Public Statement on the Case of Des Warren

Amnesty International supports efforts by the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign to seek the disclosure of all government documents relevant to the case and calls on the Criminal Cases Review Commission to give serious consideration to referring the convictions of Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson for appeal.


Dennis (Des) Warren (1937-2004), was a construction worker and prominent trade union activist in the United Kingdom, who was imprisoned for charges arising from the 1972 building workers strike. Des Warren was arrested and charged in 1973, and eventually convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment for conspiracy to intimidate and unlawful assembly.


In July 1975, Amnesty International wrote to Des Warren’s solicitors confirming that he had been ‘adopted’ as a ‘prisoner of conscience’ and would be assigned to an Amnesty International section outside the UK for casework. Following Amnesty International’s initial decision to consider Des Warren a prisoner of conscience, the UK government wrote to the organization. In October 1975, Amnesty International reversed that view, after receiving repeated correspondence from the Home Office and following a process of internal review. There are no records indicating that this decision to withdraw ‘prisoner of conscience’ status was ever conveyed to Des Warren or his solicitors.


After an exhaustive review of the documents, it is clear that the UK government sought to influence Amnesty International’s decision to take up the case. Forty years on, it is impossible to state conclusively that the pressure unduly influenced Amnesty International’s internal decision making process; however, we acknowledge that the organization at the time did not act in a manner that would meet research and casework standards to which we adhere today. Furthermore the failure to communicate the decision to Des Warren and his solicitor is a matter of deep regret for Amnesty International, and is something for which we have apologized to his son.


Amnesty International notes the significant efforts by the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, including Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren’s son Andy Warren, to have the original convictions reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and to seek the disclosure by relevant government departments of key papers relating to the case.


Having examined both our own documents from the time and other material that is now in the public domain, Amnesty International considers that there are strong reasons to believe that the charges laid against Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson were politically motivated. Amnesty International supports the campaign’s call on the Criminal Cases Review Commission to give strong consideration to referring Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson’s case for a fresh appeal, and their call on the government to release all relevant government documents.

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