Keith Carmichael obituary


Questions had been requested within the Home of Commons after Keith Carmichael disappeared right into a Saudi Arabian jail in November 1981. His case was repeatedly raised by MPs and friends as information of his brutal mistreatment filtered out. It was not till he was launched with out cost two and half years later, nonetheless, that the extent of the torture he had endured turned public data.

Carmichael, who has died aged 90, was held in solitary confinement for 3 months, disadvantaged of meals and sleep, overwhelmed on his knees and toes, sexually assaulted, shackled in leg irons, suffered a fractured backbone and detained in rat-infested cells. He was additionally threatened with crucifixion and electrocution if he didn’t confess to quite a few crimes (together with leaving Saudi Arabia illegally, spying and criticising the royal household), which he refused to do.

The previous Scots Guards officer and businessman by no means obtained a proper apology from the Saudi authorities or official compensation for his ordeal. Nor did his illegal imprisonment trigger any vital disruption to UK-Saudi business relations.

Though bodily and psychologically broken, Carmichael didn’t succumb to self-pity however reworked his indignation into founding in 1992 and growing a charity, Redress, to assist torture survivors and assist them receive justice.

Now a world organisation based mostly in London and The Hague, it has 30 staff. Redress might not have succeeded in overturning the long-established regulation on state immunity – which implies that overseas states are immune from authorized motion in British courts – but it surely has raised consciousness of the struggling of victims, and campaigns towards the usage of torture.

A tall, imposing determine, Carmichael had arrived in Saudi Arabia to work on building tasks. The corporate he labored for, Sacem, was employed in 1981 by an organization managed by a Saudi royal member of the family. Disagreement arose over Sacem’s alleged money owed and his visa was at risk of being revoked. Suggested by legal professionals to flee the nation, he was arrested in neighbouring Qatar and returned to Ulaysha detention centre. He finally spent 857 days in Saudi prisons, however managed to smuggle out reviews of his torture to Amnesty Worldwide.

The British ambassador to Saudi Arabia later advised Carmichael that Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, then the governor of Riyadh and now the Saudi king, had described Carmichael’s imprisonment as “a mistake”. He was freed in March 1984 and flown again to London for hospital remedy.

Born in London, Keith was the youthful son of Jeannette (nee Montgomerie) and Arnold Carmichael. His father, a neurologist, was director of the neurological analysis unit on the Medical Analysis Council. Keith’s elder brother, Ian, went on to develop into an professional on volcanoes and professor of earth sciences on the College of California, Berkeley.

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Carmichael assembly a household who had been tortured in Saudi Arabia, 1996. {Photograph}: Redress

From Westminster college Keith went on to nationwide service as a second lieutenant within the Scots Guards (1952-54). Posted overseas, he was stationed within the Suez canal zone. At Oxford College, he studied philosophy, politics and economics however switched to a enterprise course on the College of London. After college he labored in gross sales at Shell, turned a advertising and marketing supervisor at Lever Brothers, wrote administration coaching manuals and travelled within the Center East as a contract author. For a number of years he was employed by IPC Magazines and Thomson Publications.

He additionally served as a captain within the Territorial Reserve connected to the Unbiased Parachute brigade. In 1972, he turned chairman of corporations that restored historic properties and constructed housing developments. 5 years later he joined Sacem Worldwide as managing director. The Dutch firm constructed warehouses, medical centres and lodging for overseas employees in Saudi Arabia.

After coming back from his ordeal, he spent a number of years recuperating. Typically in ache, he walked stiffly with a limp and was identified with PTSD. He nonetheless retained his charismatic sense of humour.

Having did not receive reparations via diplomatic channels and courtroom actions in Saudi Arabia and the US, Carmichael turned his efforts to confronting the broader downside of torture and serving to different survivors.

In 1992, he established Redress with the assistance of Dame Rosalyn Higgins KC, the previous president of the worldwide courtroom of justice, different legal professionals and activists. He gave proof to the US Congress and to the UK parliament.

The charity championed the case of Sulaiman al-Adsani – a Kuwaiti and British citizen who had been tortured in Kuwait – in 2001, taking his attraction towards state immunity to the European courtroom of human rights, the place it narrowly misplaced the ultimate judgment.

The torture damages invoice – a non-public members’ invoice initiated by Lord (Peter) Archer of Sandwell and backed by Redress – sought to create an exception to the 1978 State Immunity Act by stopping alleged torturers from claiming immunity in British courts. It was supported by the Home of Lords in 2008 however by no means adopted by the Commons.

Carmichael defined: “For many people [torture survivors] the objective is for states to confess that we now have been tortured. Importantly, we want to obtain an apology. We want to see the torturers punished. We have to show that they didn’t reach destroying us as human beings.”

Years later he was given a token sum by a Saudi particular person.

Carmichael had been married however divorced following his detention in Saudi Arabia. His brother died in 2011.


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