“How to Free Your Prisoner”: Techniques of International Advocacy from the ICPP to Amnesty International

Thursday, January 5, 2017: 2:10 PM
Centennial Ballroom H (Hyatt Regency Denver)
Padraic Kenney, Indiana University
Amnesty International, it has been said, emerged a decade too early: its effort to overcome Cold War divisions by focusing on common human rights, and its emphasis on grassroots organizing around problems in distant countries, foreshadow the techniques of social movements that develop in the 1970s and later. Yet the Amnesty International model can itself be traced back to Roger Baldwin’s International Committee for Political Prisoners. Though its origins were on the left, the ICPP endeavored to identify and support prisoners of left and right dictatorships alike, and based its appeal not on emotional or ideological affinities but upon detailed information about prisoners and regimes. Drawing upon research in Poland, Ireland, Britain and South Africa, as well as the archives of the ICPP itself, this paper will trace a genealogy of prisoner advocacy movements in the twentieth century. The work of the ICPP will be contrasted to its predecessors, which were generally focused on comrades from the same political movement, and to its contemporary counterpart “Red Help,” or the International Organization for Aid to Revolutionaries, based in Moscow. In this context, the innovations of Amnesty International can be considered anew.
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