Galway man retraces Roger Casement’s Amazon journey

Tricolour, Colombian flag and Amazonian Flag over the old Casa Arana previously the headquarters of the Peruvian Amazon company.

Tricolour, Colombian flag and Amazonian Flag over the old Casa Arana previously the headquarters of the Peruvian Amazon company.

Galway City native Dr. Brendan Tobin, self described “nomadic lawyer” and human rights activist will give a talk on “Orphans of the Rubber Boom: Roger Casement’s Legacy in the Amazon” in Galway City Library, St. Augustine Street, Galway on Monday next - November 21 - at 6.30 p.m.

Dr Tobin, a graduate of NUI Galway is a qualified barrister who emigrated to Peru in 1992 to work as an advocate for indigenous tribal groups on securing land right titles, environmental rights and related human rights issues.

He completed a PhD in Human Rights at the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway in 2012 and he also holds dual Irish and Peruvian nationality.

In August this year Dr Tobin travelled into the heart of the Colombian Amazon - a territory until recently contested by the Colombian army and FARC guerrillas - to retrace the footsteps of Roger Casement in the area in 1911.

Casement visited this remote region on the Putamayo River - a tributary of the Amazon - to investigate the murderous regime employed by the Peruvian Amazon Company - a London registered company - to force the local indigenous peoples to collect latex for the rubber industry.Casement, then in the British Consular Service, documented the abuse, torture, rape, slavery and murder meted out to the local people to coerce their cooperation.

Casement reported that “The crimes charged against many men now in the employ of the Peruvian Amazon Company are of the most atrocious kind, including murder, violation and constant flogging.”His report is still regarded as a seminal document in setting the standard for investigations of human rights abuses. Dr Tobin accessed the area which is still politically sensitive and off-limits to most travellers and visited sites associated with Casement’s investigation.

He discovered that Casement is not forgotten by the local people but remembered as one of the few outsiders to champion their human rights and dignity.Brendan participated with the descendants of the four indigenous tribal peoples in the region in a commemorative event for Roger Casement on the centenary of his execution.

On Monday night Brendan will show video clips and photos and explain why reconciliation between the descendants of the survivors and of those responsible for participation in the abuse including the governments of Colombia, Peru and the United Kingdom needs to be completed.Brendan will also outline his plans for Irish involvement in a project to commemorate Casement in the area and through this help secure agreements to protect the rights of the local people against exploitation.

The event is free and open to all.


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