A Conversation for Amnesty International

Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 1

royalrcrompton

I have admired much of the work of Amnesty International since its inception, especially as it concerns the incarceration of individuals for petty infractions e.g. failing to follow local customs.

However, in recent years I have become disturbed by the organization's attempts to prevent known, hardened criminals from receiving just punishment for their heinous crimes. To undermine justice this way is not conducive to peace and order in society -- it only works to increase crime with the resultant social anarchy that coms from a failure to make examples of those who think they can flout the law.

When we allow miscreants to escape the consequences of their evil actions by staying prosecution charges, or by giving them a " slap on the wrist " or a token jail sentence, we simply advertise that crime is not that important an issue.


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 2

Elentari

Amnesty doesn't interfere in matters of justice except if the suspect has not received a fair trial or similar.


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 3

royalrcrompton

I'm sorry, but I must strongly disagree with you. There are several instances where the North American representatives of Amnesty International have applied pressure on governments to see convicted criminals who received fair trials, released from prison for no other reason than on compassionate grounds.

One such case that comes to mind involved a group of North Americans residing in Brazil who kidnapped a government official, held him ransom for a long time, and made repeated threats that he was to be killed unless money demands were met. Fortunately the kidnappers' location was discovered and the official released relatively unhurt. The guilt of the perpetrators was never in question. None of them disputed the court findings -- neither did the relatives of the accused say at any time that their their loved ones were innocent.

The sentence under Brazilian law could have been the death penalty, but two of the kidnappers had their sentences reduced to twenty-five years ( quite fair, don't you think? ). In comes Amnesty International seeking a commutation of this righteous sentence and going to great length to have these losers released -- which happened after they had served less than six years. Is Amnesty International upholding justice ? Certainly not in this case and not in many others. You need to dig deeper to discover the truth about what they are doing.


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 4

Elentari

Could you explain why they wanted the men released in this case?


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 5

royalrcrompton

Their reasons for seeking release weren't specified. It seems that there may have been some concern that the sentence was too stiff.

As an aside, the mother of one of the criminals mentioned on newscasts her concern that the prison conditions in Brazil were not very good in comparison with those in North America. But that should not surprise anyone since many prisons in Canada and the States are more like hobby farms. This suggests that the mother may have objected to her " child " being punished for such a heinous crime.


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 6

Elentari

Or that universal standards of human rights that everyone's entitled to weren't being followed.


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 7

royalrcrompton

Again, neither the victims nor their relatives made any protest concerning the fairness of the justice.

Basic human rights concerning nourishing food, potable water and reasonable cleanliness were provided at the Bazilian prison -- evidenced by the fact that none of the convicted developed any life-threatening diseases; nor were any subjected to beatings or torture.

However, there were no special comforts provided -- consistent with a period of incarceration for such a grievous crime. They were only subjected to an appropriate punishment which they all duly deserved.


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 8

Elentari

'Appropriate punishment' is very subjective. I'm not commenting on whether it was or not, as I don't know the facts, simply that what is 'appropriate' in your view may not be in terms of legal conditions or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which is here http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html if you're interested).


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 9

royalrcrompton

The punishment that was meted out by the Brazilian courts and the mode of incarceration does not contravene any international human rights code. And if you can state otherwise, please provide specifics.

The fact that you state the matter of " rights " is a subjective issue, suggests that anyone and everyone should have their say-so in telling sovereign nations what they can and cannot do to their criminals. That would pretty much amount to judicial anarchy.

Sovereign nations enjoy a basic right to set their standards of punishment as a means to deter crime and to satisfy the need for justice, so long as torture is not part of it and the basic human right to food, clothing and adequate shelter is provided.


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 10

Elentari

As I said, I have no information on this specific case, I was merely speculating.

"The fact that you state the matter of " rights " is a subjective issue, suggests that anyone and everyone should have their say-so in telling sovereign nations what they can and cannot do to their criminals. That would pretty much amount to judicial anarchy."

Well, no. That's what the Universal Declaration is for.


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 11

royalrcrompton

But are you indeed, suggesting that a sovereign nation that is in full compliance with this declaration ( such as Brazil ) needs to change its internationally-approved ( U.N. )policies to satisfy the requests of independent bodies such as Amnesty International or any other organizations that appear to be working for the elimination of just punishment?


