Today we remember Roger Casement who was hung for high treason in London 100 years ago today.
Formally known as Sir Roger Casement and described as the "father of twentieth-century human rights investigations". Casement was from an Ulster protestant background and served as a British diplomat during the early part of the 20th century. He won international acclaim after exposing the illegal practice of slavery in the Congo and parts of South America and was knighted by King George V.
Influenced by the Boer War and his investigation into colonial atrocities against indigenous peoples, Casement grew to distrust imperialism. After retiring from consular service in 1913, he became an ardent supporter of the Irish independence movement and in 1915 traveled to the United States and then to Germany to secure aid for an Irish uprising against the British.
On April 22nd 1916 Roger was detained by British soldiers off the coast of Kerry with a reported shipment of up to 20,000 rifles for Irish rebels who were planning the Easter Rising of 1916 (three days later.) As he awaited trial in London the British government circulated excerpts said to be from his private journals, known as the Black Diaries, which detailed homosexual activities. Given prevailing views and existing laws on homosexuality, this material undermined support for clemency for Casement.
Casement was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London on 3 August 1916, at the age of 51. His body was buried in quicklime in the prison cemetery at the rear of Pentonville Prison. During the decades after his execution, many requests for repatriation of Casement's remains were refused by UK governments. Finally, in 1965 Casement's remains were repatriated to Ireland. Casement's remains lay in state at Arbour Hill in Dublin for five days, during which time an estimated half a million people filed past his coffin. After a state funeral, the remains were buried with full military honours in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
Portrait by Jim Fitzpatrick.