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The Divided WorldHuman Rights and Its Violence$
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Randall Williams

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780816665419

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816665419.001.0001

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Conscience Denied

Conscience Denied

Amnesty International and the Antirevolution of the 1960s

(p.1) 1 Conscience Denied
The Divided World

Randall Williams

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter provides an analysis of Amnesty International’s 1964 disqualification of South African Nelson Mandela as prisoner of conscience. Despite having initially adopted Mandela as a victim of human rights abuse, the emerging international NGO hastily voted to drop the antiapartheid activist following his trial statement. In his statement, Mandela defended the African National Congress’s use of organized political violence as a necessary and ethical response in the struggle against the racist South African state. Neither the apartheid state nor the international human rights organization accepted Mandela’s argument as he was sentenced to life imprisonment and removed from Amnesty’s worldwide list of prisoners of conscience. Mandela’s disqualification marks the point at which the postwar discourse of human rights becomes a default ally of state violence.

Keywords:   Amnesty International, disqualification, Nelson Mandela, human rights abuse, apartheid, South African state, prisoners of conscience

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