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Political Prisoners: The Danger of Words

By Taylor Boughner
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Global Perspectives
ISU Adviser: Mr.Babcock

Table of Contents

Quote………………………………………………………………………………………… Page 2
Preface……………………………………………………………………………………… Page 3
Definition………………………………………………………………………………….. Page 4
Significance……………………………………………………………………………… Page 7
Background……………………………………………………………………………… Page 10
Expert……………………………………………………………………………………….. Page 13
Role of control………………………………………………………………………….. Page 15
Organizations…………………………………………………………………………… Page 18
Case Studies…………………………………………………………………………….. Page 23
Canadian Connection………………………………………………………………. Page 37
The Logic of Evil……………………………………………………………………….. Page 40
Solutions………………………………………………………………………………….... Page 43
Appendix…………………………………………………………………………………… Page 46
Works Cited/Bibliography……………………………………………………….. Page 56
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Wrestling With The Devil: A Prison Memoir

“For a detained patriot, breaking through the doubled
walls of gray silence, attempting even a symbolic link
with the outside world, is an act of resistance and
resistance -- even at the level of merely asserting one’s
ideological beliefs in the face of a programmed onslaught
-- is in fact the only way political prisoners can maintain
their sanity and humanity. Resistance is the only means
of trying to prevent a breakdown. The difficulty lies in the
fact that in this effort one must rely first and foremost on
one’s own resources (writing defiance on toilet paper for
instance), and nobody can teach one how to do it.”
-Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o
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As a Canadian citizen I am fortunate enough to have the ability to express my opinions

on my government and politics without censorship or worry about what they may do if

they hear me speaking against them. Not everyone in the world feels the same way. In

many countries human rights still must be fought for, not taken for granted. Protests

break out all around the world for this very reason. Human rights activists, journalists,

lawyers and commoners all take to the streets to try and make change in the

governance of their country. Some protestors are met with bullets and violence and

others are arrested and sent to detainment centres to be tortured and held against their

human rights. Those who are imprisoned are called political prisoners.

Until February I did not have a good understanding of what a political prisoner

was. After a guest speaker named Janet Spring came into Mr.Babcock politics class and

shared the story of her son-in-law, Edwin Espinal, who is currently a political prisoner

being held in Honduras, I instantly became interested in learning more about the topic. I

also realized that I had been taking my voice for granted. I have the right of freedom of

speech and the ability to express my own opinion whereas many people around the
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world do not. They get tortured and arrested for speaking out. Janet Spring is the

woman who inspired me to research and write about this topic.

After writing this paper I have become very passionate about this issue and

hope to continue researching and learning about how I can make a difference in the

lives of political prisoners throughout the world.


Political prisoners are courageous people, usually human rights activists or

protesters, who are arrested by the governments for political reasons or crimes related

to politics who get detained in prisons or sent to labour camps.

To make better sense of this, there are two kinds of political prisoners. The first

kind are those who are detained for crimes relating to politics, like setting a store or

police car on fire during a protest. This is a criminal offence described as property

damage which is a charge that people are held criminally liable for. This kind of political

prisoner will not be reviewed in this report. The second type of political prisoner is

someone that is presumably innocent. They are usually detained for a crime they did

not commit or the government will arrest them for reasons that violate their human

rights such as speaking out against the government. Exercising Freedom of speech is

not considered to be a crime in most countries (United Nations, 2015). Some examples
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of charges they give to prisoners of words are, “trying to overthrow the government” or

for “going against the government’s wishes” which are not real criminal offences. This

type of political prisoner is the main focus of this report.

A similar name to describe a victim such as the one described above is a prisoner

of conscience. This term is described as someone who is held in prison due to their

political, religious, or any beliefs that differentiate from the beliefs of their government.

Political prisoners and prisoners of conscience exist even through the international

requirements to have protection of human rights along with necessary freedoms of all

people throughout the world. The terms political prisoner and prisoner of conscience

are used interchangeably throughout this report as Britannica Encyclopedia describes

the two terms very similarly. This report focuses on those who have been imprisoned

from their words, meaning people who have different opinions then their government

and choose to voice them or those who stand up for their human rights through public

writing or speaking.

The main victims of political imprisonment are those who speak out with their

beliefs and are punished for having different views or intelects then the government of

their country. Freedom of speech is the right to express your opinions without

censorship or restraint (reference figure 1.1 of appendix for UNDHR). Unfortunately,

freedom of speech is not a right in every country and even in the countries that have

this as a legal right, do not always adhere to it. There have been many instances where
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human rights activists or others with opinions that oppose those of the government’s

rulings have been imprisoned for reasons that do not follow the Universal Human

Rights Declaration (UNDHR) created by the United Nations. This organization was

formed in 1948 and currently 193 countries are involved in it. In the UNDHR article 19

gives citizens the right to freedom of speech. This is one of the major human rights

violated with the arrest of a political prisoner specifically with protestors and human

rights activists. Although these articles are in place, they are not followed in some

countries like Honduras. Even though this country is a member of the United Nations

and agrees to follow the UNDHR there are currently prisoners of political oppression

being jailed and mistreated in several detainment centres throughout the country.

Reference the case study on Honduras in the case study section of this report for more

information regarding their current situation. The United Nations organization will also

be further reviewed in the organization section of this report where a variety of

organizations involved in this issue are looked at.

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Often times political prisoners are portrayed to be criminals. Even the ones that

are clearly innocent. These victims suffer in unlawful prisons and labour camps, some

are critically tortured, or worse, killed. The disappointing aspect is that many

governments are aware of this issue, but they do not work to release every innocent

prisoner, only those who are citizens of their country. There is an implied agreement

between governments that they will look after their own countries and not intervene
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with other regions, however, when issues such as this are appearing all throughout the

world it is important to solve them on a global scale (United Nations, 2015).

Some governments exert a great deal of power over their people. A few

governments install fear amongst citizens in order to prevent them for speaking up for

their rights. However, this fear does not stop some of the citizens from acting out

against the government and that is what creates political prisoners. In the eyes of some

governments and world leaders, if people speak out against them it is an act of

resistance or defiance. As a world of united countries it is important to work together to

prevent innocent people from being imprisoned for no other reason then having

concerns for their rights and having different beliefs than those who are in control of

the country.

Prisoners of conscience are found all over the world in regions from Rgonhan to

Zimbabwe. This is a world issue and deserves much attention. Currently over 120 000

prisoners are being held in prisons throughout the mountainous areas of Northern

Korea (New York Times, 2016). A fraction of these people have been arrested for

speaking up for their rights and protesting against the government and others have

been arrested for crimes they did not commit. An example of a recent detainee is the

Reverend Lim Hyeon-soo, a Canadian pastor, he was convicted in North Korea for

“plotting to overthrow the government” (New York Times, 2016). For this he was

sentenced to life in prison. Luckily after a year of imprisonment he was released for
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humanitarian reasons. He felt guilty leaving the prison as he knew how many other

innocent people he was leaving behind who will most likely end up spending their lives

behind bars. This case proves that this issue affects Canadians and is a significant issue

in all parts of the world. The United Nations formed a Universal Declaration of Human

Rights so how come countries don’t help all these people to be free, as everyone is

entitled to the freedom of words? As urgent as this issue is, a lack of efforts have been

put into making it better. How can people sit here and do nothing while innocent

people fade away behind bars? Organizations have been created in order to make a

difference in this pressing issue, however, it appears that the only good Canada has

done is for it’s own Canadian citizens. Meaning they only look into the cases of political

prisoners that have a Canadian background. Protection of the rights of everyone in the

world should be a global goal as no one should be subjected to the cruel treatment of

political prisoners. We must act to remove those who are innocent from these tactile

environments and strive to aid all prisoners who have been convicted for voicing their

own beliefs and opinions.

