An Open Letter to Omar Deghayes

Omar Deghayes, ISN 727
Camp Delta,
PO Box 160,
Washington, DC 20053

Dear Omar

I am writing to you after hearing your brother speak at a meeting in Sheffield, UK, where I live. I am going to send this letter to Jacqui Smith, our new Home Secretary, and make it public as well, so forgive me if I repeat some things to you – I am aware that you know these things only too well, but I want other people who might see this letter to understand what has happened to you and how important it is that you are brought back to the UK.

Your brother told us about how your family came to Britain in 1987 after your father had been assassinated because of his opposition to Gaddafi’s dictatorship in Libya. He spoke of trips to the UK before that where your father took you to Speaker’s Corner and said “This is what it should be like in Tripoli”. He said how your father pointed to Britain and said “Britain is the most just country in the world”. He told us how it was because of British justice and British fairness that when you fled persecution you came to Britain to seek sanctuary.

You have been detained in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility for nearly five years now, where the American government is making a mockery of ideals of justice which the president tells us he wants to spread around the world. Today, July the 4th, it is two-hundred and thirty-one years since the America Declaration of Independence. That famous phrase must ring hollow for you now: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. It rings hollow for me, hearing how your human rights have been abused: you have been kidnapped, tortured, denied a right to trial, denied even the right to be formally charged, to have evidence presented against you, to even know what the American government believes to be true that they imprison you. It is injustices like these that are listed as accusations against the British King in the Declaration of Independence. That document uses the phrase ‘Arbitrary Government’, and it seems to me that these are the warning signs of a slide towards more ‘Arbitrary government’ and all that that entails.

It is shameful that the British government claims not to be able to represent you because you are officially a citizen of Libya. You are a British resident and the British government should offer you protection from persecution. I know how important it is that when you are released you come back to the UK, to live in safety with your family, rather than be deported to Libya; I heard in the meeting how the Libyan official who visited you in Guantanamo threatened to kill you if you were sent back to Libya. For justice to be justice it must protect everybody.

In Sheffield we have a movement called ‘City of Sanctuary’ which is dedicated to creating an atmosphere of hospitality for asylum seekers and refugees – we want to be a city that takes pride in the welcome it offers to people in need of safety. I sincerely wish that the British government would show some of the same attitude and make representations to the Americans to bring you home. I want to be proud of the British government, and proud of British justice in the same way I am proud of Sheffield as a City of Sanctuary.


Tom Stafford

Save Omar Campaign website:

Documentary about Omar: here

Text of the American Declaration of Independence

City of Sanctuary

7 replies on “An Open Letter to Omar Deghayes”

Great letter. However, Europeans should not feel too smug about the American government’s violation of everything the Unites States are supposed to stand for. We are doing the exact same thing, and with much less public debate and criticism, As far as Britain is concerned, habeas corpus, which existed since 1305, has been thoroughly eroded and its future does not look good. The situation of European nationals or residents in American custody is only the – admittedly spectacular – top of the iceberg.

Oh, and I almost forgot to commend you on quoting the Declaration of Independence !

I feel anything but smug about european human rights – it was with genuine admiration that I quote the America Declaration of Indepedence.

Among the ancient greeks showing a lack of hospitality was the worst crime you could be accused of. (According to a book I was reading anyway). I wish the English had more of that ideology towards people in need of sanctuary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *