Shaker Aamer & Martin Corey -- different classes of citizenship?

Lauretta Farrell with a piece highlighting the injustice underlying the ongoing internment of Martin Corey. It initally feature on her blog, The 14 Hooded Men

On 24 April 2013, the British House of Commons held a debate regarding Shaker Aamer, a Saudi national and permanent resident of the United Kingdom being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.  

Aamer has been detained by the US since 14 February 2002, without having been charged.  According to an article on’s “Defence and Security Blog” (dated 23 April 2013), Aamer:

was twice cleared for release by US authorities before Washington introduced a new obstacle whereby the American defence secretary had to certify that Britain is a safe place for him to return to, and that he will commit no future crimes.  Despite British government protests, this is something the US military has been unwilling to do.
The debate was led by Jane Ellison, whose aim was to understand:
what more the British Government and the US authorities can do to make the release of Mr Shaker Aamer, my constituent, and his return back to his family in London – the clearly stated policy of the British Government – more likely.
She declares the debate of great importance as many of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, including Aamer, have embarked upon hunger strikes which she believes are having a negative impact on their health.  The US government, however, has assured British authorities that Aamer is in good health and has ready access to medical care.
During their debate, Ellison and her colleagues liken Aamer’s situation to “internment without due process,” calling such a situation a “stain on a democracy” that is “akin to the treatment in Soviet gulags.  Ellison goes on to say that “In our country, even those convicted of very serious crimes know what they must serve before that can be released.”  Her colleague, John Woodcock asked if she agreed “that it is the lack of transparency that is so damaging, and the sense that justice is being perpetually denied and delayed?”  Further, he said “Ultimately, that gives succor to the enemies of Britain and the US.”  Ellison agreed, replying “it is a stain on democracy.  A man should know why he is being deprived of his liberty and what he must do to win it back.  That is how I come at it; that is one of the functional principles on which mature democracies base their thinking.
I could go on and on quoting similar statements, which seemingly suggest that Britain would never conduct itself in such a manor.  But in fact, it does, right in its own backyard.  Take for example, the case of Martin Corey, of Lurgan, Northern Ireland.
16 Tuesday 2013 marked the third anniversary of Martin Corey’s internment in Maghaberry Prison, during which time no charges have been entered against him.  The police have neither questioned nor interviewed Corey regarding any incident, occurrence or event relating to his imprisonment, yet he continues to be held.  The following is an excerpt of a letter from Corey’s lifelong friend and advocate, Jim McIlmurray:
“Martin Corey is a 62 year old man who served  19 years of his life in Long Kesh as a republican prisoner.  He was released by the prison authorities in 1992 and began to rebuild his life. He is a popular figure from a well respected, hard-working family in the town.  It was a proud day for Martin when he was granted a loan to purchase his own mechanical digger.  After a time, he gained the contract as the parish grave digger, covering several cemeteries in the greater Lurgan area.  Many people, myself included, will recall his compassionate approach and professionalism during the time of families' bereavement.  
On Friday, April 16th, 2010, the police arrived at his O’Neill’s Terrace home and told him they had a warrant for his arrest. Martin was brought to Lurgan PSNI station and later that day transferred to Maghaberry Prison.  It was stated he broke the terms of his Life Licence release. When his solicitor requested to know what Martin was alleged to have done, he was told it was a matter of National Security and the subject of closed file information.
For the past three years, his solicitor and barristers have challenged his unlawful detention on numerous occasions in the High Court. On Monday, the 9th of July, 2012, a High Court judge, Justice Seamus Tracy, who has a background in the European Human Rights Courts, ordered Martin’s immediate release, stating that his Human Rights had been breached under sections 4 and 5 of the European Human Rights Act and that there were no charges for which he should answer.  I waited for 4 hours outside Maghaberry with Martin’s family that day, only to be told at 4:15pm that the then-Secretary of State, Owen Patterson, had overruled the  High Court judge and  blocked Martin's release. I was 25 yards away from Martin when I received that call. I watched him step out of the prison van at the reception centre and watched him walk back to the van to be returned to his cell.  As he got into the van, he paused and stared at me; that will always be one of the hardest and cruelest  moments I have ever witnessed in my life.
Martin has a legal entitlement to an annual Parole Board review every twelve calendar months to re-evaluate the reasons for his continued detention.  I have been accepted to speak on Martin’s behalf; however, every date set for a hearing for Martin last year was followed by a cancellation by the Parole Board, citing numerous excuses.  Martin hasn’t received a parole review in 18 months, an action deemed illegal by the Court of Human Rights in Strasburg.  We are currently awaiting a date to take this case to the High Court for a judicial review.
Martin’s case has been in the High Court in Belfast several times over the past three years, without any finding of criminal offence with which to charge him.  Had Martin been charged with possession of an illegal firearm during his arrest three years previously, he would have been released six months ago. There is no other name for his illegal detention other than internment without trial.”
How is it that British politicians care more for a permanent resident than one of their own naturally-born citizens?  And let us be clear, Britain does claim Martin Corey as a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as they do all citizens of Northern Ireland.  Is it perhaps that the Northern Irish continue to be seen as second-class citizens, less worthy of protection of the law and the rights of citizenship?  Have all the nice words spoken around the Good Friday Accords of 1998 been just that – empty words, with no real meaning?  

Is the situation in Northern Ireland reverting to what it was before the Troubles, when the Irish were denied basic human rights?  As leaders in the UK discuss how to deal with dissident republicans (and, one hopes, dissident loyalists as well) they need to think about the way they treat people they claim as their own.  Perhaps then, their example will lead to the release of Shaker Aamer.


