Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A Message From Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve

Today, being on Reprieve's mailing list, I received the email below. Reprieve are the people who campaign for prisoners on Death Row in the USA: either to get their sentences commuted, or at least to get them fair trials which very few of them ever had prior to sentencing. It's worth reading, and do feel free to make a donation as well.

The next frontier of Reprieve’s work

I hope this email finds you well. In recent months, some supporters have asked why Reprieve is directing resources towards challenging drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. I think it’s time I explained our decision and the logic behind it, and I hope that after you’ve read this email, you’ll agree that it’s vital and the next frontier of Reprieve’s work.

Reprieve’s journey from America’s death rows to Guantánamo Bay, and now to the forefront of the fight against drone attacks has been, to me, all part of the same battle. As you probably know, I spent twenty years representing people on death row in America’s Deep South. They were all poor individuals from (at best) disadvantaged backgrounds; many of them young black men. It became obvious to me that sentencing these men to death was the government’s way of purporting to deal with a serious societal problem – lock lots of people up, and then execute some of them, and hey presto! Crime will be gone! Problem solved, without having to deal with thorny issues of gun control, welfare, education and so forth – or so politicians tried to convince the electorate, anyway.

In 2002, George Bush Jr opened the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Almost straight away, I sawindisputable parallels between my death penalty cases in the US and what the US administration was doing with the Guantánamo inmates – the problem (terrorism linked to hatred for America), a specified hate group (Muslim men instead of black men), and an unwillingness to contemplate why extremism was on the rise. So we had the lack of due process and the little known fact that the entire Guantánamo population was facing a death sentence. It’s no coincidence that two of the three lawyers (myself included) who first cracked Guantánamo open to public and legal scrutiny had long histories of capital defence work.

When we argued for the prisoners’ legal rights, I remember how advocates for Guantánamo’s lawless character actually told us that if we stopped Bush from locking them up indefinitely, his administration would instead just kill them. And he was true to his word – he stopped sending Guantánamo new inmates, and initiated the US-led drones programme, which Obama has, disappointingly, expanded. So instead of detention without trial, we now leap directly to execution without trial.

I believe that drone attacks are the new frontier of the ‘war on terror’, and the death penalty without trial. These attacks do not involve any pretence at due process. They are growing in frequency, and their effects will be felt by all of us. Not only do they kill innocent people – including children – they serve to radicalise the formerly moderate and swell the ranks of al-Qaida and those who wish Western states ill.

We know this because we are working with victims’ families in Pakistan and Yemen. Our investigators and partners are on the ground right now, photographing the destruction caused by drones, meeting those who have watched as bombs fell on their homes and loved ones, recording their stories and sharing them with you and the rest of the world.

Reprieve is working to expose the truth about drone strikes and impose due process on the USA. Just as with our cases in Guantánamo and on death rows worldwide, we will hold up drone attacks to public and legal scrutiny so as to encourage a proper debate. Furthermore, our work has always been about amplifying the voices of the forgotten and the powerless. The villagers from the remote areas of Pakistan and Yemen cannot hold those behind those drone attacks to account – but we can, and with your support, we will continue to do so.

Please click here to make a donation today.

With heartfelt thanks,

Clive Stafford Smith 
Founder & Director


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