feel good, really good, because I would be less dehumanized as a white person in this society. I would not be objectified as the oppressor.
I would like us to be more creative; to be the artists that we all are. I don't want to see child prostitution. That to me is oppression in the concrete; people having to sell their children to stay alive. Or watching their children in the clutches of the police. Or a woman standing on her feet as a waitress for ten hours a day when her veins are breaking and still no be able to pay the rent and be there for her children. I was thinking about this the other day – I think about the vision I had when I was a nineteen-year-old of justice and human rights and women's equality.
It was a wonderful vision. I think how it got implemented – how we became rigid and rhetorical within that – took away from that vision. But without a vision, you can't go forward. A vision is needed. A revolution is needed. It is not enough for to have this knowledge, without acting upon it. To accept the oppression and unjust imprisonment of these individuals is to support the disparate relations of power that exist within the US, and within humanity itself. There is much to be done.