This is an issue that should be addressed more significantly because it goes

against several of the articles set forth in the UNDHR. Some examples being Article 2,

everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration. Article 3,

everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Article 5, no one shall be

subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article

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9, no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. Article 19, everyone

shall have right to freedom of opinion and expression. For more examples read Articles

6, 7, 10, 11, and 12 in the declaration attached in Figure 1.1 of the appendix.

An example of how severe this problem has become is the current situation in

Turkey. The government run by Erdogan is currently spending millions of dollars to

build 228 new prisons throughout the country because they have been arresting tens

of thousands of lawyers, judges, students, teachers and other officials as part of a

crackdown relating to the failed coup in 2016. This shows how some governments are

beginning to think of political prisoners as an accepted norm because instead of

releasing some of the unharmful citizens they choose to put all their efforts and money

into building more prisons so they have the power to arrest more. Erdogan also has the

ability to block certain protest websites so sites like turkeypurge.com are not visible

within the country. The protests in Turkey have also become much more dangerous in

recent years taking the lives of both civilians and soldiers.

Turkey is not the only Country where political prisoners is an increasingly violent

issue, China and Russia are also having many problems within their countries. Without

addressing this problem it will become more prevalent in other countries and the

violence will continue.

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It appears that there has been cases of political imprisonment in countries such

as China and Russia for several years now. The terms political prisoner and prisoner of

conscience originates from the Amnesty International organization in 1961 when it was

officially seen as an issue and began to be advocated against.

Examples of a few political prisoners from China include Chen Guangcheng who

grew up as a peasant and then became a lawyer and was arrested in 2006 for

supposedly “causing criminal damage and obstructing traffic”. This turned out to be a

false accusation as the government only arrested him for accusing them of forcing over

7000 women into getting late-term abortions or sterilisations (The Telegraph, 2010).

Another example of a former chinese political prisoner is Ai Weiwei who is a very

famous contemporary artist. He was arrested in april of 2011 because he was an

outspoken activist for human rights. He was held in prison for 81 days and then finally

released with a passport so he could travel elsewhere (Guardian Museum, 2019).

Another chinese political prisoner who has been in the news recently is named Liu

Xiaobo. He was imprisoned for for demanding an end to one-party rule (The Guardian,

2019). He died of cancer at age 61. He spent a quarter of his life behind bars enduring

torture and horrible prison conditions. His imprisonment caused a great deal of conflict

between the government and the people. These are just a few of the many examples of

political prisoners in China throughout the years. Although these cases are all fairly
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recent, there has been cases similar to these earlier on however not much information

has been disclosed on them.

China is not the only place that has suffered from the issue of political prisoners

in the past. Although many historical political prisoners are nameless there are some

very famous people who overcame their harsh prison lives and used their knowledge

and experiences to make progress with this issue. An example of someone who did just

this is Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil from 2011 to 2016 (Eskify, by Eliot,

2017). For years Dilma was considered to be a vocal threat to the military dictatorship

of Brazil which lasted from 1964 to 1985 (Michael Ray, Jeff Wallenfeldt, 2013). She

was arrested at a rebel hideout and was tortured and imprisoned for 3 years. Behind

bars she became a hero to the people of Brazil and later led them as a president for 5

years (Eskify, by Eliot, 2017). Dating back before Dilma’s time there was an individual

named Eugene Victor Debs who rebelled against the government and military of

America. He was the leader of the Pullman strike where 250 thousand workers refused

to go to work in 1894 (Eskify, by Eliot, 2017). This strike was violently broke up by the

American military. For leading this strike Eugene was place in jail for 6 months but

when he was released he continued advocating for human rights by vocalizing his

opinions on the America's involvement in World War One which got him sent back to

jail several times (Eskify, by Eliot, 2017). People like Dilma and Eugene made a

difference in the lives of many people and encouraged individuals to speak out for what
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is right. Their prison experiences did not describe them, they only became more

passionate and determined to make change after enduring the hardships of their


Unfortunately many people just like Dilma Rousseff and Eugene Victor Debs did

not end up as a success story. This global issue has, and continues to kill many people

throughout the world. Many historic political prisoners did not get the chance to tell

their stories as they did not live to tell them. Everyone prisoner of conscience who was

murdered in the Holocaust would have had a story to tell. Many more will go with their

stories left untold as aside from the making of human rights organizations, not much of

this history has been changed. Governments continue to hold a great deal of power

over their people and innocent, brave individuals continue to be detained for reasons no

other then having political and world views that oppose the government's. Although

laws have been made, they have not been enforced and so this issue is not becoming

historical but in fact more prevalent.

The issue does not appear to be going away it appears to have become more

serious. It is evident that political prisoners became a global issue many years ago it has

become more evident in the 2000’s. Several of the cases found in the news are of

political prisoners around the world that have been convicted from the year 2000 and

on. Honduras, Turkey, China and Russia are some of the main examples of countries

that hold several political prisoners and have been for a long time. These are countries
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from regions all over the world which shows the development of this issue on a global



Dr. Janet Spring, mother-in-law of Edwin Espinal, political prisoner held in a

dangerous prison in Honduras, is a very knowledgeable woman who has dedicated

much of her time to raise awareness and to advocate for political prisoners. She mainly

works with prisoners held in prisons in Honduras. Janet Spring established the

organization Simcoe County Hondurus Rights Monitor. She developed the urge to help

victims of this human rights issue through her daughter Karen Spring who is a Human

Rights activist that works for a Canadian NGO called Simcoe County Honduras Rights

Monitor. Although Janet did not go to university for human rights relating to political

prisoners, she has developed a wide range of knowledge for this topic in the past few

years. She currently works as a professor at Lakehead University and has a doctorate.

Janet closely follows her daughter’s work and has even visited her in Honduras where

they go to see Edwin Espinal in prison. She has educated herself on the history of

human rights and political prisoners in Honduras and is very aware of the conflict areas
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throughout Honduras. Through her organization she has made strong statements

against capitalism. Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor has worked alongside

other organizations to advocate for the release of Edwin along with others from the

prisons in Honduras. They are lobbying the Canadian, American and Honduran

governments and spreading the word of this crisis. Janet and her co-workers will not

stop fighting for the rights of these people until they attained their goal, freedom. Janet

has worked hard to achieve the position she has today and continues to expand her

knowledge and contributions for political prisoners like her son-in-law Edwin. (All

information from this paragraph came from a personal email from Janet Spring) (Email

questions are attached in Figure 1.2 of the Appendix).

