Amnesty International. The Human Rights Story by J. Power (Auth.)

By J. Power (Auth.)

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Prisoners of conscience in the German Democratic Republic have the opportunity of emigrating to West Germany once they have served their sentences. This is because of a special scheme operated by the two governments. T h e children of the prisoners are usually allowed to leave too, to follow their parents, but often only after months of anxious waiting. In a few cases—Amnesty has evidence o f t e n children—the authorities refused to allow their children to leave. T h e children were placed in state homes or with foster families.

Townspeople have told Amnesty that mass graves were dug two days before the killings. In January 1980 a g r o u p of Indians occupied the Spanish Embassy to protest against this and other abuses carried out by the army in El Quiche province. T h e g o v e r n m e n t , outraged by the protest, ordered the army to attack the embassy. O n e peasant, Gregorio Yuja Xona, and the Spanish ambassador were the only survivors. Yuja X o n a was held under police guard in a hospital, then without explanation, the police allowed him to be removed.

Man for several hundred thousand years existed without using torture; only in the last few thousand has it become a weapon of state. According to E g o n Larsen's special study, the great R o m a n and Greek civilizations have left detailed records of their use of torture. Both of them prohibited torture for a citizen, but allowed it to be practiced on others. In ancient Athens a slave's testimony was n o t considered reliable unless he had been tortured. The Christian Church, repelled by the torture of Christians in the hands of Rome, for a thousand years used its great strength in E u r o p e to abolish torture, which until the time of Pope Innocent IV in the thirteenth century was practically u n k n o w n in the Western world.

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