  1. I think the first thing Lauretta should do is read Ian Cobains Cruel Britannia,if she has,nt already,this will give her a better understanding of Englands Machiavellian approach to the whole issue of torture and internment of those under its thing for certain Lauretta and her colleagues must realise is that they are being lied to as well as the rest of us,and that really Westminster is not the bastion of democracy it like to portray itself to be,never was!

  2. My opinion although cynical is that the difference in these two cases, is not about The British ‘caring’ for one more than another although I see the point the writer is making. I see it as more a reflection of political realities. It is also relevant who takes the case on & where they raise the issue of the injustice against the said person.

    Shaker Aamer's MP Jane Ellison has probably been forced to raise this case due to Realpolitik. I doubt she cares whether justice is done and Shaker is released or not. The reality is she is in a newly won seat that the Conservatives spent a lot of money and effort winning in a constituency which covers many working class areas of South London and has a recent history of electing Labour MP’s. Without a swing of over 5% in the last election to the Tories the seat would have remained Labour’s.

    The last thing the Tories want is to lose this seat, so with this in mind it would be stupid for Ellison not to raise Shakers issue in the HOP. If not for the right reasons maybe more to be seen to appeal to her constituents from the Asian community who make up a sizeable voting minority and are as likely to be swing voters, not ideologically wedded to voting Labour like many working class people in London are.

    Unlike Aamer, Martin Corey is from a constituency which is a safe seat. And a Unionist safe seat at that. No swing voters, few floating voters and no real political contest for that seat. The MP David Simpson would see no political gains for supporting Martin Corey’s release eg extra votes, or to cement the seat.

    Sadly it seems unless cases of miscarriages of justice like Martin Corey, Shaker Aamer, Marian Price, The Craigavon Two and Willie Wong are seen as politically useful to their local MP, work to release them will be shouldered by activists, friends and organizations who sadly have little real effect on the people who have the power to resolve these injustices.

    I hope both men are released immediately, returned to their families and compensated for their illegal imprisonment.

  3. Lauretta,
    This piece serves to highlight the hypocrisy that is intrinsic to every aspect of how British justice is applied here.
    Martin's situation is deeply worrying and serves as a massive contradiction to the notion that we are moving forward to anything remotely democratic.

  4. Guantanomo concentration camp is an inconvenient truth for irish Americans. Many of the guards there are Sullivan's, Mc Elroy's etc.

  5. Alan,
    I would say the Lauretta Farrell's of this world would be highlighting injustice where ever they see it.
    If one of the guards in Guantanomo is called Alan does that make you guilty also?


  6. I have read Cruel Britannia, and in fact, wrote about the British use of torture in my doctoral dissertation. While I agree that their atrocities are widespread, I do think there is an ongoing bias against the Irish. Jane Ellison is not the first British politician to call for Aamer's release, though it may be politically expedient for her to do so. Her view is supported by the mainstream British press, by Amnesty International, and by many Americans, all of whom seem to Be oblivious to Martin Corey, Marian Price, and other Irish men and women being held held illegally in British jails.

    As an Irish American, I feel compelled to tell their story, and that of the Hooded Men, in order to raise awareness of, and hopefully, support for, their situation. If we don't tell people what is going on, they will never know. Once we tell them, we can hold them accountable.

  7. By the way, Alan, II first learned about the Hooded Men from a friend who has been very active in leading the charge to close Guantanamo. He, too, is Irish American. We are not all complicit in our government's inhumane policies.

    As I wrote earlier in my blog, the Hooded Men's case at the European Court of Human Rights was cited by John Yoo in the Torture Memos as confirmation that the US could, legally, engage in what he called " enhanced interrogation." The Court found that the Five Techniques to which the Hooded Men were subjected did not constitute torture. That ruling is at the basis of many democratic governments' use of such techniques.

  8. Mackers,
    Given that there is problems with the poster can I just make people aware of tomorrow's book launch I know Lauretta will not mind.
    The Rising of the Phoenix Was hailed by Belfast Republican Billy McKee, as the most authentic account ever written on the Battle of St Matthews in June 1970.
    Now the author Sean O Coinn has released a revised edition, which will include a special tribute to Billy McKee now almost 92.
    The New Addition of The Rising of The Phoenix will be launched in An Culturlann on Friday May 3rd at 11 am.
    Anyone interested in the history of the recent conflict is welcome to attend this special occasion.

  9. I'm afraid no matter what comparisons are made the government are going to hide behind the legislation that was put in place for all prisoners released on licence this is creating problems across the board the comment at least people know how much time they have to serve is not true a large majority of people sentenced to ipp sentences with recomended and set tarrifs are on average 2-3 years over there tarrifs and the same goes with recalls and the reasons for being recalled its the legislation that needs challenging and I know I've said this before but believe the POWs should of been given pardons or amnesty for any act committed before the the signing of the GFA but I'm not the man who was behind bars just saying believe the negotiations could of gone further over the prison issues

  10. Dean
    You are spot on in relation to the prisoners. Martin Corey has been refused the right to bring his appeal to the supreme court which effectively blocks him proceeding to the European court.
    Sinn Fein settled for legislation that was underpinned by a notion of rehabilitation. In other words we were all criminals and deviants and society had to be guarded against us re/offending.

  11. Martin received the bad news yesterday that his appeal to the Supreme Court in London was denied. It is unfashionable to me why the British government are taking him on - don't they see that this is just another in their long history of bad decisions that only serve to make the British appear uncaring and inhumane, and fan the flames of anti-British feelings? I am going to start a petition on calling for Martin's release. I hope all Pensive Quill readers will join me.