Katrin Kinzelbach is associate director of the Global Public Policy Institute in

Berlin and is currently a visiting professor at the School of Public Policy at Harvard

College (The president and fellows of Harvard College, 2019). She has a place on the

German government's Advisory Board for Civilian Crisis Prevention. Her main area of

study is on international rights diplomacy and political prisoners. For this, she was given

a research grant from the German Volkswagen Foundation. Before 2001 she worked

for the United Nations on the development program which carries several posts in the

fields of crisis prevention and democratic governance. She currently works as a Human

Resources director. She knows a lot about the issue of political prisoners and has done

in depth research on this topic. As an academia she continues to research political

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persecution. She is funded through a Schumpeter Fellowship of the Volkswagen

Foundation (FAU, Master of arts, human rights). In December of 2018 Katrin Kinzelbach

wrote an article called “Will China Dare Challenge the UNDHR?”. This article addresses

China as an enemy to the UNDHR and calls them out for proposing ideas that go

against the articles in the declaration (Le Monde Diplomatique, 2018). Katrin appears to

be very passionate about human rights and her insight on the topic is very interesting

to read about. Her extensive research and the articles she has written proves that she is

an expert on the issue of political prisoners.

Role of Control:

There are many different ways to view who has the control of this issue.

Activists say that the control lies in the corrupt governments who hold prisoners of

words or the governments of other countries where human rights are strictly followed,

whereas others may say that the organizations who work to free these people, the

general population or even the prisoners themselves hold the control of this issue. The

reality is, all of these factors have an influence on this issue and hold power on how this

issue plays out.

Governments and people who send prisoners of words to prison have an

obvious control over the situation. Some of these governments have an alarming
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amount of control over the citizens of their country. It is incredible to think that in some

places of the world you can be imprisoned, or worse killed, for not having the same

opinion as the government and voicing those beliefs. By having the ability to put

anyone away for saying something they do not approve of gives the governments who

do this a great source of power. Without this power they would have no control over

those who are brave and speak up for their freedom.

Another major influence in this issue is when governments have bilateral

relations concerning political prisoners. In situations where someone is held in a prison

that is not in their country (and they may be innocent), their own government can step

in to save them from unfair imprisonment. Through the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights world leaders have the ability to point out that what goes against the declaration

in hopes to get imprisoners to release the victims. This is a form of control that can be

used to eliminate this issue and therefore would be very influential on many of the

activists and other freedom speakers held behind bars.

The organizations that actively participate in freeing political prisoners also have

control over this issue. Without these organizations no awareness would be raised and

there would not be in depth case studies for innocent people who have been sent to jail

for speaking their beliefs. Fortunately there are several hard working organizations

throughout the world to look out for prisoners of conscience who have lost their voices

behind bars. The United Nations, AAPP, #Setthemfree, and Amnesty International are
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examples of groups that have a strong impact on the human rights and freedoms of

political prisoners throughout all regions of the world. They continue to attempt to take

power away from the corrupt governments and gain more control over this issue.

An uncommon way of looking at who has control of this issue is from the

political prisoners point of view. If you view this issue from a different angle you will see

that the victims have control over their own actions and therefore control an aspect of

this issue. These courageous individuals pose a threat to the government by creating

riots and protest groups and speaking up for what is right. With the knowledge that

what they do could easily get them sent to jail they continue to advocate for their

human rights. They take the control of this issue into their own hands because they are

aware of consequences, yet still fight for freedom which shows a great sense of

bravery and power which worries the governments that they are opposing.

The general population also has a major influence on the outcome of this issue.

The people are the ones who decide whether to take action or not. They can ask

themselves: are we going to raise awareness for the innocent people behind bars who

spoke up for our rights? Are we going to raise funds to fight this issue? Are we going to

risk our lives to make better lives for others? These are questions we must ask in order

to determine whether we are going to participate in the fight for rights or if we are

going to sit back and do nothing. The general population holds the funds and the
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strength to overcome this issue. The question is how are we going to use this control,

or are we going to use it at all?

To see the control of this issue from a different angle, consider who controls the

media. Protestors and activists do not have the ability to raise awareness about what

they stand for in some countries because of the government censorship on the internet.

In places like Turkey the government has full control of the internet and has the ability

to delete a facebook post or block a website from being seen inside of their country. In

2018 a legislation was passed and it continues to extend the ability the Turkish

government has to block websites without first referencing a judge and prevent access

to applications like Twitter and Youtube (Reporters Without Borders, 2018). With this

censorship they are able to prevent protest websites and organizations from being on

the internet and control what information people see about the issue and what they do


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Over the years organizations have been created as preventive indirect and direct

measures to this issue. It became apparent that after the Second World War, action

needed to be taken in order to have some regulations created for the world so people

like Adolf Hitler would not be able to kill 6 million Jews just because they weren't from

the same culture as him. Organizations were created worldwide relating to human

rights, as well as directly to prisoners of conscience and political prisoners.

Organizations begun to be put in action in the middle of the 20th century and have

been valuable ever since then (United Nations, 2015). The following are examples of

different kinds of organizations and how they combat the conflict of political


The United Nations came into effect after the devastations of the Second World

War with the goal of maintaining global peace and security (United Nations, 2015). The

United Nations Charter was signed at a conference in San Francisco in June 1945, led

by four countries: Britain, China, the Soviet Union and the United States (Somini

Sengupta, 2012). In hopes of creating a world of peace the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights was released with 26 articles that must be followed worldwide. This

organization sends out warnings of conditions of political prisoners in order to raise

awareness (Geneva, 2015). They also hold meetings based specifically on these issues.

This is one of the most developed organizations that aids those who have been

wrongfully imprisonment for speaking their rights.

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The #SetMeFree campaign is celebrating their 20th anniversary as an

organization this year. For twenty years this organization has strived to bring

awareness to the innocent people living in custody (Set Them Free Organization,

1999). This organization constructs globalized solidarity with as many political

prisoners as possible. They encourage the public to act on the behalf of the prisoners

and cooperate with several stakeholders in order to get the prisoners out of custody.

This campaign involves members of the World Movement for Democracy which is an

international network of activists, scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and funders

whose goal is to advance democracy (Set Them Free Organization, 1999). The goal is

to connect and inform people throughout the world in order to create this advance in

democracy. Members fiercely participate in or assist struggles to open closed societies,

challenge dictatorships, democratize semi-authoritarian systems, consolidate emerging

democracies, and reform and innovate established democracies both old and new (Set

Them Free Organization, 1999). They also hold events in order to gain members and

raise awareness in communities where this issue is not addressed. The leader of this

campaign is a global Steering Committee consisting of democracy practitioners (Set

Them Free Organization, 1999). This organization is open to anybody who shows an

interest in this issue and is willing to actively participate in the cause.

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who

take injustice personally. They are campaigning for a world where human rights are
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enjoyed by all (Peter Benenson, 1961). This organization focuses on the human rights

aspect of this issue by promoting the value of the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights. This organization also intervenes when there are violations of basic human

rights which would include someone being detained for voicing their rights and

standing up for themselves (Unesco, 2019). They send letters to governments that hold

political prisoners asking for them to be released. The part of the mission of Amnesty

International which relates to prisoners of conscience and political prisoners is their

goal to release all of those who are innocent or at the very least give them a fair trial so

they can be proven not guilty. Another of their missions is to work on the economic

attributes of human rights. They may do this by giving defenders the means to act and

fight against impunity (Unesco, 2019). This organization also has ties with the United

Nations and works with the UN on certain cases.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) is a humans rights

organization that advocates for the release of all the remaining political prisoners in

Burma. It is based out of Thailand and also has offices in Burma. They fight for a better

quality of life for victims during and after incarceration. AAPP has created programs for

rehabilitation and assistance to those who have been released from prison and

continue to fight for human rights. They demonstrate the struggle for democracy,

human rights, equality and freedom for the people of Burma (Assistance Association for

Political Prisoners, 2014). This organization is a sense of security to human rights

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activists in these specific regions because they know that there is an entire organization

intact to provide protection for them. AAPP also provides scholars with key information

on political prisoners and brings awareness to this issue from an academic standpoint.

