We are pleased to announce there is a new documentary in production– Truth & Reconciliation: Dr. Mutulu Shakur. The film features stories told by the men who were incarcerated, mentored and inspired by Dr. Shakur. For more information on how to be featured in the documentary or how to support this project on the unparalleled impact and positive work of Dr. Shakur check out the Indiegogo page.
Thank you for continuing to show your support. I always take pleasure in learning about your varied pursuits in today’s era. Many of your letters offer new insight into the many changes taking place, and your questions give pause to reflect on your perspective.
We are now preparing for the United States Parole Commission’s unprincipled resistance and failure to follow due process in an incremental manner. It continues to be important for you to submit support letters concerning my ability to get a fair hearing, as well as my capabilities to integrate without being a threat to the community and to continue to be of purpose; contrary to what they allege. Judicial and legislative branches have left us all amiss as to what we can expect in this turbulent period. Ironically, it is not apparent if moral consciousness has yet had the prevailing effect over the abuse of power, and expectation of due process.
As you know, “All Eyez On Me” was released this summer and received mixed reviews. I have yet to see the film, but I have been in contact with the actor who portrayed me, Jamie Hector. I find it refreshing to have an established artist make contact to determine if his work has done a historical role justice. I am humbled through the sincerity of our interaction, and his intention; the yearning in his search for the truth is revealing. Again, I have not seen the film, but from all personal comments and reviews, Jamie has done justice to my character and did not disrespect the legacy of the Shakurs. I was also very pleased that Afeni was portrayed by Danai Gurira, of The Walking Dead. She has a natural essence similar to Afeni, evident in her role as “Machone.” I am also told that she will continue her role in the upcoming Black Panther movie.
From our conversations, it was apparent that Jamie acknowledges the complexity of the struggles of those times. Clearly, I cannot determine whether or not the movie or characters captured the essence of the movement in its totality or the legacy of my son justly. Knowing that Tupac was birthed in the intense struggle of the Black Power movement, his life journey manifested the wounds of that era’s conflicts. Many questions have been raised, as to ‘how we got there.’
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process, utilized all over the world most notably in South Africa, offers a process available to all sides hopefully. Further interaction with Jamie and others will encourage the social appetite of artists to invest in the TRC process. There is a new timely rule, initiated by a report and recommendation by U.N. Rapporteur Juan Mendez and accepted by the U.N. General Assembly, know as the “Nelson Mandela Rule.” I support the “Nelson Mandela Project” with the Jericho Movement.
I have been selected to be recognized at the 2017 Annual Black Power Awards in Georgia. I still need more information and background about the event, but I am truly honored to be recognized amongst peers who have learned like me the many lessons from the earlier Black Power period.
We all have our work cut out for us, but we also need to acknowledge the efforts of one another: Jamie Hector and the successes of the Moving Mountains film and acting school for at-risk youth; Sophia Dawson and brother Peekaso for their artistic expression in advocacy of political prisoners– Sophia recently presented an exhibit reflecting the path of our struggle at the Bronx Museum’s Biennial showcase and Peekaso demonstrated his painting talents while on stage during a live concert while both artists have created and presented exceptional paintings of me and others in raising awareness to cases, for which we are grateful; Celebrated acupuncturist and healer, comrade Tatsuo Hirano, has put forth efforts to establish an acupuncture treatment program within the California penal system to treat prisoner-patients for symptoms of P.T.S.D. and post-incarceration Syndrome (PICS), by implementing the Lincoln Detox acupuncture protocols continuing our legacy; Chokwe Lumumba and his son, both great men, have been elected by citizens of Jackson, Mississippi as mayors; both are historical victories. We are elated!! Prior to his passing, Chokwe Lumumba Sr. was Tupac’s attorney as well as mine, and a brother in our struggle. We are proud of his son and very optimistic about the future; Colin Kaepernick for willfully jeopardizing his career in protest of police shootings of unarmed civilians (his actions charge us that there are sacrifices and consequences for raising awareness to injustice, we have the responsibility to demonstrate support; otherwise people like Colin will continue to be marginalized and punished for their peaceful protest); Jay-Z recently did great work on the Kalief Browder documentary and editorial in Time Magazine regarding the broken and discriminatory bail system in the United States; Dr. Sonnee Weedn has done amazing research and development of brain imaging, to which we hope to remain engaged.
We are very pleased to have received official support from our Harlem congressman for my release on parole in 2018. I prevail that we should continue our efforts in pursuit of congressional support and political capital towards the end goal of releasing our prisoners. Time is not on our side– I’m sure there is more, but space will not allow. Truthfully, I do not have the time to correspond individually; hopefully this gives respect to your letters and concerns.
I want to recognize and say ‘thank you’ to everyone on social media who continues to show their support through Twitter and Facebook. I encourage you to reach out to the tech squad if you’d like to be involved with upcoming projects they are organizing, such as art shows for political prisoners awareness. Stay connected as we continue ‘straight ahead.’
“Colin can’t get work, Mutulu still in jail, why Philando and Sandra never made bail?”
Mud and Water
‘Pray for Me and Picture Me Rollin’
On May 31, NAACP President Ben Jealous appeared on Democracy Now! and called for a US Truth and Reconciliation Commission which Dr. Mutulu Shakur has been calling for for over 5 years. Watch the video of the interview embedded above, read Mutulu’s comments below, and sign the petition.
“There is a need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the U.S. to resolve the history of slavery, oppression, racism, segregation, lynching and the issues of political prisoners of the Civil Rights Black Liberation Struggle who fought against these gross human rights abuses.”
We seek restorative justice and the immediate release of all of those who put their lives on the line for freedom and justice and thus have been anguishing in prisons across America due to their political activities, associations and views…
A process that is developed on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and/or the tribunals, has been the model used around the world. It allows for open discussion on the issue of resistance versus the state; it allows for a definition of terrorism that does not criminalize legitimate forms of resistance against oppression. It equally provides an avenue for healing and rebuilding, or at the very least, it provides a starting point post-conflict…
It’s important to acknowledge and understand that activists in our movement, who have made an effort to build support for political prisoners and prisoners of war in the U.S., have utilized and exhausted all available avenues that were open to them to gain relief for our freedom fighters…”
– Dr. Mutulu Shakur
“All of the political prisoner cases from the ’60s are a concern. Closing the unsolved lynchings is something that we’re still working on. It makes you wonder if the country isn’t coming to a place where we need some sort of Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help us deal with what are very painful moments.” – Ben Jealous, NAACP President (2013)
Towards a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for New African/Black Political Prisoners, Prisoners of War and Freedom Fighters by: Dr. Mutulu Shakur May 2010
Truth & Reconciliation Commission Follow-up by: Dr. Mutulu Shakur January 2011
This paper is a response to questions and concerns regarding the 2010 “Discussion Paper” of the application of a Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal that addresses the conflict between the civil rights/black liberation struggle against the U.S. COINTELPRO low intensity warfare.
There are some among our ranks who have raised some legitimate and novel questions and concerns as to why I have chosen to espouse the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process. I do this to shed light on, and to gain relief for, our political prisoners and allies of the black liberation movement. Below, I will endeavor to address some of the questions and concerns.
1. The people in South Africa had/have serious problems with the TRC put together by the ANC.
2. The people in South Africa believe that the national leaders sold them out by allowing their names to be used as the ones that were heading up the commission.
3. The people in South Africa believe that the illegal regime used the process to absolve the state apparatus of its complicity in crimes against humanity and to circumvent judicial review under the International Court in The Hague.
4. The people in South Africa believe that the Africans/Blacks would be, and were the only, ones telling the truth.
It’s important to acknowledge and understand that activists in our movement, who have made an effort to build support for political prisoners and prisoners of war in the U.S., have utilized and exhausted all available avenues that were open to them to gain relief for our freedom fighters.
We should understand that a process that gains relief for our freedom fighters should naturally contain the memorializing of our rich history of our contemporary resistance to the repressor’s racism, economic apartheid, etc. This history is important for the present generation of activists who seem to have no notion of the countless and enormous sacrifices that were made to pave the way for their present condition.
We must address the prevailing amnesia, and we must be successful in our earnest endeavor in the development of a mass base that through its will and organizational accomplishments, usher in a victory that accepts the existence of New African Freedom Fighters.
