Amnesty and Political Violence: The Case of Nelson Mandela

John Greenwell's Blog

This post is a sequel to my response to Christopher Hitchens’ recent criticisms of Amnesty International.

Amnesty inevitably faces difficult choices about whom it associates with. During the Cold War, campaigns for the release of political prisoners held by right-wing governments in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile could, almost inevitably, involve Amnesty sharing a platform with Communists. Care needed to be taken. If an Amnesty representative were just one among numerous extreme left wing politicians, Amnesty would lose its claim of political neutrality: if, though, it eschewed association with political groups or bodies altogether, it would be ineffectual.

A more serious question arose when Amnesty International refused to act on behalf of a prisoner of conscience because they had engaged in or advocated violence.

The case of Nelson Mandela at the time of the Rivonia trial (1964) was a great test for Amnesty.

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About Jim Rose

Utopia - you are standing in it promotes a classical liberal view of the world and champion the mass flourishing of humanity through capitalism and the rule of law. The origin of the blog is explained in the first blog post at

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