They also cooperate with stakeholders at all levels to develop programs to foster

national reconciliation. This organization is a great aid to activists in Thailand and

Burma and continues to be a reliable source for information on political prisoners in the

area of Burma (AAPP, 2014).

An example of a local organization the fights for human rights is the Simcoe

County Honduras Rights Monitor. This organization is based directly out of Simcoe

County and was created to fight and bring awareness to the arrest of Edwin Espaniol

and other political prisoners in the Honduras region. The goal is to support and provide

for those who have been marginalized from the regime of Juan Orlando Hernandez

who is the president of Honduras (Janet Spring, personal email, 2019). This

organization was created by the mother-in-law of Edwin, Janet spring.

A very large organization that helps defend the human rights violated through

the act of political imprisonment is called Human Rights Watch. This organization

investigates and reports abusers of human rights in all regions of the world (Human

Rights Watch, About us). This organization was founded in 1978 and has been

successful since the very beginning. They are a group of approximately 450 people

from over 70 nations. Journalists, lawyers, and country experts all play a large role in
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making change in countries where human rights are violated. “We meet with

governments, the United Nations, rebel groups, corporations, and others to see that

policy is changed, laws are enforced, and justice is served” (Humans Rights Watch,

About us). They also work on other major issues that the world is currently suffering

from. To give a few examples they have made change with Syria’s Civil War, US

immigration and the conflict in South Sudan. “Together, we can use our influence –

from advocating with world leaders to sharing the truth of what’s happening on the

ground – to help stop repression around the world”(Ken Roth, Executive Producer). This

organization has brought nations together in order to stand up for human rights

violation and has been an important factor in the fight for freedom of political prisoners.

Organizations such as the ones mentioned above are great contributors to the

actions that have been put forth to eliminate the worldwide conflict of political

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Case Studies:

Case Study #1: Americas: Honduras and Venezuela

Honduras is a country located in Central America currently dealing with several

world issues, a major one being the problems between the government and the

citizens, and the holding of political prisoners. Crime and violence are prevalent all

across the country. The murder rates in Honduras remain to be some of the highest in

the world (Human Rights Watch, World Report, 2018). The current President, Juan

Orlando Hernandez has caused a major divide within the country. Those who do not

share the same beliefs as their government are in great danger as the judges and

courts are all influenced by the government and the outcomes of political prisoners

during a court case tend to be the decision of the government instead of through a fair

trial. “The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) both expressed
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concern about the ambiguous formulation of the law and its potential to arbitrarily

restrict freedom of expression and of the press,” (Human Rights Watch, World Report,

2018). Demonstrating concern for the citizens of Honduras, organizations have been

created to aid with the rights and freedoms of these people against the government.

The Human Rights Defenders and Operators of Justice was created in 2015, however

the organization is currently suffering from the lack of workers and there is not enough

adequate resources (Human Rights Watch, World Report, 2018).

Political prisoners of Honduras are living in terrible conditions, and oftentimes

the prisoners who are in jail because of their opposition to the government are sent to

maximum security prisons and are held in the same cell rooms with murders, rapists

and other dangerous criminals. The prisons are overpopulated, the prisoners do not

receive proper nutrition standards, and the buildings are not well kept resulting in an

unsanitary environment. With complexes designed to carry 8000 criminals in 2016 the

institutions held over 17 500 inmates (Human Rights Watch, World Report, 2018). The

prisons are designed by the United States and the prison guards are often trained in

the United States and then shipped over to work in the Honduran prisons. The prison

guards are usually under trained and they are quite violent towards the inmates.

One of the maximum security prisons that is among the worst of them is La

Tolva. This is the prison where Edwin Espinal (son-in-law of Janet Spring) and some of

his Human Rights activist associates are being held. La Tolva is located in Moroceli
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Honduras and was inspired by the American “Supermax” prison model. This prison has

been around for more then two decades. The prisoners are confined in solitary metal

cells that are cold and do not have any windows. The prisoners of La Tolva are

accustomed to maltreatment, torture and intimidation. La Tolva is one of the three

Honduran prisons that was modeled after the US maximum security prison model.

Originally these prisons were created only for the most dangerous prisoners however

criminals from El Progreso Criminal Center, which is a center for the less dangerous

prisoners of Honduras, have been continuously transferred into these facilities. These

transfers had no administrative disciplinary rulings and were believed to occur because

those being transferred did not have the same beliefs as the government. These

transfers consisted of church pastors, students, and education assistants, most of them

were still waiting for their trial. In La Tolva receiving visits from family and loved ones is

often rare as the prison guards can turn those who come to the gate to see an inmate

away at their discretion. Edwin Espinal has been fortunate enough to get fairly frequent

visits from his family, however family members Janet Spring and Karen Espinal have

had to go to extreme measures in order to gain regular visitation rights.

Espinal is a human rights activist currently suffering cruel and inhuman

treatment in a maximum security prison located in Honduras. He is, “[a] man who has

spent a year inside a prison without access to proper nutrition, medical care,

prescriptions, clean water, sunlight, and regular visits with his wife and family has a
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message for anyone who is listening.” (Erika Engel, January 2019). Currently trapped

inside the Honduran prison, La Tolva, he is constantly visited by his Canadian wife,

Karen Espinal and sometimes from his mother in law Janet Spring. Due to his

imprisonment, Edwin Espinal was married in the complex and has spent his entire

marriage behind bars. His family has played a vital role in his life as they continue to

make the effort to go and visit him in prison and they also devote much of their time to

lobbying for his case.

Before being imprisoned, Edwin worked in the US for 11 years and after

returning to his country in 2009 he devoted his time to help the people in his

community that have been repressed by the Honduran regime that is currently in

power. He has been arrested more than 10 times without receiving a charge, until 2018

when he was arrested alongside 22 other activists during a protest (Janet Spring,

2019). He was arrested for charges of property damage, among others, with little to no

proof that he committed any of these judicial crimes. Although there is little evidence

for his case the corrupt court system makes it very hard for him to defend himself.

His arrest took place when thousands of people went to the streets to protest

the supposed electoral fraud by Juan Orlando Hernandez and his government.

Protesters were shot and beaten. Dozens of them were killed or had major injuries

(Kathy Price, Jan 10, 2019). Other protesters were detained and taken to prisons

including La Tolva. Many of these prisoners, including Edwin Espinal, have not had a
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trial even after a year of imprisonment. His wife Karen Spring is worried about his

condition as he has lost over 40 pounds since being detained just over a year ago

(Kathy Price, Jan 10, 2019).

Another political prisoner that is being held in maximum security prison, La

Tolva, with Edwin Espinal is Raúl Álvarez (Honduras: Nine Years of Resistance and

Repression, 2018). He was arrested at the same time and place as Espinal and shares a

similar story. Others arrested in the same event include Edy Gonzalo Valles who is

serving time in the maximum security prison El Pozo, and Gustavo Adolfo Cáceres

Ayala and José Gabriel Godinez Ávelar are being held in the penitentiary in El Progreso.