The false equating of our freedom fighters, political prisoners, and prisoners of war to so-called terrorists must be vehemently combated, for we are not terrorists! The government has won the battle of molding and shaping the narrative that those of us who dare to resist oppression, without passing go, are terrorists. Terrorism is just another method of resistance, which should not as it exists today include New African Freedom Fighters and our armed resistance to oppression here in the U.S.. It’s important to understand the effect the oppressors’ propaganda has had on the normal activist’s willingness to become engaged.
The word terrorist, unlike communist and fascist, is being abused by the oppressors as it disguises reality and impoverishes language and makes a banality out of the discussion of war, revolution, conflict, and politics. As Christopher Hitchens once said, “It’s the perfect instrument for the cheapening of public opinion and for the intimidation of dissent.”
A process that is developed on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and/or the tribunals, has been the model used around the world. It allows for open discussion on the issue of resistance versus the state; it allows for a definition of terrorism that does not criminalize legitimate forms of resistance against oppression. It equally provides an avenue for healing and rebuilding, or at the very least, it provides a starting point post-conflict.
South Africa has no monopoly on the TRC process. The process has been accepted as a resolution process around the world. Furthermore, the TRC process is in fact an incomplete recording of the conflicts to which it has hitherto been applied.
It’s undeniable that our objective condition has more in common with the South African condition than most others. It’s important that our “think tanks” truly do an objective study of the TRC application process to be more precise as to its application to our struggle and situation. In terms of the special nature of our conflict, the Ireland application of a TRC and the Chilean application of a TRC combined could be transformed into a TRC that exactly fits our needs, but even then it will still not be a perfect fit.
A TRC process could not vet the New African/Black civil rights conflict, and our engagement must not presume that such a process will resolve 400 year odd years of conflict, or totally memorialize the aspect of armed resistance missing in the present Black history.
There is no question that to ignore the victimization of the vast majority of our people would be a recipe for the escalation of enmity between the races, and especially with the rise of the tea party in 2009 with its racist motto “we want our country back,” and its racist anti-Obama agenda.
The President of Chile in 1990 allowed for the creation of a national commission that was based on the principle of the TRC model. The process in Chile was politically fashioned to limit the inquiries into only those individuals who had disappeared. The President of Chile steadfastly resisted the disclosure of the names and ranks of the perpetrators who had committed countless human rights abuses. In Brazil, the TRC included no criminal charges against the military junta but it eventually provided the path for freedom for a female guerilla that became president of the country.
It is important that our researchers not limit our method of the application of the specific process, and rather we should become innovators in creating a process in substitution that addresses our own reality.
Our history during the Civil Rights/Black liberation Movement for Black people that was waged against the backdrop of the low intensity warfare director by J. Edgar Hoover’s counterintelligence program must be memorialized through a process.
The moral difficulty in pursuit of justice will be task driven, to the transition from domestic legal tactics to international application of justice based on the principles of international legal standards. The essence of justice is the universal principles applied nationally and internationally.
Certain applications of the TRC have granted blanket amnesty in all circumstances to the state forces, civilians, and combatants to ensure peace throughout the country.
Yet, other applications of the TRC have prosecuted violators of human rights abuses, and those who took up arms and opposed the perpetrators of said abuses. Some commissions conducted investigations and applied amnesty on a case-by-case basis. Some of the findings of the commission were even revealed to the public and even more hearings were conducted in public forums. Some countries have even provided for the victims and the families of human rights abuses.
Many governments and leaders of the international body claim to have helped to bring about the end of apartheid in South Africa after many, many years of neglect and supporting the atrocious behavior of the illegal regime. However, their failure to support resolution after resolution in the UN and other international institutions of persuasion were based in large part on those governments and leaders’ unique relationship with the U.S.. Needless to say, many lives were lost while the world staunchly supported that illegal regime.
The U.S. after many, many years of contradictions did engage with the international negotiations to end the racist regime in South Africa and institute a process to address the bitterness left from decades of internal conflict.
In South Africa the United States accepted and encouraged the TRC as a process for internal conflict resolution. In the United States, this government should also see the justification and applications of the same type of process to address the years of Jim Crow segregation and the apartheid era here in America as essential to ending the conflict in a peaceful manner.
To have a national and international body. To conduct an equitable and unbiased investigation into the infractions and violations of the U.S. Constitution and U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights perpetrated by official organs of the U.S. Government under COINTELPRO (in regards to what is often referred to as “low intensity warfare,”) and to take the imperative steps to formulate and conduct official hearings and investigations under the auspices of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). A model similar in structure only to the TRC established in the Post-Apartheid South Africa era which applied the modern international standards “explicit means” of resolving international conflict(s).
(A) The status of those who have been identified by popular opinion as political prisoners and prisoners of war, imprisoned on U.S. Territory, in the aftermath of the civil rights/Black liberation struggle; and, as it pertains to the granting of amnesty and their unconditional release: And,
(B) Whether or not the liberation struggle was a legitimate revolutionary movement in accordance with and defined by the U.N. General Assembly Resolution #3103 and ratified on December 12th, 1973 and protocols 1 and 2. Additionally, if “our” political prisoners and prisoners of war satisfies the standards of the Norgaard Principles.
1. To develop a process to conduct official hearings and investigations under a commission with a twofold purpose:
(A) To demand the establishment of the TRC under authority of the U.S. Congress, and
(B) To garner the endorsement and active support of various NGOs along with the support of the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council Member Nations. To apply international pressure to try and persuade the U.S. Government to take an active role in a TRC established under the authority and supervision of The Office of the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights or an agreed alternative.
2. Establish an exploratory committee from amongst restorative justice practitioners.
3. Solicit the assistance from those South Africans who participated in the Truth and
Reconciliation process that was conducted in their country, and the esteemed black and white advocates from North America’s struggle.
4. Request assistance from the South Africans who participated in the TRC process in their country to help develop a process and a step-by-step strategy for applying the TRC process to address crimes against humanity that was committed by the U.S. government against people of African descent who were forcefully abducted from the land of their birth. In addition to the matter of amnesty and the unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of war being held in the U.S. prison system as a consequence of their political activities in which they engaged as a direct response to the acts and policies of the U.S. government which they viewed as crimes against humanity and peoples.
5. Appeal to and solicit the assistance at the local, national, and international levels of Black/New African politicians, in addition to high profile media, artists, and others of influence. To present and explain the narrative(s), outlining the process demanding freedom for our political prisoners and prisoners of war, as well establish an accurate record of “our history” of resistance and sacrifices.
6. Organize a viable grassroots public-awareness campaign in order to promote and explain the idea(s) for the need of a TRC which shall maintain and keep the focus of the issue at hand and others of importance at all times on the front burner. The grass root campaign should be that of a collective broad-base of networks, comprised of the various political prisoners and prisoners of war support committees, progressive experts, local, national, and international organizations and their affiliates.
It is important to build a base amongst its political prisoners (P.P.) and prisoner of war (P.O.W.s) support groups. Our challenge is to distinguish between a strategy pursued by most political prisoner-P.O.W. support and defense committees to achieve amnesty through a COINTELPRO hearing and the development of the Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal confronting the U.S. government’s low intensity warfare against the Civil Rights/black liberation Movement.
The strategic view in my opinion would be that a COINTELPRO hearing will assist in creating the political climate in which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission could be established with the focus to resolve past atrocities by giving voice to the forgotten survivors, combatants, and allies on toward to a peaceful conflict resolution by a means of an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
The pursuit of COINTELPRO hearings, as to the disclosure justification process, has a much longer activist history. In some cases legally, and to a smaller degree politically, it is understandable why veterans of human rights forces feel mistakenly that the COINTELPRO and TRC are interchangeable. My argument is that they’re interrelated, but not interchangeable.
It is my position that the COINTELPRO commission format is not a process in it of itself that requires both conflicting parties to be revealed, rather our movement simply presents to the public. Hopefully with the process of the Freedom of Information Act, political information and testimony retrieved from the Freedom of Information Act process will pertain to the abuse by the state against the targeted group with no political agreement or incentive for the abuser to be forthcoming.
The Truth and Reconciliation Administrator of the tribunal on the U.S. government’s low intensity warfare waged on the Black liberation/Civil Rights Movement, including the COINTELPRO era, should be able to do the following:
(A) Provide the retention of past history of political and legal advocacy for human rights on a national and international standard of law.
(B) Possess the ability to articulate the distinguishing concepts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission unique to the United States and the African population.
