Societies over time have defined human rights through a variety of documents that have sought to protect the rights of people. The Geneva Convention is an example of these documents. These documents not only firmly establish rights, but also ensure that countries that adopt these laws are responsible for ensuring rights are respected and followed. Unfortunately, not all governments obey these documents.
In the case where war occurs, the Geneva Convention has been especially disregarded and ignored. As a result, agencies such as Amnesty International have stepped in to fight for those prisoners whose rights have been broken. Amnesty International has become one of the most successful agencies, freeing and helping thousands of people who have been imprisoned unfairly. The rights for different kinds of prisoners in different countries are still being debated to this day. These prisoners include prisoners in detention centers and prisoners of conscience.
Some people think that someone who has infringed on other’s human rights should not have valid rights themselves. Despite this, prisoners are allowed rights, such as conditions of confinement, limited privacy, safety from other prisoners, food and water and medical attention if necessary. Many prisons still deny one or more of these rights, and continue to this day to torture, kill and/or discriminate against prisoners. One of the most globally recognized laws regarding prisoners is the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention is a set of rules written in 1929 and revised in 1949, which focuses on the rights of prisoners of war. Prisoners of war are specifically soldiers captured and held captive by the enemy army.
The Geneva Convention states that prisoners of war cannot be prosecuted for taking direct part in hostilities. Their detention is supposed to prevent further participation in the conflict and should not be a form of punishment. The term ‘Prisoners of war’ only applies to international armed conflict. These prisoners must be released and sent back to their country without delay at the end of the war. They must be treated humanely in all circumstances and should be protected against any act of violence, intimidation insults and public curiosity. Despite this, many governments have failed to acknowledge the convention and in some cases, have resulted in prisoners being tortured and even killed.
In Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, there is a detention center at its naval base, set up by the United States. From 2002, the prison has been holding prisoners who have been suspected of being terrorists or having ties to terrorists. They are held in order for the government to try and get information out of them. The Americans also set up another detention center in Abu Ghraib, Iraq in 2004.
George Bush, who was president of the USA at the time, described the men held in these prisons not as prisoners of war, but as unlawful combatants and claimed that the Geneva Conventions protections did not apply to them. A lot of people have argued that the prisons should not be allowed, due to the fact that most prisoners have been tortured, sexually abused, drugged, and harmed by many other violent acts to get information. There are still no laws that protect these prisoners and the USA has gotten many negative judgments from all around the world. A lot of global campaigns and agencies are currently working to fix this issue.
Prisoners of Conscience are people who are believed to have had already had their rights stripped from them. More specifically, they are people who have been imprisoned for expressing ideas about their lifestyle, belief, race, or religion in a non-violent way and have been denied due process. Due process is the system where a person is procedure where a person goes through a fair trial in the normal judicial system where he/she is innocent until proven guilty. There are agencies and campaigns worldwide that go to extreme extents to get prisoners of conscience publically recognized and hopefully released.
Amnesty International is one of the most well–known and successful non-governmental campaigning organizations that works to monitor and protect human rights all over the world. The organization began with one man’s outrage and his courage to do something about it, this man being British lawyer Peter Benson. He is looked at as a hero, not only within the organization. Their main focus are Prisoners of Conscience. The organization has over 3 million members and supporters and was founded in London 1996.
Their objective is to “conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.” Amnesty International think of themselves as advocates for prisoners and the word ‘amnesty’ refers to being forgiven for a crime or other offence.
Prisoners’ rights is just one segment of human rights, but is still just as important as children’s or elderly rights. Prisoners everywhere, from those in Guantánamo Bay to prisoners of war should have valid rights if they don’t already. Having legal rights or laws is the first step, but putting the law in action is what really matters. Although there are a number of countries that ignore these documents, there are also countries that abide by them and are great examples of fair humanity. Agencies, organizations and campaigns work for these changes all around the world and with the help and support of every day people, they can hopefully change the world for the better.