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Roger David Casement (1 September 1864 – 3 August 1916), known as Sir Roger Casement CMG between 1911 and 1916, before his execution for high treason, when he was stripped of his knighthood and other honours. Casement had renounced all his titles in a letter to British Foreign Secretary dated 1 February 1915. He was an Irish nationalist who worked for the British Foreign Office as a diplomat and later became a humanitarian activist, poet and Easter Rising leader. Described as the "father of twentieth-century human rights investigations", he was honoured in 1905 for the Casement Report on the Congo and knighted in 1911 for his important investigations of human rights abuses in Peru.
In Africa as a young man, Casement first worked for commercial interests before joining the British Colonial Service. In 1891 he was appointed as a British consul, a profession he followed for more than 20 years. 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 more involved with Irish republicanism and other separatist movements. During World War I he made efforts to gain German military aid for the 1916 Easter Rising that sought to gain Irish independence.
He was arrested, convicted and executed for high treason. He was stripped of his knighthood and other honours. Before the trial, 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. Debates have continued about these diaries: a handwriting comparison study in 2002 concluded Casement had written the diaries, but this was still contested by some.
Casement's body was buried in quicklime in the prison cemetery at the rear of Pentonville Prison, where he was hanged. During the decades after his execution, many formal requests for repatriation of Casement's remains were refused by British Governments. Finally, in 1965 Casement's remains were repatriated to the Republic of Ireland. Despite the annulment/withdrawal of his knighthood in 1916, the 1965 UK Cabinet record of the repatriation decision refers to him as Sir Roger Casement.
Casement's last wish was to be buried at Murlough Bay on the north coast of County Antrim. Prime Minister Harold Wilson's government had released the remains only on condition that they could not be brought into Northern Ireland, as "the government feared that a reburial there could provoke Catholic celebrations and Protestant reactions."
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 the Republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, with other Irish republicans and nationalists. The President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera, who in his mid-eighties was the last surviving leader of the Easter Rising attended the ceremony, along with an estimated 30,000 others.
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