(C) Possess familiarity with various think tanks and intellectual associations within higher education historian societies that can help build the narrative for the alternative dispute process such as the TRC in the United States.
(D) Believe in the benefit of the TRC’s ability to achieve a sufficient documentation of human rights abuses during the period identified as the civil rights/black liberation/COINTELPRO era.
(E) Possesses proven ability to build administrative predictability in staff and operational infrastructure, providing a process that builds on various resources and skill sets that already exist.
(F) Possesses the ability to navigate among friendly and adversarial media outlets, in addition to being comfortable with information technology and social networking.
(G) Direct the development of a “New African” policy initiative lobby that helps to create the narrative and political opportunity that generates within the electoral process the policy that envisions the TRC demand for a COINTELPRO hearing that will assist in creating the political climate in which the Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal or Commission could be established with focus on a peaceful conflict resolution.
It is true that post-9/11, the reemergence of the same tactics disclosed through the Church Committee of COINTELPRO (in the early 70s of COINTELPRO) demonstrated that in many cases some of the same political prisoners, prisoners of war, and anti imperialists in U.S. prison again remain targeted as enemies of the state based on the conflict in the past which applied low intensity warfare to prevent the rise of a “Black ‘Messiah’” as directed by then director of the F.B.I. J.E. Hoover. This highlights the distinction between disclosure and resolution as it distinguishes the role of COINTELPRO hearings from the TRC hearings.
In the 1970s, we founded and directed the national task force for COINTELPRO litigation and research to increase public awareness of the F.B.I. counterintelligence program within the infected organization of the New African movement at a time when few were informed of its existential tactics, strategy, and effects.
It is one thing to make the point that many organizations and individuals of the black liberation era are still oppressed in what is advertised in the world as “the most free society.” Yet it is much more difficult to lay out the continuous cause of that oppression and the way in which it is perpetuated while identifying a process that addresses the direction that ends in the desired result. This desired result would be an alternative dispute process that is empowered to grant conditional amnesty, in addition to being charged with the duty of uncovering the truth about certain historical events.
In this respect our objective can adopt from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee (SATRC) model as to the infrastructure by developing two parallel objectives:
(A) Human Rights Violation Committee: These would be hearings in which survivors tell their “narratives” and “experiences.”
(B) Amnesty Committee: These would be hearings in where the accused (both from the state and the movement) come forward in the hopes of being granted amnesty and prove that their deeds were both politically motivated and proportional.
The controlling rule is that transparency will play a major role that will allow all parties to see the process and have their opportunity to bring forth their perspective and experiences. This process will allow for the feel of legitimacy while following the above (A&B) objectives. In this era of social media, there exists the ability to give a broad segment of the generations of the civil rights/black liberation era the capability to interact with and distinguish the U.S. TRC process from the 38 other TRCs held around the world. The SATRC were very vested in the public knowledge of their process and testimony. Although the weakness of the SATRC, after 17 years and about 90 books on the subject, is that the written report is still not available to the mass of South Africans, Azania. It has been the understanding that the documents only cost about $300 and the public record is controlled by the Justice Department and is still being withheld. This pitfall must not be allowed to happen in our process.
On the contrary, we want an informed public debate to advance the discourse in both reports (A&B) and their application of transitional justice, a comparatively new invented tradition of the twentieth century devices as a way to cope with the past and present internal conflict in the systematic violation of human rights.
A truth commission is a new class of international law that creates a new paradigm in the field of transitional justice in that it is designed as an alternative to trial with the rule of engagement based on negotiations between a state’s internal conflicting parties, in some cases applying existing international instruments, in other cases not so much.
The era of the hearing to be addressed that is manageable is a strategy for the broadest of support for several reasons. The testimony of acts in question remain in the realm of justice denied in the collective consciousness of our people. It also encompasses transition in tactical use by the state as well as the tactic for the Commission, Human Rights Violation Committee, as well as the Amnesty Committee. Finally, the documentation of the process is focused enough to warn conflicting parties of similar signs in the future to circumvent past oppressive behavior.
A truth commission in the United States that would cover 1950-1995 will cover 45 years. Between the overlapping timeline would be the optimal targeting periods of the Committee of UnAmerican Activity, the J.E. Hoover COINTELPRO, and the Church Committee findings.
The most important distinction between the SATRC and the U.S. government hearings is that there was no identifiable transition period that signaled the end of the era reflected by the above strategy disclosure in the South Africa hearings. The phase began in 1960 for the SATRC and terminated in 1995.
There is no way that our desired targeted period could encompass the breadth of the human rights violations and crimes against humanity by the United States. It is important however that whatever period we cover encompasses the period of the Civil Rights and Black liberation Movement period. Why? Because the survivors and participants of that generation who were activists (as as well as the perpetrators of the states) are available to provide the history as such to establish the patterns of the abuses and the rationale for their method of resistance that need be memorialized to saying nothing of the need to provide amnesty for the political prisoners and prisoners of war who still remain imprisoned after all these years.
The limitation of the present law in realizing a need for providing a process for conflict resolution only helps to prolong the human rights violations of charged freedom fighters in contrast to post-9/11 laws, be they international law or domestic law, have been manipulated in order to render a whole class of prisoners without an identifiable legal process that applies even to the minimum protection of the U.S. Constitution that considers it a right to at least provide the accused a process. So it’s clear that the state will alter laws and process to address different stages of conflict.
Let’s consider the political trial during the period between 1960-1996. The accused of our movement while fighting for their freedom endeavor used the procedures of their trial to memorialize, dramatize, and document the crimes against our people’s humanity. This is a Herculean dexterous task of great sacrifice of ones freedom, but essential to establishing motive for our history and the adherence to international standard.
The reality is in almost all of our political trials. The trial process in the U.S. does not further by design the objective for transitional justice. The best legal practitioners, who remain political naturals in applying the law by necessity use tactics that undermine the intent of the accused political defendant and generally the result is a denial of justice for all political prisoners.
The political prisoners who have been captured and accused, while in general accept being apart of the movement, therefore they accept the responsibility to have a political trial even though it is generally against their attorney’s advice. The process of the trial by its nature means they carry the responsibility of all the charged acts of the political period and whether the prisoners have knowledge or not in this setting the truth suffers and a process for transitional justice is abandoned or worse yet, not realized because in the United States there is no process for political reconsideration resolution. Our aim should be to evolve the process. The state’s propaganda furthers their narrative in characterizing the movement and accused so as to justify the state abuse of power and violation of human rights similar to patterns that existed and used by the “third forces” revealed during the South African Truth and Reconciliation Hearings. In this setting, there are more prisoners of political character and motive who are in prison. This apparatus that has served as the primary tool of the U.S. justice and prison system function in a parallel axis to smother any acknowledgment that exists of internal conflict that require an alternative dispute mechanism not only for relief for our prisoners but healing of the spiritual and physical wounds the survivor of the conflict has endured.
In a so-called free society and great democracy, the battle between truth and justice is ambiguous. The use of the long unjustified and selective sentencing and denial of patrol create a stage that they hope will further the nation’s collective amnesia that will manifest a class of “forgotten” disappeared prisoners and survivors.
That is why it is essential that the freeing of political prisoners and P.O.W.s would be the crucial result of the TRC Amnesty Committee process. In the South African TRC Amnesty Committee Hearings (HRVC) 854 political prisoners were freed through the process, keeping in mind the period of review was between 1960-1992-(4), clearly a period that addresses our needs.
Culture is Political in the Throngs of Oppression
From 1957-1997, the acts of horror carried out against the various groups and individuals of our resistance became the themes of songs, music, and dance, proving crucial to the political mobilization and awareness of the status of resistance and the department of repression.
Culture served the masses of South Africa to become observers of the non-fictional text, highlighting so many survivors with their tales of suffering that they carried alone with the fear that they and their burden may be forgotten. In turn, it was the culture’s tradition to make use of call and response. The natural response and expression that kept the younger generation engaged in the outcome of both the Human Rights Violation Committee (HRVC) and the Amnesty Committee Hearings (ACH). To much of the world, the Truth and Reconciliation Hearing became the theater of anguish of the apartheid system. In the truest sense of the term, drama was a very important tool in the South African success of the TRC.
