Clive Stafford Smith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Clive Stafford Smith
Clive Stafford Smith in 2010.jpg
Born Clive Stafford Smith
(1959-07-09) 9 July 1959 (age 57)
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Alma mater University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Columbia University
Occupation Lawyer

Clive Adrian Stafford Smith OBE (born 9 July 1959) is a British[1] attorney who specialises in the areas of civil rights and working against the death penalty in the United States of America. He worked to overturn death sentences for convicts, helping found the not-for-profit Louisiana Capital Assistance Center in New Orleans, which by 2002 was the "largest capital defence organisation in the South."[2] He was a founding board member of the Gulf Region Advocacy Center, based in Houston. He has represented more than 100 of the detainees held as enemy combatants since 2002 at the US Guantanamo Bay detention camp. As of April 2016, a total of 80 men are still held there.

In August 2004, Stafford Smith returned from the US to live and work in the United Kingdom. He is the Legal Director of the UK branch of Reprieve, a human rights not-for-profit organisation. In 2005 he received the Gandhi International Peace Award.


Born in Cambridge and educated at Old Buckenham Hall School and Radley College, Clive Stafford Smith declined a place at the University of Cambridge to study as a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reading journalism. He followed a degree with another, this time in law at Columbia University in New York.[3] He is licensed to practise law in the state of Louisiana and in Washington, D.C..

Early law career[edit]

Stafford Smith worked for the Southern Prisoners' Defense Committee, based in Atlanta, now known as the Southern Center for Human Rights, and on other campaigns to help convicted defendants sentenced to capital punishment.[3] He first came to British public attention when he appeared in Fourteen Days in May (1987), a BBC documentary showing the last fortnight in the life of Edward Earl Johnson before his execution in Mississippi State Penitentiary.[4] Stafford Smith had acted as Johnson's attorney and was seen desperately trying to halt the execution of the death sentence. In a follow-up documentary, Stafford Smith conducted his own investigation into the murder case for which Johnson was executed.[4]

In 1993, he helped set up a new justice center for prisoner advocacy in New Orleans; formerly the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center, it is now known as the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (LCAC).[3] He represented the paedophile Ricky Langley who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The jurors accepted the accused was suffering from mental illness, but condemned Langley to capital punishment. Stafford Smith made him apologise to the mother of his victim, Oscar Lee. Laurely Gill asked the DA for a reprieve, which was denied. So later on Stafford Smith, inspired by the case began a group to end the automatic death penalty in USA. She said on the witness chair "I think he is mentally ill." To expunge the hatred of these awful crimes, forgiveness is central to justice.[5]

In 2002, he became a founding Board Member of the Gulf Region Advocacy Center, a non-profit law office based in Houston, Texas.[6] It was designed to bring his legal methods developed at LCAC into the "capital of capital punishment". He was appointed an OBE for his contributions to the law and human rights.

Guantánamo detainees[edit]

Since returning to the UK, Stafford Smith has worked as the legal director of Reprieve, a British non-profit NGO that is opposed to the death penalty.[3] During his career in the US, and by 2002 he had lost four death penalty cases, but had won nearly 300, earning reprieves for those convicts.[2]

From 2002 Stafford Smith volunteered his services to detainees held as enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay; he has assisted in filing habeas corpus petitions and lawsuits on behalf of 128 detainees. His clients have included Shaker Aamer, Jamil al Banna, Sami Al Hajj, Sami Al Laithi, Abdul Salam Gaithan Mureef Al Shehry, Moazzam Begg, Omar Deghayes, Jamal Kiyemba, Binyam Mohammed and Hisham Sliti. In a BBC interview, when asked why he was representing detainees, he answered that "liberty is eroded at the margins".[citation needed] The USA government have offered $250,000 reward to 'snitch' on members of family for information. The euphemism for torture is "enhanced interrogation techniques". The guilty are so - to defend freedom - because they have confessed on a third party information and cannot be relieved from that burden of proof in the face of evidence once on Death Row according to Herrara v. Collins - since they are not allowed legal representation. [7]

He returned to Britain in August 2004, and then that December prepared a 50-page brief for the defense of Saddam Hussein, arguing that the former dictator should be tried in the U.S.A under U.S. criminal law.[8] On 29 August 2005, Stafford Smith addressed attendees at the Greenbelt festival, a major UK Christian festival, telling them about the second hunger strike at Guantanamo. He warned the audience that prisoners were likely to die very soon. Due to restrictions imposed by the Pentagon (DOD), lawyers' notes must be filed with an intelligence clearing house in Virginia, before release. Conversations with clients are considered classified, and cannot be discussed until they have full clearance. Smith had to wait until 27 August 2005 to publicly reveal that the hunger strikes had started again on 5 August 2005. Two of his clients, Binyam "Benjamin" Mohammed and Hisham Sliti, participated in the hunger strikes. In another interview broadcast by BBC television evening news on 9 September 2005, he explained that the second hunger strike was to protest against continuing the imprisonment of children (juveniles under the age of 18) in Guantanamo Bay.[9]

