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By J. Power (Auth.)

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The experience confirmed Wrobel as an abolitionist. And it was similar events all over the world that made it impossible for Amnesty to refuse to give priority to the issue. But should Amnesty's g r o w i n g concern about the use of the death penalty come as a surprise? After all, an organization that is involved with prisoners of conscience and political prisoners must be concerned with a form of punishment which, once implemented, is final. T h e question of whether the person executed has been judged guilty of a violent crime or not becomes secondary.

It has reached a scale that dwarfs even the darkest Middle Ages. In the civil war that followed the Russian revolution, torture was used sporadically and unsystematically. Mussolini's fascists became the first government in the twentieth century to make torture an official policy of state. " T h e G e r m a n Nazis n o t only developed the concentration camp for mass extermination; they regularly used torture with their political prisoners. Spain, under Franco, continued using torture right t h r o u g h into the 1970s.

N o r is it ruled by an oligarchy as in El Salvador. Until recently, to judge by outward appearances, it was a successfully developing country, still with much poverty, to be sure, but also with high annual rates of growth, industrializing fast, discovering rich deposits of oil and nickel, and building up a broad-based middle class. Yet behind this fa$ade of economic well-being lies the most ruthlessly oppressive regime in Latin America. According to an Amnesty report published in February 1981, over three thousand people have been killed and another six hundred have simply disappeared since 1978, most of them victims of government-sponsored death squads.

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