The task here in the United States as we prepare to pursue a process that distinguishes our situation juxtaposed to South Africa’s, is that our present younger generation is still suffering paramount abuse and trans-generational trauma based on race and class while lacking engagement and dare we say suffers political amnesia while being emotionally and spiritually disconnected. We demand a political process that heals the pain or at least acknowledges the psychological and emotional damage done to past generations that fought a U.S. style of apartheid system which now demands some aspect of resolution and expressing of the specific details of how the abuse was carried out so as to be warned of such tactics for the safety of their future. There can be no parallel to traumatic events that characterize our resistance to oppression and the terror our freedom fighters repelled many times with nothing but the sound of James Brown telling us “To get up and get down”-”Say it loud I’m black and I’m proud.”
There is no other way for us to realize the outline objectives unless we do not gravitate squarely in the gut of this political process with the participation of our hip hop, reggae, and neo-soul artists by creating a collective narrative for the healing process. What can encourage this process is by having respected artists in the grassroots movement writing screenplays, promoting the saga from the history of our resistance. Examples of this include HBO’s SATRC film “Red Dust,” Lucky Dube of South Africa, Bob Marley inspired our support for the nation of Zimbabwe, and Fela Kuti fought for the freedom of Africa. The so-called generational gap and the period of resistance, this amnesia can be closed by the interconnectedness with all of our artists. If the goal is to guide their motivation, hip hop and reggae can influence the upswing of the younger generation. In the Middle East, it is the songs, the beats, the lyrics that, in absent of a leader, articulated the demands and hopes of those who are in search of a better future. We must acknowledge our artists’ role in our resistance and its healing in our political process. The call to go forward should be heard in the lyrics of our hip hop, reggae, and neo-soul artists, specifically for the freedom fighters, political prisoners and prisoners of war, and the tales of resistance and struggle in ire sounds.
This is most important when we see the similarities to the SATRC model in that public hearings would be key to conflict resolution. The past crisis is also about the optic of the theater of conflict where special reports may not read deep into the pain and suffering lacking expression. Even in the post-TRC South Africa, the analysis commission is somewhat cynical of accomplishing its goal. Many survivors know that the climate of their suffering and resistance and sacrifices are memorialized for future generations by their artists.
Here in the United States our civil rights/national liberation movement artists are similar to the South African artists of all genres. They too were motivating for our journey into the abyss. To resist, when overpowered, we endured in the face of hopelessness, leading to our older generation and younger generation staying united in spirit because the beat of the drums, the lyrics of our poets, the rhythm of Motown, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, and Gil Scott Heron. It was Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday to Ya” that pushed for the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. It was Nina Simone who insisted that we internalized the pain of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. She encouraged us to be strong, and told us to be “Gifted” in her song “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.” As did Chuck D and Public Enemy when they reintroduced Malcolm X to the “X” Generation with “Fight the Power.”
Gil Scott Heron told us that the truth of our revolution “Would not be televised.” Gil Scott connected the struggle to the youth with the anthem “What’s the Word” from the song “Johannesburg.” This document does not provide a clear study of the role of our musical artists, poets, and actors in our resistance. Our artists and the hip hop/reggae movement are the tip of the spear that reminds the people of their past and directs them towards the future.
Tupac Shakur, in his song “White Man’z World,” pushed for the release of political prisoners and to bring exiles (like Michael Cetewayo Tabor and Donald Cox) a fair hearing. Tupac, having been raised in the midst of the liberation movement and its culture, was heavily impacted by it and despite the struggles he encountered, he not only embodied the likes of Chuck D, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, and Gil Scott Heron, he reflected for the next generation why such crucial matters like education and equality should always be striven for implacably when he said in “Words of Wisdom:”
“So get up, it’s time to start nation buildin’/
I’m fed up, we gotta start teaching children/
That they can be all that they want to be/
There’s much more to life than just poverty”
Our effort to put forward a TRC in America that will guide our development for a meaningful structure in order to accomplish our objective will have to be driven with the desire for that political process.
The realization of a TRC for our specific purpose should not be solely an intellectual exercise and forum. Our above stated aim should be to stimulate information about specific events, public debates, and advance the discourse on restorative justice, transitional justice, and alternative dispute mechanisms that will help formulate national policy that should be sponsored by our elected representatives.
While there will be a continual critiquing of the ultimate benefit of the SATRC model, many doubters will prudently alert our movement as to its pitfalls. It should be noted that even many of the SATRC commissioners stress the establishment of their TRC was particular to South Africa’s unique needs. There has been at least 16 TRC around the world prior to embarking on the SATRC model. The commission has admitted that their process was not as organized as the results might indicate as there was no precedent for their specific need. Our North American Truth and Reconciliation Commission will have 38 TRCs from around the world to draw from, however we too will be challenged in respect to expressing the inefficiencies of the courts and civil prosecutions in regards to addressing the disclosure of human rights violations.
The task at hand is creating an atmosphere with a broad enough demand focusing on the civil right/black liberation era which indicates a centric demand while giving respect to both segments of the movement’s sacrifice for our people and abuse suffered by our people. This process should primarily be designed on a negotiated agreement.
Our interest and preference is for a structure similar to the SATRC model because of the result of the amnesty committee that freed 849 freedom fighters. The freeing of political prisoners and prisoners of war of the black liberation movement indicates success. There are also unresolved disappearances of many blacks/non Africans carried out during the civil right era including hangings and terror that has yet to even be discussed. The process that opens the flood gates of the level of human rights violations as apart of the testimony to human rights violations will go a long way in the healing process.
As in South Africa, the exposing of the special squads’ such as the ‘Crowbar’ and ‘Third Force’ police counter insurgent units that operated during the 70s, 80s, and 90s will help set the example in how we sharpen the COINTELPRO disclosure, similar to the role the Goldstone Commission on Public Violence and Intimidation did. The bombing of MOVE in Philadelphia is prime for truth resolution and an answer for why all the children (sans Birdie Africa) had to die.
As so many New Africans of the so-called greatest generation are about to make their transformation, our people owe them their true place in history.
There is a new social, economic, and even political agenda in the so-called “black/New African Nations” progressive social struggle.
The past social struggle is still relevant, but part of today’s progressive social political struggle should be the development of the TRC in order to truly define the political social progression from the past to the present progressive political social agenda which will help build a mass organization to accomplish our objective.
We have waged various levels of political social struggles for progress that included self defense in a highly restrictive and racist environment, being surrounded daily by hostile forces while being outnumbered, being deficient materially, and engaged through low intensity warfare with our priorities being manipulated and disorganized. It is very possible that the North American Truth and Reconciliation Commission process will help define how to tactically and strategically overcome such odds in order to achieve for our future generations the concrete goals and objectives we desire.
The general dependence of our movement on international instruments for recognition in a post-9/11 world is an exercise in wishful thinking.
The Obama era has not seen the U.N. and N.G.O. instruments operate constructively. The process of restorative justice and alternative dispute mechanisms are solutions that are an internally generated apparatus for internal conflict and post-conflict. This new language and structure are becoming part of a resolution tool and culture of the international human rights circle.
There are standouts that will help to bring attention and give our North American Truth and Reconciliation Commission the observation and approval to those inside the international culture. We will have to become self-reliant and creative in building a social movement that will create the conditions we seek. An instructive example is Judge Goldstone, who during the South African Pre-Resolution, was a standout that set the precedent in exposing the abuse of power of the racist illegal South African government’s legal system. Goldstone’s report was the precursor to the implementation of the SATRC. It is important that the foundation of the North American Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s conceptualization of philosophy, theory, ideology, and policy drives the concrete objective, principle, values, strategy, and tactics.
The perpetrator will do all to undermine the process. The broader the base demand for this process that will give both sides an incentive to participate in the process the closer we will be in accomplishing our goal and objective.
This is the age of social media where the tragic dramas presented in testimony to a broad base of the American public will hopefully inform and expose the present generation and future generations to lessons this country need not repeat.
“A revolutionary isn’t born out of something ‘good’” but of “wretchedness and bitterness.” Rigoberta Menchu noted. “Out of suffering comes the strongest of soul” Khalil Gibran once said, and with that, may I remind you that history will judge us by our struggle.
Aim High and Go All Out,
Dr. Mutulu Shakur
Our Brother Mumia Abu-Jamal, one of the most notable freedom fighters our struggle has produced, has lost his most important legal battle in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Mumia, with the shear strength of character, has mobilized one of the strongest International campaigns in 40 years. He has not failed to endear himself to dare I say millions of people nationally and internationally.