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 12

Elentari

No, I merely said that Amnesty *may* have objected to the treatment in those particular cases.


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 13

packmarack

If the prison was not in violation of the UN code of human rights then im fairly sure they wouldn't not have kicked up a face. I am a member of Amnesty myself and ive never heard of such a case as this where justice has been prevented. With the exception perhaps of the interogation in guantanamo bay where arguably breaking the un code may be justified


smiley - coolsmiley - cake


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 14

packmarack

Face = Fuss **

smiley - coolsmiley - cake


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 15

royalrcrompton

The prison was not, and is not now in violation of any articles in the UN Human rights charter. That aspect of the case was never in question.

RC


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 16

packmarack

I know it was a long time ago but do you remember on what grounds did Amnesty step in ?
The people that run the show of a big org. like Amnesty are very aware of reputations, any obstruction of justice is bound to peeve some people off, They would try to avoid doing so unless they felt is was absolutley necessary for some reason. It would be bad for business otherwise

smiley - coolsmiley - cake


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 17

royalrcrompton

The case involved a Canadian woman in her late 30's who had spent nearly ten years behind bars in Brazil for attempted murder and kidnapping an influential and wealthy businessman cum politician. She was convicted-- along with two others, I believe. One of her cohorts was her common-law husband. The woman's mother made appeals to the Canadian government that they work for the release of her daughter on compassionate grounds, stating that she was unlikely to survive further incarceration.

This appeal to the Canadian government authorities was regarded by the public as quite laughable in that the convicted woman was not terminally ill, had suffered no known physical or mental deprivation and had already served ten years of her 30 year sentence with no obvious ill-effects. It seemed odd that she was able to live a fairly normal life (in view of the punitive circumstances) but be deemed by her mother as incapable of surviving even a few more years.

There was pressure exerted by the Elizabeth Fry Society, Amnesty International and a few other prisoner rights groups to secure this woman's release. It soon became a political " hot potato. " Within six months or so, the Brazilian government agreed to her release with the proviso that the remainder of her sentence be served in a Canadian prison. She was hastily returned to Canada but served less than four months of the remaining 20 years of her " stretch ", being granted a quick parole.

The sequence of events is a little unclear to me today, but the above general summary is, to my recollection, accurate.

RC


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 18

packmarack

It sounds to me quite absurd that she should be let go. I'd campaign to keep her in jail, Even if the mother was right and she didn't belong in prison such acts of leniancy only serve to antagonise people and lessen my faith in the justice system.
Im still curious as to amnesty's involvement i will see if i can look the case online somewhere.
If i find anything note worthy ill post it in here later on.

smiley - coolsmiley - cake


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 19

royalrcrompton

I do think that Amnesty Int'l. was probably pushed into a statement of support for the woman. The sob story concocted by her mother sounded believable and Amnesty may have reasonably concluded that the woman prisoner was on the brink of death as her mother falsely claimed.

The response on the part of Amnesty and other groups appeared " knee-jerk " and it should serve as a caution that things aren't always the way that they are made out to be. I agree with you that while there are indeed, legitimate cases of prisoner abuse, there needs to be a thorough follow-up on any such claims to determine their validity and to prevent miscarriages of justice that always occur when the guilty are let off the hook. This seems to be where Amnesty Int'l. fell down.

RC


Amnesty International : human rights or dispensing of justice?

Post 20

psychocandy - Moderation Team Leader

I suspect RC is referring to the case of Christine Lamont and David Spencer? This was the case of two young political activists who got caught up in a Very Bad Thing (albeit it for a just cause- the FMLN in El Salvador). Most of the evidence in the case was circumstantial, and they maintained their innocence for six years, but eventually admitted guilt. They were sentenced to life in prison- *much* too harsh a penalty for the crime.

The Brazilian prison system is known for its abysmal conditions: overcrowding, corruption, violence (between staff and prisoners as well as between prisoners), lack of hygiene or medical care, flagrant disregard for penal law or international treaties, and other serious human rights violations. Most of the lobbying at the time- including that of Ms. Lamont's mother- was to have them returned to Canada per a prisoner return treaty between the two countries, where they could serve a reasonable sentence and under humane conditions. Not too much to ask.


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