The Call for Freedom for US Held Political Prisoners

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By Jihad Abdulmumit*

Today and throughout the week, the NGOs and members of the United States Human Rights Network will be presenting manifold issues and examples of US violations of the international Convention against Torture (CAT) treaty which the United States government accepted and signed onto in 1994. The world will be attentive to the U.S. review under the CAT during the 53rd Session in Geneva, Switzerland.

Amongst those issues will be the call for the freedom of US held political prisoners. Presenting this issue will be Jihad Abdulmumit, Chairperson of the National Jericho Movement; Efia Nwangaza, Director of the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination; Dhoruba bin Wahad, Institute for the Development of Pan-African Policy; and Glen Ford, Executive Editor of the Black Agenda Report.

The United States government, its States, law enforcement and penal institutions are in violation of its signed treaty obligations under the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by continuing to indefinitely incarcerate Political Prisoners who fought against racial violence and repression, most for well over 40 years. In spite of the progress made throughout its existence as a nation, from its inception to present, the United States has always been plagued by repressive laws, policies and racial violence inflicted upon Black people. During the 1960’s and early 70’s, a great deal of democratic unrest arose in the US, particularly in Black and poor communities that suffered because of racist bigotry and other forms of political repression and exclusion. Even then, it was only in the wake of nationwide protests and rebellions that the U.S. government was compelled to pass legislation extending civil rights to the colored counterparts of its citizenry.

The CAT clearly forbids torture in any way, fashion or form. Article One of the CAT defines torture; Article Five mandates that signature countries represented on CAT have jurisdiction, accountability, and responsibility in ensuring the human rights of its citizens and protecting them from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; and Article Fourteen establishes the fact that victims of torture have an enforceable right to compensation. And Article Sixteen also includes cruel, inhuman and degradable treatment and punishment as a violation of the CAT. Examples of such violations include selective, chronic medical neglect and long term solitary confinement.

The establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)**, similar to that held and supported in South Africa and other countries, is recommended to the UN Committee and the US government as a reputable and respected process to (a) review this era in history – its causes and consequences – and (b) free those individuals who are indeed, by international law and popular opinion, political prisoners.  Such a TRC would consist of a commissioned ad hoc committee representing a broad conscious spectrum of educators, religious communities, lawyers and community activists, and appropriate government officials.

The United States government has this moment to comply with the CAT treaty and rectify this page in its history.

* Jihad Abdulmumit is a former Black Panther political prisoner
**The TRC model was originally proposed by political prisoner Dr. Mutulu Shakur