These men are dealing with outrageous charges and have been living in terrible

conditions for months due to their pre trial imprisonment without bail (Honduras: Nine

Years of Resistance and Repression, 2018).

Venezuela’s current situation has caused major controversy within the country.

Recently, hundreds of thousands of people have been fleeing the country because of

the shortage of resources including medicine and medical supplies and the lack of food

(Kenneth Roth, 2018). Some are also leaving the country because of the violent and

powerful government. Citizens of this country have faced major human right violation
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concerns. This includes the people who have been imprisoned because of their political

views that oppose the government in some way or form. None of the separate

government institutions are in order anymore so executive power of governance is not

limited. The government shows the people their power by stacking the courts full of

biased judges so the citizens do not have a chance at a fair trial and therefore they are

often convicted through military courts. They also take to the streets with violence and

arresting anyone who shows signs of opposition. Reporters have gathered that this

government has demonstrated inhuman treatment towards those that oppose them

which includes torture and murder.

At this time over 340 political prisoners are suffering in confinement or

intelligence service headquarters throughout Venezuela according to the Penal Forum,

which is a network of criminal defence lawyers. The people locked in prison cells live in

overpopulated prisons that do not have enough food and resources for everyone and

are very under kept. With arrests relating to protest events many people are charged

without conviction. Around 5400 people were arrested in correlation to the

demonstrations between April and November. Of these people 3900 of them were

conditionally released however the charges were not dropped.

Killings during protests are also frequent in Venezuela. Venezuelan security

groups that are referred to as “colectivos” have continually attacked some of the anti-

government protests that normally involve tens of thousands of citizens (Kenneth Roth,
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2018). These forces have killed and injured many of the protestors who have offered no

resistance involving violence and they also plotted violent raids on several apartment

buildings. As of July 31, 2018, 124 people have been reported as dead from incidents

within protests. The government claims that ten of the security group members were

killed in the protests as well. During these protests they try to arrest or kill the people

who led the riots and if they are found they are often charged with long sentences that

are not easily dropped. An example of a man who was arrested for leading protests of

oppression is Leopoldo Lopez.

Leopoldo Lopez has been on house arrest since 2017. He played a large part in

Juan Guaidos sudden ascent from the political margin to Venezuela's would-be

president. He also claims to be distantly related to Simon Bolivar who was the general

that freed Venezuela from spanish ruling. In his early life he studied in the United States

at Harvard University. His first major action was when he co founded Justice First

which is a political party in Venezuela. According to a Venezuelan analyst that has

connections to him, “[h]e sets up political parties then leaves them when they grow

beyond his control,”. He was elected to be mayor of the Chacao district of Caracas

during 2000 and after he was re-elected and served until 2008. He ran for 2 terms but

Chavez did not let him run for a third.

Since Lopez was an opposition leader he was charged with 13 years in prison.

He was convicted for inciting violence while participating in a demonstration in Caracas

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in February of the year 2014. He was convicted without any suitable evidence tying

him to the charge. He was sent to a maximum security prison where he stayed in

solitary confinement for eight months. After a long three-and-a-half years in prison he

was released to house arrest but only weeks later he was arrested again for publicly

criticizing the government. His friend Antonio Ledezma was arrested the same night for

publishing a critical video during his house arrest. Like Lopez he was a former

oppression leader. After this night, Lopez was forbidden to carry out “political

proselytism” and he is also not allowed to “issue statements to any media”. Both of the

men were back to house arrest in days but in the month of November in 2018,

Ledezma fled the country in order to find freedom.

After Leopoldo was arrested, he became the face of the anti-government

protests. He inspired many to fight for their rights and stand up for their freedoms.

However, while he was in jail his wife Lilian Tintar took control of what he was doing.

She took on the role of the messenger between him and the other opposition figures.

Lilian Tintori stated that “[w]hen he was in prison he sent me in his place to speak with

other party leaders, and I would relay their messages to him. It was constant and it was

effective and it’s how the People’s WIll has become so united”. She played this position

until he was moved to house arrest in 2017 and from there he continued to create

movements on his own and through working with other political figures (Joe Parkin

Daniels, Feb 7, 2019).

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Case Study #2: Russia

Russia is the world’s largest country spreading from Northern Asia to Eastern

Europe (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018). Russia has upheld the reputation of being a

powerful country for many years now however they are becoming known for the

repression that is currently overtaking the country. The state has continued to tighten

their control over free expression and aims to denounce all independent critics (Human

Rights Watch, 2018). Through censoring the critical media, harassing, torturing, killing

and detaining political activists and innocent protestors, banning foreign organizations,

and setting up smear campaigns against independently run groups, the government

has been fairly successful in repressing their citizens.

An astonishing number of people are recognized to be current political prisoners

in Russia, nearly 200 to be exact (Moscow Times, March 2019). These are people who

have been arrested for uploading “hate mail” about the government on the media,

those who participated in political protests and human rights activists and journalists.

There are several case examples that have been released and looked into and the

victims have been classified as political prisoners of Russia.

Dmitry Buchenkov was charged for his role in the Bolotnaya Square protests

that recognized the fraud in the presidential elections of 2011 (CSCE, 2017). He was

detained under the Articles 212 (“participation in mass riots”) and 318 (“use of force

against a representative of the authority”) of the Russian criminal code in December of

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2015. He is currently being watched under house arrest and has still not recieved a fair

trial (CSCE, 2017).

An example of a man who has been imprisoned because of a family member is

named Oleg Navalny. Brother of Alexei Navalny was sentenced to three and a half

years in jail for random crimes that he did not commit. The reason the Memorial (a news

company) believes that he was targeted is because his brother Alexei who is a well

known political activist (CSCE, 2017). The government felt that it is too dangerous to

arrest Alexei Navalny himself as that would cause many uprisings throughout the

country so they went after his brother in order to apply pressure to his protest methods.

This case is a prime example of the ability the government has to go after family

members enable to apply political pressure to those oppressing them, even though this

practice is prohibited under the OSCE 1989 Vienna Concluding Document (CSCE,


There has also been several instances where people have been detained for

posting about political protests or stating on the media that they would be taking part

in them. The government in Russia has a significant amount of control over the internet

in their country, especially since 2017. In November 2017 there was a law passed that

enabled the prosecutors office to remove content and websites published by foreign

organizations (Human Rights Watch, Russia, 2018). The government also continue to

monitor those who practice minority religions online and have scared people into
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reconsidering their religious beliefs. An example of a religious group that is currently

being attacked in Russia is the Jehovah Witnesses. Some people who participate in this

religion have been jailed and held as prisoners of conscience and others tortured and

severely injured. Russian citizens have never been so fearful of their social media posts

and internet access and censorship.

Repression has caused a major divide between the Russian government and

citizens and because of this innocent people continue to be tortured, imprisoned and

stripped of their human rights.

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Case Study #3: Turkey

The country of Turkey has been experiencing a state of emergency since the

coup that was attempted in July 2016. Citizens are frightened to say or do anything

that opposes the government because they could lose their job, have their

organizations shut down or worse, criminal prosecution (Human Rights Watch, Turkey

2018). In April, constitutional amendments were passed which granted more power to

Erdoğans office. Erdogan is the current president of Turkey. The opposition leaders

were upset with this movement because this meant that they would have less access

to state media and they were prohibited from showing their oppression to the

government in any public areas. Journalists, activists, and human rights defenders are

being targeted and are closely watched by associates of the government. Less protests

have occurred since the provincial governors put bans on internet access and protest

abilities, and installed fear in the people by using excessive force (Amnesty

International, 2019). Police and security forces have not got in trouble for killing and

assaulting many people and whenever a case is brought up it is dismissed abruptly.

