What is a Political Prisoner

Political Prisoner: A person incarcerated for action carried out in support of legitimate struggles for self-determination* or for opposing the illegal policies of the government or its political subdivisions. (Special International Tribunal on the Violation of Human Rights of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War in the United States Prisons and Jails, December, 1990)

Prisoner of War: Those combatants struggling against colonial and alien domination and racist regimes captured as prisoners are to be accorded the status of prisoners of war and their treatment should be in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva conventions relative to the treatment of prisoners of war of 12 August, 1949 (General Assembly resolution 3103{XXVIII}).

*Self Determination: the right by virtue of which all people’s are entitled freely to determine their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic cooperation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence. (Common Article 1(1) of the International Human Rights Covenants, 1966)

As is evident, these definitions were not our creation. We do take objections to the term “illegal” in the PP definition and know full well that the United States and all capitalist and imperialist governments have now and will always murder, oppress, and/or otherwise deny people the right to self determination under the guise of and protection of “law.” We also believe that the POW definition lacks recognition for those combatants struggling against institutionalized and “legal” economic and class oppression. However, as accountable members within an international community of activists, we feel it is our responsibility to respect these definitions that were collectively agreed upon at the 1990 Special International Tribunal on the Violation of Human Rights of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War in the United States Prisons and Jails. We also feel it is our responsibility to develop our analysis and positions of these objections so as to best articulate them to this international community for acceptance in an appropriate, inclusive forum. Changing these collectively agreed upon definitions, without adequate dialogue between the activists and prisoners affected by these definitions is unaccountable and irresponsible. It would also deny us the opportunity to hear possible objections or possible improvements to our positions.

Source: ABCF

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