Amnesty International and the Antirevolution of the 1960s
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.
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