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“Let’s Tackle the Shackles”

keyboard jockey | 08.09.2005 20:30 | Repression | Birmingham

Press release from Reprieve and Amnesty International

Thursday September 8th 2005

Why does Birmingham’s Hiatt Corporation continue to supply the shackles used during the abuse of 10 British residents and 500 other prisoners in Guantanamo Bay?

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve legal director and lawyer to the British residents being held in Guantanamo, is teaming up with political folk band “Seize the Day”, along with local human rights activists, led by Amnesty International marathon runner Dr. David Nicholl to deliver a letter of protest to Hiatts of Birmingham. They have dubbed their protest “Let’s tackle the shackles”.

The activists will arrive at Hiatts on a 7.5 tonne truck with folk band “Seize the Day”, who will perform their satirical song “Do the Shackle Shuffle at Club X-Ray”. Protesters will be dressed in the infamous orange Guantanamo jump suits, ready-shackled, and will dance (or shuffle) as the band performs.

Hiatts manufacture the shackle used by the US military in the notorious Guantanamo Bay. Hiatt’s own dubious history stretches from manufacturing chains for slaves taken to America in the late 18th century to supplying shackles used during torture to various unsavoury regimes. At least 10 British residents have been held in Guantanamo Bay for more than 3 years in a regime described by Amnesty as “a gulag for our times”.

The plight of the British residents is desperate. Recently unclassified evidence reveals that they are in their fifth week of a hunger strike, where their simple demand is that they be charged with a crime or set free. Omar Deghayes is a British refugee from Libya who was given asylum in the UK in 1986 after his father was assassinated on the orders of Colonel Gaddafi. He trained to be a solicitor in Huddersfield, and has a four year old child. No charges have ever been brought against him, and following an assault by a US soldier, he has been left blind in one eye. A BBC Newsnight programme provided evidence suggesting that he is a victim of mistaken identity. However, the UK government has refused to intervene on his behalf, even though the Libyan security services have threatened to kill him if the US authorities ever ‘render’ him to Libya. He has lived in England for many years, and all his family is English, yet every day, he is held in Hiatts Shackles.

The stories of various British residents are equally horrifying. Binyam Mohammed was rendered to Morocco where his torturers took a razor blade to his penis. Shaker Aamer has a British wife and four young children. Bisher Al Rawe and Jamil El Banna, far from being seized on the Afghan battlefield were grabbed in Gambia where they were setting up a peanut processing plant, and taken to Guantanamo. Ahmed Errachidi, 18 years a British resident, was working as a chef in London at the time the Americans allege he was training as a terrorist on the other side of the world.

Dr. Nicholl has written to Hiatts asking if they will voluntarily ban exports of handcuffs and all other restraints to the US whilst torture and abuse is still taking place. Hiatts have not responded to this letter or to Mr Stafford-Smith’s “Guardian article” (20/12/2004);,7369,1377418,00.html The Foreign Office (Kim Howells) has refused to make any comment regarding Hiatt’s relationship with the Guantanamo regime, citing “commercial confidentiality”.

Asked why the activists were planning their protest, consultant neurologist Dr Nicholl replied: “The chairman of Hiatts is not a man who answers polite letters, so we felt we had to deliver a message that he couldn’t ignore”.

“My British clients, some of whom came from Birmingham, did not enjoy being reminded of home by the shackles on their wrists,” said Clive Stafford Smith. If an ethical foreign policy means anything, it means not profiting from the torment of our own people”.

keyboard jockey