Its important to realize that the effort to save him from execution was victorious – a victory that should not be taken lightly. His work to revisit the death penalty has impacted the death penalty in many states to abolish it.
Now what? What about all the many political prisoners who had no support, who’ve been in prison in the United States for some more than 40 years? Great minds, great humans, great service to their people with hearts full of courage and humanity.
What are we going to do in an Obama era to finally get some respect and liberty for the many political prisoners and exiles who fell to make this period possible?
Among other tactics, its time for the mass base of Black people to develop a Legislative Lobby on the Local, State and National Legislative body to confront representatives of our community to formulate a process to identify and set into motion the freeing of our political prisoners.
It is said in the Bible, in the Book of Leviticus, that every 50 years prisoners should be freed and all debts forgiven. Clearly, these are not biblical times, but these are times where a new generation (Hip Hop Generation) has invested in electoral politics. Sure we can ask you all to use the power that comes with electing folks to now finally, like the Puerto Ricans, Arabs, Jews, and Cubans, mobilize in this period to advance a process to pursue objective standards for freeing captives as the result of political repression.
This process will take hard work on the political, legal and community front, and don’t forget money. Fortunately, we have various examples in the International theater to draw upon for objective standards of law as precedents to guide us with the application and principles required to achieve our goal.
The Truth and Reconciliation of the COINTELPRO war against the Black Liberation Movement is the background and process to free our political prisoners.
Aim High and Go All Out.
Dr. Mutulu Shakur
Discussion Paper for “Tear Down the Walls” Conference in Support Of P.P. and P.O.W.’s In The U.S., and Those Held in Cuba
If ever the time seemed right for reappraisal of American foreign policy that moment has now arrived. But with the sound and fury of blind patriotism ringing loudly, it is brutally clear that the “other side” may never be heard. At times such as this, we must find our collective voice and aggressively challenge the country’s attempt to force its potent brand of self-righteousness on the rest of the world.
No doubt, America feels her greatest contribution to world civilization will be the agency of globalization – a “New World Order” concept that dates back to Teddy Roosevelt’s League of Nations. This concept festered until the establishment of the United Nations, and now since September 11th., the call is at fever pitch.
But what about the “the other side” of September 11th.? The crisis could just as easily conjure up a second round of internments in concentration camps or as equally easy call forth violent retribution to any not affected with enough star-spangled patriotism. Such bold strokes are not unimaginable, but we must not fear. We must seize the moment and demand that this country acknowledge its wrongs even while it is in the midst of committing new ones. We must call for a RECONCILIATION TRIBUNAL because for too long America has punished the innocent and cannot be allowed to escape accountability, because “fanatics are no better than terrorists!”.
As long as no real decisions are reached over the defined terms of exactly what constitutes a terrorist act, this country will continue to be a breeding ground for right-wing fanatics who smuggle out of Congress a blood-based rhetoric that aims to destroy anything or anyone it cannot control. Never one to telegraph his punches, Bush is intent on fanning the flames and expanding the psychological occupation of the minds of the American public by increasing the pressure upon them to believe that everything that is not Eurocentric is dangerous.
Many public officials will maintain that this new terrorist agenda that the Bush government -both past and present- is pushing all over the globe is less a conventional war than it is a rounding up of all terrorism’s poster children; although it is a common White House refrain, it must be advocated that a domestic policy of a similar nature is a kissing cousin to the one being globally negotiated. And guess what? When Dubya chooses to clean out the terrorist infrastructure at home, the incursions will start inside the prisons! We’re such easy pickings, and since we are already under siege, and without International protections, we can be eliminated without any cautions having to be taken. Imagine how easy a task it would be for them to dispose of us, and at some undefined time the Oval Office will commit themselves to just such a search-and-destroy mission.
As a safeguard there is no choice but to push the issue of Political Prisoners, Prisoners of War, and Politicized Political Prisoners because it would be a grave mistake if we failed to comprehend this clear and present danger, and then refused to act.
What now follows is no emotional statement. Rather, it is the “P.O.W. Doctrine”, a stark creed of insistence that we deserve the international protections of the Geneva Convention. There is, as of now no time for social arguments or internal debates. We demand action, and our urgency is reinforced by George W. Bush’s push for world domination. Through him, we are acquainted with our own Axis of Evil.
Should International Law Be a Protection For The Status Of Politicized Political Prisoners In The Black Liberation Movement In America?
In order to acquaint you with the status of P.P.P.’s, a definition is necessary, and it is our long-held belief that a P.P.P. is a prisoner whose initial arrest was for criminal, and personal objectives, whose state of mind at the time of his arrest was void of political consciousness and/or organizational commitment.
However, following his confinement, such an individual becomes exposed and predisposed to political refinement to such a degree that he is transformed into a loyalist to the struggle of the people. It must be noted here that the loyalty espoused by the prisoner is not the simple expression of sympathy, or the slightly more diplomatic inclusion into a cadre. His/her’s is a raw conversion as political as the system. This conversion is due to the exposure of the prisoner to the political, social, and religious repression by the State and the Government in the forms of racism, capitalism, and fascism; Thus the prisoner becomes politicized/activated to his responsibility for atonement, rectification, and participation in the ongoing Struggle.
Needless to say, as retaliation for this life-altering conversion, the P.P.P. will become the preferred target of the Prison/Industrial Complex based on this newly evolved commitment of activism and revolutionary social change via the State and Government by virtue of his/her commitment and work as he/she transforms him/herself and others recruited into the Struggle cadre to effect change in the system. The P.P.P. is targeted by the prison state directly by the abusive power; Covertly, internally, as well as eternally by the government’s Cointelpro. [i.e., E1 Hajj Malik Shabazz, George Jackson, Ahmed Evans, etc.].
As result a result, the P.P.P finds him/herself in something of a quandary because he/she is a dissident cut adrift from any of the basic protections of International Law and, this is the typical atmosphere that spurs on the repressions of the Bureau of prisons, (“B.O.P.”), or State-sponsored machinery to use the full range of their immense powers to crush the P.P.P.
In many ways the P.P.P. suffered more than the Political Prisoner (“P.P.”), and the Prisoner of War (“P.O.W.”). Basically they exist without the possibility of protections of International Law, and generally they are not part of an external organizational base. And so, the government in its retaliation to these comrades for their actions and beliefs uses the prison system as its instrument to isolate them for their continuous success in shaping the minds, the wills, and the politics of the masses. Unless our movements create organizational bases for these comrades, an important ingredient in demanding international protection will be lost.
The criteria for establishing status to prisoners must be that prisoner’s relationship to a movement and/or organization on the National/International Theater. [i.e., Ruchel McGee, Akil A1-Junde, Hugo Pinell, Jatir, Zola Azania, etc.]
Now, after conveying that information, I think it would be best if I went to the question of precisely how this P.P.P. certification should occur. Routinely, there are two (2) levels where the certification would prove politically valid.
(1) The movement in general must establish a certification process, but more importantly there has to be, firstly, a critically objective assessment of the status of the certification to our Struggle. (This is necessary to resolve and eliminate any internal disputes which could breed an atmosphere for Cointelpro).
(2) Upon the establishment of a certification process, our movement must conduct a world-wide search of conflicts to find the applicable parallel on an international level to support the recognition of the P.P.P.’s.
IN THIS PERIOD, IS THE PRISON/INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX -BY VIRTUE OF THE PRISON SYSTEM’S HISTORICAL ROLE IN REPRESSION -AN EXTENSION OF OUR STRUGGLE, AND IF SO, WHAT ARE THE INSTRUMENTS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW THAT PROTECT POLITICAL
Sources indicate three(3) categories of International Law that will support the certification of P.P.P’s these being namely:
(1) The Geneva Convention
(2) Protocol I
(3) The Political Offense Exception
Each of these international instruments of law deliver a statement central to the premise that P.P.P.’s can achieve protections under the crystal clear laws of them either singly or combined. It bolsters our contention that P.P.P ‘s due to their sincerely held political beliefs, can partner in the protection of international Law in the same way as P.O.W ‘s, and P.P. ‘s applying an evolved analysis and tactic.
Accordingly, let’s study these three instruments in brief:
(A) Geneva Convention of 1949 defined the P.O.W. and their treatment during that time.