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Currently 500 000 people are displaced from their homes without enough resources to

survive because of the Syrian refugee crisis (Human Rights Watch, Turkey 2018).

Over 50 000 people of Turkey’s 3.4 million population went to pre-trial detention

with charges that were connected to memberships of the “Fethullah Terrorist

Organization” (FETO), this organization was blamed for the attempted coup in 2016.

Most of the people brought to the trial were released however they had to abide to

certain conditions. In June and July the “Justice March” took place between Ankara and

Istanbul. More than 200 000 people participated in this 400 kilometer walk. This march

took place after a CHP (Republican People’s Party) parliamentarian, Enis Berberoglu

was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was arrested for giving

journalists a video which documented the exchange of weapons with Syria in National

Intelligence government organization trucks. However, his conviction was overturned

and the defence lawyers ordered a retrial. He participated in Gezi protests which are

protests that involve peaceful people who only participate in the rallies to exercise their

rights. In these demonstrations the citizens were met with forceful violence from the

police and security groups, ran by the government, even though they did not show any

signs of violence themselves (Amnesty International, 2019).

Since July 2016 over 107 000 people were dismissed from their jobs as they

were considered to be “terrorists of opposition” by the government.

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The Turkish government has a huge control over this country. They even control and

censor what is put online about their country and they block websites and social media

outlets from the residents of the country. Innocent people have been killed or

imprisoned because of the governments level of power over them and anyone who has

different views the those of the governance are in grave danger. A man who first-

handedly experienced the strength of the government is named Osman Kavala.

Osman Kavala was in jail and on pretrial detention for almost 16 months. He was

charged with seeking to overthrow the government in 2013 because he played a major

role in the Gezi protests which were considered to be coup attempts. He was also

accused of taking part in the attempted coup in July 2016. “Financing the terrorists”

was another accusations made towards Kavala from the President Recep Tayyip

Erdogan. Each of these accusations comes with little to no proof that he committed any

of those felonies, however because of the governments control over the courts he does

not have a good chance to get a fair trial. Although he has been imprisoned for more

than a year his indictment has yet to be created. As he continues to wait for this

indictment he gets stronger feelings of hatred towards the government, “[t]the fact that

my indictment has not been prepared yet creates some uncertainty, but I am trying not

to keep my mind occupied with what has happened to me in the absence of an

indictment, I am trying to think as though I am in a retreat”. Before being imprisoned

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Osman Kavala gave the people someone to look up to in the fight for rights and made

constructive efforts towards the human rights and freedoms of the citizens of Turkey.

In his earlier years he took over his father's business, Kavala companies. This is

where he got his business background. He then became a sponsor for the organization

Amnesty international and made it his main goal to connect people and build strong

relationships throughout Turkey so they can appear as a united front to their

government. He dedicated his life to cultivating a civil society and forming a culture

within the country. The people appreciated his efforts and looked up to him however

the government had a different view on this man. He was described as a local

collaborator of a foreign conspiracy that George Soros was leading in order to split up

the already divided country. Mr. Soros has been fighting against totalitarianism and

authoritarianism and has created foundations that will continue to push for his mission

for many years to come (The Washington Post, 2017). For this, he was accused of

being a “business tycoon with a shady background”. These labels were not correct and

were made up by the government simply because they are frightened by him and his

efforts against them. The now 62 year old businessman and philanthropist is being

held in a maximum security prison and is no longer a threat in the eyes of the


President of Turkey, Erdogan has become increasingly more powerful in his

years of presidency. News reporters claim that “Erdogan is still calling all of the shots in
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Turkey”. He is continuously criticized for failing to protect human rights and in fact

taking them away as well as preventing certain groups that oppress the government

from having the right to freedom of speech (CNN, March 2019). With Erdogan's

increasing greed for power the people of Turkey will continue to be repressed and

denied their freedom to human rights.

Canadian Connection:

A North American country of liberty, Canada, continues to enforce and follow all

of the human rights in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights that tend to be

violated through the issue of political prisoners. There is no real situation with political

prisoners in Canada, however in recent news a case involving Meng Wanzhou has
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come up and she has been considered a Chinese political prisoner that is being held in

Canada. Other than this, they have reached a place where human rights are considered

in all situations. However, in the past, up until 1999 when the last of the residential

schools were shut down, Canada had a major issue with political prisoners and

prisoners of conscience. This is an issue that is a major part of Canada’s history but the

Canadian government has been striving to give the First Nations people back the

culture they stole from them not that long ago. However, this does not directly connect

to freedom of speech and freedom of opinion, it relates to the reforming a culture.

Canada has a democracy government which allows people to have more say in the

ruling of the country. This gives those who are upset with the government an

opportunity to tell their opinions in a polite manner without having the fear of being put

in prison.

Although Canada is a liberal country, there are still some cases that come up that

are questionable towards peoples human rights. A Chinese tech executive, Meng

Wanzhou was recently arrested in Canada as the United States requested them to

confine her and hold her inside of the country (Bess Levin, December 2018). Analysts

considered the “timing and manner” of her arrest to be strange and her country, China

was not happy because Meng Wanzhou is one of the senior executives at a company

that plans to play an important part in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan to beat out

foreign competition in order to take domination over the 5G technology (Bess Levin,
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December 2018). President Trump stated in front of the press that he “would certainly

intervene if I thought it was necessary,” and people have come to the conclusion that if

the trade between the US and Beijing is made, Meng Wanzhou will be released from

the Canadian prison through the power of his presidency and the connection between

the US and Canada. Another questionable action that occurred after Meng was

arrested was that a Canadian criminal that is currently being held in China was

sentenced to death instead of his original 12 year sentence. Michael Kovrig worked as a

government official in Canada and was arrested on December 10th and has been

detained since then (South China Morning Post, January 2019). His sentence was

changed days after the Canadian Justice system arrested one of the citizens of Beijing.

This represents the power governments have over each other. Holding prisoners from

other countries in order to gain the attention of that country’s government is not

uncommon. It is often used as a tactic when one country does something to upset the

other, that country will for example arrest someone from the conflicting country.

Canada brings solutions to the issue of political prisoners instead of contributing

to it for the most part. The government funds organizations that fight for the rights of

political prisoners in other countries. Canada also plays a large role in the United

Nations and Amnesty International which are two of the most helpful organizations for

political prisoners. If Canada continues to pressure the governments of countries where

political prisoners are a major problem better outcomes will become more likely and
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frequent because of their powerful justice system. It is important that organizations

continue to be supported throughout the country and that Canadian citizens remain

strong lobbiers for this global issue.

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The Logic of Evil:

How do governments justify themselves for putting innocent people in jail

because they spoke out against them? Every political leader believes that their way of

governance is the most efficient way to lead a country. Some governments, mainly

those ran by a dictatorship or those with controlling leaders, do not appreciate when

others tell them they are doing something wrong or have opposing opinions. So in

some countries they believe that the only way to fight this is by killing or detaining the

people who protest and oppress their authority. Other times the leaders imprison

innocent people because the leaders are greedy for more power and to stay in control.

