Defending 800 Years of Habeas Corpus: We Stand With Shaker Attends Not the Global Law Summit in London on Monday

22.2.15

The Justice Alliance prepares to set off from Runnymede for the Houses of Parliament on a three-day Relay for Rights on February 21, 2015 (Photo: Fiona Hanson for the Independent).The following is a version of a press release I wrote and sent out on behalf of the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched in November with the activist Joanne MacInnes. The photo to the left, of campaigners about to set off from Runnymede to Parliament yesterday on a three-day Relay for Rights, shows, at the back, Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, as King John. The first non-legal appointee to the job, he is to be publicly criticised at the Global Law Summit by Tony Cross, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, who told the Independent, “I’m going to talk about how successive governments have treated public law with contempt, certainly over the last 20 years.”

Giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer to visit Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre to protest about hypocrisy of corporate Magna Carta celebration while Shaker is still denied habeas corpus at Guantánamo.

At 1pm on Monday 23 February, Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes, the directors of We Stand With Shaker, the campaign calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, will be joining lawyers at Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament, for Not the Global Law Summit, an event put together by the Justice Alliance.

The Justice Alliance is a lawyers’ organisation campaigning to defend legal aid from savage cuts imposed by the government, and Not the Global Law Summit is the culmination of Relay for Rights, a three-day march from Runnymede to protest about the hypocrisy of the Global Law Summit, taking place from 23-25 February at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre. While purporting to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, the summit, at which tickets cost £1500 a head, is actually an international corporate sham, described by the journalist Peter Oborne as “sordid, disgusting and debased.”

Before his principled resignation from the Daily Telegraph last week, in response to a conflict of interest regarding the HSBC tax evasion scandal, Oborne had been the chief political commentator at the Telegraph, and on January 8 had written a powerful article, “The hypocrites have jumped aboard the Magna Carta bandwagon,” roundly condemning the summit.

As he wrote:

The rank stench of moral hypocrisy will hang over the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre. Before the last election, Mr Cameron promised a judge-led inquiry into the very serious allegations that the British state has been involved in torture. After nearly five years, it has gone nowhere. Who cares, when there’s a networking opportunity at the QE2?

Mr Cameron’s Government has launched a systematic attack on the legal aid system which gives poor people access to the justice system. There has always been a two-tier system of justice in Britain, one for the poor and one for those who can afford expensive private lawyers. The Government changes have widened this divide, and run flatly contrary to Magna Carta. So does the latest Criminal Justice Bill, with its vicious attack on judicial review, the main way in which arbitrary government decisions are held to account through the courts.

Most important of all, Mr Cameron is close to committing Britain to withdraw altogether from the European Convention on Human Rights, a document which entrenches the principles of Magna Carta in international law. Britain will, under Conservative plans, exit the Council of Europe, and become the awful bedfellow of only two European countries: Belarus and Kazakhstan.

To summarise, Mr Cameron’s Government has launched something close to an out-and-out attack on the rule of law. The idea that either he or his ministers give a damn for the principles that underlie Magna Carta is preposterous.

Echoing Peter Oborne, We Stand With Shaker will be highlighting the British and American governments’ disgraceful disregard for habeas corpus, which is the great and lasting achievement of Magna Carta, and which ended up being exported around the world to protect everyone from arbitrary imprisonment without charge or trial, because, while the summit takes place, Shaker Aamer continues to be held without charge or trial at Guantánamo, despite being twice approved for release by the US authorities, in 2007 and 2009. February 14th was the 13th anniversary of his arrival at the prison, and his ongoing imprisonment is a shame and disgrace for those pretending to honour the Magna Carta anniversary.

Or as Peter Oborne put it in his column:

Let’s never forget that Shaker Aamer, a British resident with four British children, is still rotting in Guantánamo Bay after being held there for 13 years without charge. Neither David Cameron nor any of his ministers have lifted a serious finger to help him — though this seems not to alarm the ambitious judges or the fat-cat lawyers, let alone the financial PR men and investment bankers [attending the summit].

If you’re in London, I hope you can come along. At 2pm, after the one-hour Not the Global Law Summit, at which Andy Worthington will speak, the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer, which is at the heart of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, will be taken for a walk by the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, where there will be further photo opportunities.

If you can’t make it along, perhaps you can come to Parliament Square on Wednesday lunchtime (February 25) for the weekly vigil by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, when there will be a focus on the Global Law Summit. The vigil will be taking place from noon until 4pm, and coincides with the arrival of delegates at the Houses of Parliament from the nearly conference centre.

Also, on Tuesday February 24, the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, led by John McDonnell MP, will be meeting at 2pm in Room D, 1 Parliament Street (see map here). All are welcome to attend.

For further information about Monday, and about Shaker Aamer and habeas corpus, please contact We Stand With Shaker’s co-directors:

Joanne MacInnes on: 07867 553580
Andy Worthington at: standwithshaker@gmail.com

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Lawyers with the Justice Alliance began marching from Runnymede to Parliament yesterday on a three-day Relay for Rights to defend legal aid, judicial review and human rights from this government of butchers in the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta. Tomorrow, as co-director of We Stand With Shaker, I’ll be speaking in defense of habeas corpus and Shaker Aamer at the Not the Global Law Summit called to protest about the corporate Global Law Summit round the corner.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    In #solidarity!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Jan. The obsession of this government with privatisation is sometimes so extreme that we end up where we are now, with swathes of the legal system under threat. Already some trials can’t take place because there’s no money for defense lawyers – and yet somehow the public don’t get to hear about that. “Tight-fisted Tories let criminals walk free” ought to be the tabloids’ headline.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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