In 1977, additional protocols to the Geneva Convention were adopted to reflect the character of guerilla warfare practiced by national liberation movements. The Preamble to the Protocol I states:
Reaffirming further that the provisions of the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949, and of the protocol must be fully applied in all circumstances to all persons who are protected by those instruments, without any adverse distinctions based on the nature or origin of the armed conflict or on the causes espoused by or attributed to the Parties to the conflict.
A person who takes part in hostilities and falls into the power of the adverse Party shall be presumed to be a prisoner of war, and therefore shall be protected by the Third Convention, if he claims the status of prisoner of war, or if he claims such status by notification to the detaining power or to the Protecting Power. Should any doubt arise as to whether any such person is entitled to the status of prisoner of war, he shall continue to have such status and, therefore, be protected by the Third Convention and this Protocol until such time as his status has been determined by a competent tribunal.
If a person has fallen into the power of an adverse Party, is not held as a prisoner of war, and is to be tried by that Party for an offense arising out of the hostilities, he shall have the right to assert his entitlement to prisoner of war status before a judicial tribunal and to have that question adjudicated. Whenever possible under the applicable procedure, this adjudication shall occur before the trial for the offense [i.e., domestic trial].
The many internal armed conflicts since 1949 have highlighted the deficiency in common Article III and illustrated the need to develop new rules for regulating internal armed conflict. From 1974 to 1977, 124 states, 50 non-governmental organizations, and 11 national liberation movements participated in one or more of the four diplomatic conferences that produced the two PROTOCOLS added to the Geneva Convention on the 12th of August, 1949. Protocol I was intended to update the law of war regulating international armed conflict between states. PROTOCOL II was adopted to regulate internal armed conflicts. Both PROTOCOL I and II were accepted by the Executive Branch of the United States until the Reagan Administration.
On December 8, 1978, The General Assembly enacted Resolution 33/24, entitled Importance of the universal realization for the right of the peoples to self-determination and the speedy granting of independence to colonial countries and people for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights, wherein it states:
“The General Assembly …reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial domination and foreign occupation by all means available, particularly armed struggle.” [Emphasis added]
1. CAPTURED ANTI-COLONIAL FIGHTERS ARE ENTITLED TO THE POLITICAL STATURE OF ‘PRISONER OF WAR’ AND THE PROTECTIONS OF THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS.
2. The armed struggle of people against colonial and racist regimes are to be regarded as international armed conflicts in the sense of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and the legal status envisaged to apply to persons engages in armed struggle against colonial and alien domination and racist regimes.
3. The violation of the legal status of the combatants struggling against colonial and alien domination and racist regimes in the course of armed conflicts entails full responsibility in accordance with the norms of International Law.
Militia Members Organized Resistance
(A) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
(B) Member who professes allegiance to a government or authority not recognized by the detaining power.
(C) Inhabitants of now-occupied territory who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces having at times to form themselves into regular armed units provide they carry arms opening and respect the laws and customs of war.
How does this help the P.P.P. question? It’s where the combatant becomes aware and pledges allegiance to the cause of taking up arms against an invading force that distinguishably separates the P.P.P. from the non-combatants. (i.e., Ruchell Magee, Attica Brothers.)
The Court in Quinn traced the history of the political offense exception and noted that it emanated from the belief that individuals have the right to resort to political activism for political change. The Court stated that “political crimes” have a greater legitimacy than common crimes internal to prison and external to activism.
According to the Quinn Court, there are two (2) distinct categories of political offenses: pure political offenses, and “relative political offenses”.
Pure political offense are aimed directly at the government and have none of the elements of ordinary crimes. These offenses which include treason, sedition, espionage, do not violate the rights of individuals. Because they are frequently specifically excluded from the list of extraditable crimes in a treaty, courts seldom deal with whether these offenses are extraditable, and it is generally agreed that they are not.
The definitional problems focus around the second category of political offenses — the relative political offenses. These include “otherwise common crimes committed in connection with a political act, “or common crimes… committed for political motives or in a political context. Quinn v. Robinson, supra, at 793-794.
Second, it is clear that throughout the history of New Afrikan presence in America, there have been consistent rebellions, uprisings and varying levels of violent political turmoil arising from New Afrikan resistance struggle across the American Empire (U.S.A.) . This is particularly true of the struggle of the 1960’s up to and through the period today. Urban rebellions, attacks on police, financial institutions, narcotics enterprises, and armed self-defense in the face of police attacks, and radical violence were common place during this period. As previously noted, the B.L.A. was credited with a number of armed attacks and the overground military formations of the New Afrikan Independence Movement (“N.A.I.M.”) involved in a number of acts of armed self-defense. During the period of the offenses alleged in my case (Brinks), Black urban rebellions occurred two or three times in Miami, one in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and inside Pontiac Prison in Michigan, and inside numerous other prisons (i.e., Lucasville).
The Quinn case moreover points out that the an uprising group does not have to have political structure, and that a person not a member of a group might through parallel or supportive activities act in furtherance of an uprising.* Consequently, there is no need for a prisoner such as myself, Dr. Shakur, to testify with regard to membership in an uprising group like the B.L.A. in order for the political character of the charged acts to be established. For the P.P.P. to have to be a member of a party or organization his/her acts must further support the organizations goals.
Political offense exception developed within the extradition context as a standard for evaluating the acts charged in this certification.
The International tests that establish the political offense exception are used to distinguish common from political crimes.
In 1986 for example, in my case, U.S.A vs. Shakur et. al, and Marilyn Buck, in the 2nd. Circuit Southern District of New York, we presented a motion contending that the acts charged in the indictments are political acts which are not properly the subject of criminal prosecution. I contended that under applicable treaties and International Law that I was a Prisoner of War. One of the International Instruments that was relevant was the defining acts charged in the indictment as political and not R.I.C.O.. We profit the P.O.E.E. analysis as…
(A) International Law applicable to Domestic Courts.
(B) That P.O.E.E. provided International and Domestic standards upon which acts charged in the indictment could be determined to be political.
(C) That it could provide a method upon which an individual can be determined to qualify for the protection of the various International Law instruments.
The court at that time, although asking the right questions came to the conclusion that juries could not determine violations or application of International Law with respect to Domestic charges; different than what happened in Seattle in 1998, involving Ground Zero-D59-Trident Nuclear Submarine Case.
The Trident Ground Zero D50 Nuclear Submarine Case was a demonstration against nuclear weapons, specifically Trident Submarine and nuclear war which the defendant deemed a violation of International Law and crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. They believed that the Hague Convention of 1977 was the International Law that protected their rights. July 6,1996, the International Court of Justice deemed that the development and deployment was a violation of International Law. The Nuremberg Principals required individual and organized action of said proliferation and development. These instruments are also considered in the P.O.E.E. analysis.
The Judge’s instructions went on to say that Congress alone has the ability to abrogate treaty law, and that where there is a conflict between a right granted or duty imposed by International Law or treaty, and a local, state, or federal law, the right granted or duty imposed by treaty or international law shall govern. Nuremberg in effect says that “silence is complicity”, therefore not only giving the right to engage in non-violent acts of dissent, but also the duty to engage in such acts.
These analogs are very much applicable to P.O.W.’s, P.P.P.’s and P.P.’s. P.O.E.E. standards IN THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMITTEE IN SOUTH AFRICA, CHAIRED by Desmond Tutu, which was formed to develop a method for creating amnesty in South Africa.
The task was to balance the latitude of an open-ended concept of amnesty with specific limiting criteria, so that while any conflict and everybody could come into the process,* it was not a blanket amnesty without standards. For this purpose, the act adopts the principal defining the concept of a political offense drafted by Carl Agage Norgard, a Danish national President of the European Commission on Human rights, for use in the 1989 settlement in Namibia that foreshadowed events in South Africa. These principals require an examination of the: 1) motivation of offender; 2) circumstances; 3) nature of the political objective; 4) legal and factual nature of the offense; 5) object (state vs. private entity); and finally 6) relationship between the offense and the political objective, its directness or proportionality.
Clearly the same standards/criteria presented by the B.L.A. for the application of P.O.W.’s and P.P.’s in the United States by way of the P.O.E.E. analysis presented in 1986 in our case became the formula by which a great battle for justice and self-determination which took place in South Africa, in a search for resolution of that conflict, of the internal nature the P.O.E.E. analysis, used in the internal conflict between state and the people as a method of qualifying and certifying the distinction between political crimes and social crimes. These above examples should make our movement keenly aware that there are definitely instruments upon which to research for the qualifying of P.P.’s, P.O.W.’s, and P.P.P.’s in our movement, and should be applied internationally.