Having the ability to imprison people without a justifiable reason shows signs of control

and dominance over a country. In some forms of governance, like a dictatorship, that is

one of the main goals; pure dominance. The governments also use political

imprisonment as a way to instil fear in the citizens of their country. They imprison some

in order to make the rest of the population fear that they could be imprisoned as well if

they choose to oppress their government. It is a tactic to gain more power as fear is

something that lives inside of everyone.

Governments control the evil of this issue through many factors. A major one

being the influence and control they have over social and mainstream media, and

internet throughout their country. As an expert in the field of media, Tony Tran said,
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“not many things have changed the way the public interacts with governments more

than social media.” This demonstrates how the government can see exactly what is

being put online and if anyone is oppressing the government in their media. The

government can also control what kinds of websites and media sources the public is

able to access and what information is allowed to be seen. If they see something that

they do not like they have the ability to prevent the entire country from seeing it. They

may also use the social media to their advantage by posting threats and warnings for

protests and speaking against the government so people are less likely to stand up for

their rights and attempt to take back some control. Social media can be considered a

dangerous weapon when in the hands of a government because they can make

everything their people view correspond to their biases.

Leaders justify their actions as a way to keep their countries intact. By forcing

everyone to believe in the same politics there is no controversy in which parties win the

election or how the country should be run. However, in some countries the people

believe that what the government says and believes in, is right simply because they

were voted into power and therefore know what they are doing. Others believe that the

government is imprisoning the people who speak out because they are terrorists or

religious extremists. These are groups that are feared by the general population and if

governments place labels like terrorists and extremists on protest groups, the citizens
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of that country are more likely to agree that they should be behind bars for speaking

out against the government.

Although the action of putting an innocent person in jail because they voice their

contradicting opinion is unjustifiable, it continues to happen. Governments continue to

gain stronger control of their control through factors including fear and the media. It is

evil to convict innocent people for their voices, however, the issue of political prisoners

continues to become more prevalent. Will justice be served to those who deserve it?

Not without drastic change to the system through valid solutions.

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What can be done to prevent more innocent people from going to jail? How can

activists speak their opinions without being endanger? What can average citizens do to

aid those in need? These are the questions people need to be asking in order to create

change within this issue. By asking these questions solutions can be made and action

can be took. By raising awareness, participating in protests, applying pressure to

governments and supporting the political prisoners behind bars justice can be served to

those who need it.

Raising awareness on social and mainstream media activists, protestors and

those who oppress the government will make political prisoners a more globally

informed issue. Through providing people who do not know about what is going on in

other countries and their own with political prisoners, with information and rallying
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against the government, supporters will be gained for this cause. People will realize

what kinds of conditions political prisoners suffer in. For example, the inhumane

treatments inside the prisons and the lack of nutrition and cleanliness in the facilities

where they are kept. By explaining how much power the government holds over

political prisoners people may be more apt to joining the fight for rights and lobby for

those who have lost their voices during this fight. Global awareness needs to be

achieved in order to move forward and deal with this issue as a united world instead of

fighting it individually in separate countries.

Protests are an effective way to raise awareness to this issue and they also get

the attention of the government and the media. However, participating in a protest may

be very dangerous. In a lot of countries where political prisoners are an issue, protesters

are at high risk of getting hurt, imprisoned or even killed. However in countries like

Canada, where the government does not criminally assault innocent protestors,

protests could be useful to gain the help of the government. If legit governments like

Canada apply pressure to governments that violate basic human rights that country

may be more opt to following the UNDHR. With added political pressure from other

countries change to freedoms of human rights will be seen.

Letter writing companies are organized and controlled by NGOs. Letters are

written and mailed by human rights organizations to all sorts of political figures in

hopes to have certain political prisoners removed. For example, Janet Spring and her
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organization, Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor, write letters about political

prisoner Edwin Espinal and his associates that are currently trapped in Honduran

prisons. They send these letters to municipal politicians like John Brassard who is a

Conservative MP for the City of Barrie, but also to people like the Canadian Prime

Minister, Justin Trudeau. The ideal situation would be to have letters sent in from other

governments to the political figures that have political prisoners held in their country in

order to apply political peer pressure. This is why letters are written to politicians in

Canada where political prisoners are not a major issue.

Finally, political prisoners need to know they are being supported. If they do not

believe that speaking out was worth going to jail they could give up on their cause. This

is why other people's voices need to arise and stand up for this cause to show that

although some lobbyists went to jail, there are still people out fighting their rights and

fighting to have political prisoners removed from prison. Support can be hard to give to

prisoners in maximum security facilities so by simply supporting their voices by echoing

them with others is a good step towards change. If everyone helps support those

behind bars they will be more likely to be released.

These are all solutions that have been attempted in the past that have done

some good towards this issue. Continued actions with these resolutions will ensure

that more political prisoners will get the liberty they deserve. Political prisoners have

been around for many years and it is unfortunate that these people have to suffer in
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order to attain their rights. Justice needs to be served to those who are currently in jail

because of their bravery to stand up for their rights and prevention methods must be

put in place so political prisoners are saved in the future. This is not an issue people can

turn a blind eye to. Imagine being the one behind bars for being verbal about certain

political views without doing anything against the law. Imagine being punished for

opinions that matter. This is the life of a political prisoner. A life that can be prevented if

the right methods are put into action. If the world continues to put these solutions into

place, speaking out against the government will not be quite so dangerous and we will

continue to make progress to a world that adheres to human rights freedoms.


Figure 1.1) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human
rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the
world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December
1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all
nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has
been translated into over 500 languages


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the
human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
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Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged
the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of
speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the
common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion
against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental
human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women
and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the
promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full
realization of this pledge,

RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every
individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching
and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national
and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the
peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and
conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any
kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin,
property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political,
jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be
independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
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Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All
are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any
incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the
fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in
the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not
constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor
shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor
to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against
such interference or attacks.

Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
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(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes
or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to
marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society
and the State.

Article 17.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to
change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or
private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions
without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen
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(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in
periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret
vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through
national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization and resources of
each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free
development of his personality.

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of
work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his
family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social
protection. (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic
holidays with pay.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of
his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right
to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of
livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or
out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and
fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education
shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening
of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and
friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United
Boughner 56

Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and
to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any
scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this
Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality
is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are
determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and
freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare
in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the
United Nations.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to
engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms
set forth herein.

Figure 1.2) Email interview responses from Janet Spring

1. What kind of post-secondary schooling did you take in order to get into this line of work?

This work I am involved in does not relate to my post-secondary schooling. It relates to my daughter’s human rights work in
Central America, where she has worked since she graduated from U of Toronto in human biology/world issues and Simon Fraser
Masters in Public Health. I am a lecturer at Lakehead University in the Bachelor of Education program, teaching Curriculum and
Instruction in Music Education. My degrees (BA, MM, PhDMUS, BEd) are all from University of Toronto. But the more
studying and research at the university that I do, my past teaching for 28 years in SCDSB as an elementary teacher, my
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interaction with B Ed students now, and the work my own children are involved in furthers my interests and broadens my scope
and knowledge.