Stafford Smith contributed to The Guardian with an article on the significance of the U.S. Supreme Court's 29 June 2006 ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which found the Combatant Status Review Tribunals and military commissions as unconstitutional. The Court held that the executive branch did not have the authority to set up a justice system outside the existing civil and military legal systems.[10] Stafford Smith thought that George W. Bush should have been secretly relieved that the more conservative members of the Supreme Court, who supported the administration's appeal against the lower court's ruling, were in the minority. He wrote:

"In the end, I suspect there was a collective sigh of relief from the White House that the lunatic fringe did not prevail. The Bush administration has finally recognized that it must close Guantánamo but — for all that Bush bangs on about the importance of personal responsibility — it wanted someone else to take the blame."[10]

Stafford Smith wrote a memoir about his experiences at Guantanamo, Bad Men: Guantánamo Bay and the Secret Prisons (2007), which was shortlisted for the 2008 Orwell Prize for political writing.[11] Interviewed by Jon Snow of Channel 4 News on 26 March 2009, Stafford Smith said he would be astounded if 10 Downing Street did not know that his client Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee, had been tortured during detention. He added: "I would go one step further: the torture decisions were being made in the White House, by the National Security Council, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice." He asserted that although the British had not carried out the torture, they were complicit in it. Stafford Smith concluded that, in trying to keep the torture allegations secret, the US authorities were "confusing national security with national embarrassment".[12]

In July 2010, Stafford Smith accused former Foreign Secretary David Miliband of "fighting tooth and nail" to prevent the release of vital documents during the Binyam Mohamed case.[13] As of July 2011, Stafford Smith has secured the release of 65 prisoners from Guantánamo, including Moazzam Begg, a British citizen. Begg has founded Cageprisoners, an organization to aid the reintegration of detainees into society by way of thanks to his attorney, when the UK media widely commented on his innocence. In 2011 Stafford Smith was still representing a further 15 additional detainees.[3] In 2013 there were still 365 internees in the prison. On 9 June 2015 he told an audience that he had visited the facility 34 times.[14] Most recently he took the case and secured the release of Shakkar Omar after 13 years incarceration. [15]



  • Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America (Harvill Secker, 2012) EAN: 9781846556258
  • Bad Men: Guantánamo Bay and the Secret Prisons (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2007) Details his work for detainees in Guantanamo Bay, and criticizes advocates of torture.
  • The Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Fighting the Lawless World of Guantanamo Bay (Nation Books, 2007) ISBN 1-56858-374-5
  • Welcome To Hell: Letters and Writings from Death Row, edited by Helen Prejean, Clive Stafford Smith, and Jan Arriens (Northeastern; 2nd edition, 2004) ISBN 1-55553-636-0


  1. ^ Knight of the living dead The Daily Telegraph - 30 Jan 2005
  2. ^ a b "The Great Defender", BBC News, 11 March 2002, accessed 22 April 2016
  3. ^ a b c d e f Profile at Reprieve
  4. ^ a b Fourteen Days in May
  5. ^
  6. ^ Funding reprieve from Death Row, retrieved 14 December 2016 
  7. ^ "Insight with Clive Stafford-Smith - Defending Terror Suspects of Guantanamo", Frontline, 15 August 2007, retrieved 14 December 2016 
  8. ^ "Saddam bids to challenge case in U.S.", The Sunday Times, 19 December 2004, retrieved 14 December 2016 
  9. ^ "A Child at Guantanamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad", Andy Worthington website, 1 June 2009, retrieved 14 December 2016 
  10. ^ a b "A good day for democracy: The ruling against the Guantanamo tribunals is good news for everyone — even George Bush", The Guardian, 30 June 2006
  11. ^ "Shortlist 2008", The Orwell Prize
  12. ^ "Interview: Mohammed's lawyer Clive Stafford Smith". Channel 4 News. 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  13. ^ Oborne, Peter (July 16, 2010). "Nailed, Miliband and six lies on torture". Daily Mail. London. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Gates Annual Lecture, Cambridge, 1 June 2015, retrieved 14 December 2016 
  16. ^ "Gandhi International Peace Award citation". Gandhi Foundation. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  17. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 

External links[edit]