In re Doherty, 599 F.Supp. 270, 275 (S.D.N.Y. 1984) elaborated a more flexible standard for applying the political offense exception. It stated:
The court rejects the notion that the political offense exception is limited to actual armed insurrections or more traditional and overt military hostilities. The lessons of recent history demonstrate that political struggles have been commenced and effectively carried out by armed guerillas long before they were able to mount armies in the field. It is not for the courts, in defining the parameters of the political offense exception, to regard as dispositive factors such as the likelihood that a politically dissident group will succeed, or the ability of that group to effect changes in government by means other than violence, although conceded such factors may at times be relevant in distinguishing between the common criminal and the political offender. Nor is the fact that violence is used in itself dispositive. (Instead the court must assess the nature of the act. the context in which it is committed, the status of the party committing the act, the nature of organization on whose behalf it is committed, and the particularized circumstance of the place where the act takes place.)
The political offense exception is not merely a narrowly specialized concept used in extradition and deportation proceedings, but rather incorporates a fundamental principle that a person should not face a criminal trial for offense that are essentially political.
Accepting the premise that the prisoner has been certified as part of a movement and the prison setting is part of the movement, that said prisoner responds to the oppression and functions in an organized group or aids the goals of that movement, we should argue that the above stated instruments are applicable to our P.O.W.’s, P.P.’s, and P.P.P.’s.
The argument of our movements responsibility to P.P.’s, and P.O.W.’s, or lack thereof binds the internal struggle of the proper recognition of P.P.P ‘s left unsupported by our organizations and movement, and while we struggle to make aware the existence of P.P.’s, and P.O.W.’s in the United States, we support that argument by way of International Laws and various Instruments in establishing (1) a criteria, and (2) satisfying the required principle internally, we must apply the same method for qualifying P.P.P.’s, and P.O.E.E ‘ s which require these standards in both categories.
An important step must also be made by our organizations and movements to (1) Officially include the United States prison system as a part of the battle field in our struggle such as what the Irish Republican Army (“I.R.A”) did in the early 70’s and 80’s. (2) We also must officially embrace the active P.P.P.’s into an organizational foundation that gives them and their work the proper recognition as provided and required under the International Instruments that best address our needs.
Essentially, the preceding information gives hard proof that P.P.P.’s can (and should) be certified under the same instruments that aid P.O.W.”s and P.P.’s, and given the unmistakable premise that prisons are a part of the government’s repressive regime against which the P.P.P. struggle, it should indeed be clear that the instruments of International Law are applicable. If by chance there is any lack of consensus about the government’s organized efforts to destroy prison struggles for human rights against genocide, I quote the following statement from Eric Holder, former Deputy Attorney General under Bill Clinton. The rhetoric (issued in response that the government ‘s pursuit of the death penalty in Zacarias Moussaoui’s case may be unconstitutional) states: “This is meant to send a signal to people who are in custody”. Holder stipulated further that “failure to cooperate is going to carry the ultimate sanction”, demonstrating the manipulation of law for political objectives.
This iron-fisted eagerness is not a last-minute threat to those in confinement as politically conscious prisoners have always been at risk, so this bad news is no “new” news, and if it must be spelled out, then I hazard to say that in prison, once a prisoner is politicized and draws his first wages he/she first struggles against the system -the prison administration- and there can never be a safe return to the sedentary existence of the mentally dead convict.
No matter how it is viewed, those were no transparently disguised acts of aggression meted out to Brothers George Jackson, Malcolm X, Ahmed Evans, Ruchell Magee, Akil Al-Junde, Hugo Pinell, Zola Azania, Shaka-Sankofa, Attica Bros., etc.. Those that the prison/industrial complex didn’t assassinate, they bottled up as best they could to stifle them into sensory deprivation, mind altering medications, i.e., G. ji-Jaga Pratt, who served with honor.
Therefore, the obvious point must be made that the prison setting is a battleground, a part of the greater struggle for liberation. Who can argue that prisons are merely some lame government project funded to assist in rehabilitation? No, the prison system is the government’s booking agency and despite Capital Hill monologues, the joint is the ass-kicking road dog of the Justice Department, and for the record, the prison/industrial complex has more confirmed kills than C.I.A.
After dismissing all the permissiveness of the Due Process Clause, the P.P.P. has no foundation and can claim no retroactive application of International Law. They are defenseless. If it can be accepted that, historically, prisons are a legitimate arm of a repressive government, then why not consider the intensity of the P.P.P.’s plea for International protections? Because with notable exceptions, and often with a wink or a smile, the boot is forever ready to crush the neck of dissidents.
Overall the general sense of the P.P.P ‘s plight offers nothing to cheer about, and chances are the situation will not get any more endearing. But yet the P.P.P ‘s existential predicament remains. To what extent do we go to safeguard our comrades? Because as long as they remain “on the plantation”, they are jeopardized! Extraordinary measures, and a firm commitment must be taken in regards to the P.P.P. question. Not surprisingly, there is not much time.
DEFINITION OF TERRORISM
In applying the recognition of P.P.’s, P.O.W.’s by the use of the Geneva Convention, we accept that the argument of armed conflict is a part of the process of liberation. It is this point where all parties abide by the proper standards of war/conflict we must guard against, and never allow our actions to be labeled as terroristic.
That said, we must make clear what the international definition has been pre-September 11th, and how its been distorted by the United States as it is conceived in International Instruments pre-September 11th, and post-September 11th. brings on very important challenges in definition and evolution.
The following definitions establish the minimum criteria used by the F.B.I. to determine if criminal acts should be labeled as acts of terrorism, which is not the definition under International Treaties and Laws.
Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against civilian persons or property to intimidate or coerce the government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in the furtherance of political or social objectives. The F.B.I. defines two (2) categories of terrorism in the United States:
International Terrorism which involves terrorist activity by groups or individuals who are foreign-based and/or are directed by countries or groups outside the United States or whose activities transcend national boundaries; and
Domestic Terrorism which involves groups who are based and operate entirely within the United States and are directed at elements of our government or population without foreign direction. There are other examples of actions…
A terrorist incident is a violent act or an act dangerous to human life in violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives. (Emphasis supplied).
Q. HAS THE UNITED STATES RAISED THE STATUS OF TERRORIST TO FREEDOM FIGHTER, OR HAS THE UNITED STATES LOWERED THE STATUS OF FREEDOM FIGHTER TO THE LEVEL OF TERRORIST?
A. It is submitted that in the affairs of a nation state no rule must be better established than that its laws are clear. How else can acts of wrongdoing be authenticated? This principle is universally adhered to, but within this country the determination of whether one is a terrorist or a freedom fighter is not exercised under the appropriate jurisprudence of Law, but rather by the dictates of whatever public officer is doing the talking at the moment. Such double standards are not a new concept since sufficient proof exists that the authority to mandate who was a freedom fighter and who was a terrorist dates back to the Indian Wars in this country. Whenever the Indians won a battle, the battle was reported as either a slaughter or a massacre, the highest evidence available that the “red savages” were terrorists. Nowhere in the annals of documented American history were the indigenous peoples who struggled valiantly against an invading force who sought, with the force of arms, to subdue and oppress them, recognized as freedom fighters.
Without such a rule of thumb, the right to interpose or juxtapose the two has rested upon the inquiry that presented itself at the time: the side with the most white people were freedom fighters. *(The fluctuating application of varied definitions of law applicable to captured Al Qaeda, Taliban, Domestic, and Foreign Nationals as well as the politically expedient labeling of Palestinians are revealing.) It was by this decree that the Ku Klux Klan (“K.K.K.”) was never labeled as terrorists even though the acts they wreaked upon an unarmed, non-threatening black population were clearly acts of terrorism even when the acts they perpetrated were deemed to be such by the Klan themselves. The K.K.K. vocally stated that their aim was to terrorize blacks away from the voting polls.
Contrast this with, the fact that in 1964 the human rights workers and Freedom Riders who traveled south to register blacks in Mississippi to vote, actually viewed themselves as fighters for freedom, but were never considered as such. In fact, they were historically viewed as southern invaders, terrorists of a sort, that deserved to die as James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner did in Neshoba County, Mississippi.
This dilemma that gives rise to the truth that rightly or wrongly gives authority to individuals to name themselves no longer exists. You are either a terrorist or a freedom fighter at the discretion of the prevailing powers. Despite the terrorist definition as authored by the F.B.I., the maxim carries no real clout since there is no mandated prohibition that deters the government from inserting, at will, either the label “terrorist” or “freedom fighter” on the military intercourse as it sees fit. With no fixed boundary, the F.B.I.’s definition is simply a national ornament that can either elevate or violate the modus operandi of the principle of warfare and applicable law.
Can it be denied that the roots of terrorism made its first appearance in this country during the Civil War when Union Generals targeted the farms, homes, and factories of southern civilians? Yet President Lincoln hailed the murderers as freedom fighters. And from this point onward, the American government from the Executive Office, through all the Brass in the military, down to the Politicos and citizens have succeeded in providing verbal asylum to unjustifiable atrocities by proclaiming who wears the mantle of freedom fighter or who bears the stigma of being branded a terrorist.
It would be wholly inconsistent to brand a man/woman a terrorist if he/she straps on dynamite and detonates him/herself in a crowded cafe. Basically his/hers military role is no different than that of Sherman tank since the strategy and objective is the same.
At the moment, the P.P.P., is the prime question of the liberation movement, and in the end will be the legacy of those of us who are forward-thinking enough to grasp the complexity of the issues. I, personally, make it no great secret that the most important facet of the argument is the question of a remedy, and the legal travails of this challenge must be addressed as a two-tiered proposal consisting of both a short-term and a long-term goal.
In keeping with the short-term prospective, we should emphatically demand an immediate end to the repression, oppression, and isolation of the P.P.P.’s, P.P.’s, and P.O.W.’s. And while it may be unlikely, presently, I strongly support the long-term prospect of calling amnesty for all P.P.P’s that our movement has certified. This second-tier agenda may prove to be the only one to reverse the course of repression that is so deeply ingrained in the prison/industrial complex, which is credited with being the Bully of the Justice Department.
It has been rumored in some political quarters that P.P.P.’s represent the “alterlife” of the movement, and since they served no role or active function within a formal infrastructure, they are nothing more than sympathizers. I beg to differ, and contest this distinction vehemently. P.P.P.’s are more than mere “Buddies” of the revolution and, despite the fact that they had/have no intimate contract with an organization outside, their politicization inside the prison complex is no less extraordinary than the commitment of those of us who converted on the outside. Without a doubt, P.P.P.’s are a formidable resource, and should not be mislabeled as “revolutionary imposters”, or treated as second-hand members of the movement. They are legitimate as long as their loyalty is unquestionable, but with a record number of P.P.P.’s their status grows increasingly more unpredictable. A generation ago fewer P.P.P.’s were in for the long haul and were twice as likely to abandon the Struggle after release. Many of these viewed the Struggle as revolutionary Chic, and pursued it as a fad. Whereas modern day P.P.P’s seem less daunted by the challenges and usually maintain a very high level of commitment throughout all periods of their confinement and even after their release.
For P.O.W.’s and Political Prisoners, the Geneva Convention’s Protocol’s is the Holy Grail, and the tenets of this International Instrument must be accorded to P.P.P.’s or else we will fail to boost the yield of the movements future full harvest. What really matters is that we bring our best and brightest minds to the movement, and then we protect them with all the resources at our disposal.
As long as the government is allowed to merchandise the terms “terrorist,” and “freedom fighter”, it will generally lower the status of a Freedom Fighter to that of a terrorist since governments are invested with ready-made punishments to deal with terrorists who are deemed to be nothing more than a modern day version of the pirates, and highway robbers of old. At the same time, America will still enjoy the privileges of the artificial exchange of status that exists between the terrorist/freedom fighter dilemma. Note the fact that in 1979 Osama bin Laden was labeled a Mujahedeen “Freedom Fighter” by the same government that now declares him a “cowardly terrorist.”
Our actions have clearly been in a retaliatory nature, expropriations are legitimate aspects of armed conflicts, defensive actions on the part of our forces, and fall clearly within the purview of justifiable armed actions, and under any standard, Pre and Post, the Geneva Accord of 1949 Protocol provides that it is the responsibility of every captured prisoner of war to make an attempt to escape. Every army around the world recognizes this basic principle. P.P.P.’s, P.P.’s and P.O.W.’s in their actions dedicated to the goals of the movement and Struggle are the requirements upon which standards of “International Law” require their recognition and protection.
Our movements is second to no other movements goal. We are not clear yet of what operational definition of the term terrorism signifies in the post 9-11 era. None of the agencies; F.B.I., Home Land Defense, State Department, the new emerging International Coalition, or even the United Nations have been definitive of their meaning. For example, co-architect of the International Coalition (U.S. and Britain) of the One World Order has tactically defined and labeled Prime Minister Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as a terrorist and a terrorist state based on the actions of the veterans of war who fought against the terrorist of Rhodesia who have yet to turn over land where three(3) percent of the white population control seventy (70) percent of the land. It is a clear indication that the term terrorist being used is selectively racial and bias to us as a people.
Our movement must operate on the United Nations definition which would seem to be more objective and stable in its use.
It is my intention to provide the organization of “The Tear Down The Wall Conference” in Cuba with a working document that aides the discussion for gathering support internationally for the release of P.P.’s, P.O.W.’s and certified P.P.P.’s in the United States. Its intention also to give our movement and international observers, an understanding of the standards we struggle with that should qualify an important aspect of our struggle, and should provide protection under “International Law” that we deem as important to the outcome of our Struggle.
It is also important to show, in my opinion, that we are not and won’t be paralyzed by the latest effort to imperialize the planet by “One World Order.”
Our Struggle, and the struggle in the Middle East have clearly different objectives, and we use different tactics. We are not to dictate how they relieve their suffering.
We make a moral and spiritual evaluation so that we are guided in our acts based on our principles. We come to the conclusion that oppression and genocide, that we as a people, must be dealt with for the survival of our future, and the recognition of the sacrifices of our Ancestors and Martyrs.
These issues are being presented obviously to further the discussion on the recognition of P.P.’s and P.O.W.’s in the United States. The question of P.P.P’s is very important. Clearly the debate within our movement [i.e., Black/New Afrikan Struggle] requires serious analysis and certification of all our comrades status and a clear definition of the next wave.
It is my opinion that in order for the P.P.P’s question to be answered we must fully understand why and how International Law requires our (P.P.’s and P.O.W.’s) certification. From this position we will be like the Formers of the Protocol of the 1970’s, who, of the National Liberation movement, were able to force the re-evaluation of the Geneva Accords to obtain recognition for ill-regular forces. We must forward the position that the prison system in America:
(A) has become a battlefield for human rights,
(B) is an enemy of self-determination,
(C) as well as the cornerstone for genocide in the United States
Prisons are in fact a place of struggle where International Law must accept and set standards for the proper recognition for those who struggle in that theater and accept that P.P.P.’s are a part of our Forces integral to our movement and strategy.
THE LAST WORD!
I conclude with an admonition not to overlook the threat presented by the World Trade Organization which is emerging as the world’s first global movement. Upon its inception in 1994, the interests of globalization has grown by leaps and bounds, but what has gone unnoticed is that the 134 nations that comprise the W.T.O. cannot exist without a global armed force and the recent 9-11-01 event has provided the global army the pretext needed to flex its military muscle. And now that the cuckoo has been sprung from the clock of the 21st. century imperialism, time will stand still as history is interrupted by militaristic coups and palace uprisings staged and engineered courtesy by those who sponsor globalization.
Without a doubt, once the world economy is globalized the gap between the haves and have-nots will widen and the expected collateral damage will be more violent incidents such as those of 9-11-01. This reality inescapable. A massive military of global proportions will invite so-called terrorist activities as powerless people will seek to dismantle this monstrosity by any means necessary, so it would be mindless to camouflage a terrorist act. By not being more demanding the people have collectively permitted secretive organizations like the World Bank (which are all dominated by the United States) to muster the strength to move beyond congressional oversight as well as checks and balances from any legislative body. We must not grant the government the power and/or ability to skirt the responsibility of explicitly defining a terrorist!
The right to struggle against oppression is as natural as breathing. We must at all costs prepare a better place for the next generation. Provide for a better state of mental and physical circumstances we experience today.
Dr. Mutulu Shakur