Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: June 02, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971928 | Print ISBN: 9781412950855 | Online ISBN: 9781412971928| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Douglas J. Dallier
The concept of political prisoners is one that is hopelessly trapped in definitional nebulosity and falls within the scope of issues related to the infringement of basic human rights. The problem of defining the term political prisoners is related to several factors, and lacking a standard legal definition, the term has been employed in a variety of differing contexts. In view of several international agreements expressly prohibiting behavior that falls within a colloquial understanding of the concept, several examples of political prisoners throughout history are highlighted in this entry. Finally, the role of nongovernmental organizations in tracking and assisting political prisoners is addressed. Defining political prisoners in a strictly legal sense is, at present, a task that is simply not possible. In a 1961 letter that served as a catalyst for the establishment of the international human rights organization Amnesty International, Peter Benenson coined the term prisoner of conscience political ...