2. How did you develop the passion you have for your work?
When Karen first left for Central America, she worked in Guatemala for a Canadian NGO – Rights Action, investigating health
issues related to Canadian mining in indigenous communities. When the Canadian/US backed coup d’etat occurred in Honduras
in 2009, and President Manuel Zelaya was ousted from power, Karen’s work sent her there to assist the Honduran people who
were marginalized by the repression. It was then she met her husband, Edwin Espinal, a Honduran national who was also
working in a human rights capacity in his community. I have followed Karen’s work closely, supported her, visited her in
Honduras and Guatemala, traveled on delegations, and continue to do so. Since Edwin’s arrest we formed the Simcoe County
Honduras Rights Monitor which is a Simcoe County based human rights organization, formed specifically to advocate for Edwin
and other political prisoners’ arrests in Honduras and support those marginalized by the repressive regime of Juan Orlando

3. How do governments have the power to imprison people for speaking out?
In the case of Honduras and many Central American countries, also other impoverished countries around the world, the
governments are run by dictators, or very repressive right-wing regimes. In the case of Honduras, this country has had a very
repressive past, where the democratic process has been impeded by corruption and interference by other ‘first world’ countries,
such as the US, Canada, Europe, etc. who have supported these corrupt regimes, mostly due to economic reasons. In Honduras,
specifically, the country was on a better path with the democratically elected president of Manuel Zelaya. He was more of a
socialist leader, trying to implement new laws and government policies to better life for the impoverished Honduran population.
Honduras has been known as having one of the highest murder rates in the world, due to drug trafficking, exploitation, extortion,
etc. and Zelaya wanted to change this.

Yet Zelaya’s new socialist left leaning policies did not bode well with US, Canadian, and EU economic interests. They did not
line up with North American and European economic interests; he was trying to implement more stringent rules for mining,
protecting indigenous rights, and looking to implement more protection for environmental standards in Honduras. This type of
government obstructs business interests; hence the coup d’etat of 2009. The National Party that was instated in 2009 and still
‘rules’ today, is very right-wing, allowing US control, which is more profitable for international economic interested factions.

To more specifically answer your question, a corrupt regime such as the Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) government has more
power to break constitutional laws and to rule with a free hand if it is supported by a super power like the United States. The laws
of the country can be broken, the people can be exploited, and the government can imprison anyone who speaks out against their
government. The JOH government hence arrests and convicts anyone they feel is a threat to their corrupt practices. In Hernandez’
case, his election in November 2017 was a fraudulent one, as the election was fraught with irregularities. It was illegal to start, for
he was running for a second term, which is illegal as stated in the Honduran constitution. When he was losing to the opposition at
the polls in November, he halted the election for two weeks, declaring problems in the process, then re-opened it after the ballot
boxes were allegedly stuffed with ballots in favour of Hernandez, he declared a victory. This victory was highly disputed by the
UN, OAS, and by many international organizations that were present to invigilate (watch over) the election process. Yet in
December of 2017, the US finally declared Hernandez president, and Canada followed suit shortly afterwards. This support from
our government and the US empowers Hernandez and pretty well gives him free reign over government affairs and decisions he
makes. The US and Canada know of his corruption but turn a blind eye to it; this is well documented in academic literature if you
wish to research this issue further.

JOH now has the power to rule and will continue to do so. If anyone speaks out against his corrupt practices (he has been accused
for years to be heavily involved in narco-trafficking; his brother was arrested in Miami in December for narco-trafficking and is
awaiting trial), he has them arrested. And as he as president has the power to run the country, he also has the power to appoint all
members of the court. So, anyone who is charged with a crime, whether there is evidence or not, is tried by judges appointed by
Hernandez. The Honduran people say that the Honduran jails are full of the poor; the rich are not arrested and if they are, they
buy their way out of the charge. Honduras is also run by the very rich oligarchy families, who have free reignm who benefit from
this corruption and who are ‘protected’ by the corrupt regime that runs the country.

4. Why was Edwin Espinal imprisoned and what was his story?
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Edwin Espinal is a Honduran national, who worked in the US for 11 years. He returned to Honduras in 2009 just before the coup
d’etat. He loves his country and has worked since then to help those in his community and beyond who have been repressed by
the Honduran regime in power. When the election occurred in November 2017 and Hernandez re-gained power illegally, the
people took to the streets to protest. The protesters were met with teargas, live bullets, disappearances, murders, arrests, torture.
None of these illegal acts by the government have been investigated by the Honduran legal system. Edwin was arrested like 22
others, charged with a laundry list of offences, mostly related to property damage; if convicted, Edwin and others’ could face
between 15-30 years in a maximum-security prison.

Since Edwin has been a human rights worker for many years, he has been targeted by the Honduran regime. He has been arrested
over 10 times (without charge) until last year, tortured, beaten, held indefinitely, and his house raided, his family members
terrorized. All of these arrests, terrorization and the charges that he now faces are political in nature. There is a lack of evidence
in his case, yet the corruption throughout the court system makes it difficult to defend him. The only way he will be set free and
all charges dropped is for international pressure to be strong enough to make the Honduran government release him. For more
information on Edwin and his struggles, go to: freeedwinespinallibertad.wordpress.com;
simcoecountyhondurasrightsmonitor.wordpress.com. There is a great amount of information if you do a google search as well.

5. Do you believe we will overcome this issue in the near future?

The only way to overcome issues that are political in nature is to give the people of their country the right to democratically elect
a representative they believe to be the best to govern and represent their interests. We must take heed of international non-
government organizations like the United Nations, and human rights groups to affect positive influence on decisions around the
world, as long as they represent the people and not merely the economic interests of the rich.
6. Who has the control of this issue?
People have the right to choose their elected officials and have the right to make demands of their governments to rule as they see
fit. For example, many people in Canada (and in many parts of the world like Honduras) have spoken out against the electoral
issues in the country and our elected Prime Minister had as one of his mandates in his election to review the electoral process in
the country to make it more democratic. He has not done so yet, so the people have to hold the government accountable. Bottom
line, the people must exercise their rights to affect positive change.
7. Why haven’t governments like the Canadian government done much to aid those who have been stripped of
their human rights from other countries?
I think I have answered this question in the previous statements. But I have not yet qualified the issues that occur in a capitalist
society. Many international human rights organizations and organizations like the UN, Amnesty, etc. have made strong
statements against capitalism and so does our organization, the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor. The famous indigenous
Honduran environmentalist (winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Award, Berta Caceres) stated before her assassination
in 2016, the it has been proven that capitalism does not work and is detrimental to people around the world. Economic interests
have marginalized populations everywhere and will continue to do so, and also destroy our planet. Money and economic gain as a
strategy will not work.
8. What role do you play in all of this?
I along with the community of Elmvale, Simcoe County, and beyond are working through the Simcoe County Honduras Rights
Monitor and other human rights organizations to advocate for Edwin and other political prisoners’ release. We are lobbying our
government and the government of Honduras and United States. We are spreading the word and apprising people of our family
crisis and the severe issues that are occurring in Honduras. We will not stop until political prisoners are free. When we have
achieved our goal, we will continue to work for the people of Honduras, as they face many issues today and in the future if their
government is run by corruption. This serious situation is evident in the mass exodus of people, mainly from Honduras, who are
trying to migrate to North America in search of a better way of life, free from extortion, government repression, high murder
rates, gang and gun violence, poverty and unemployment.
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