Mr Mubenga’s widow Adrienne
‘I Can’t Breathe.’ ‘You Are Killing Me.’
PROTEST THE RACIST NOT-GUILTY VERDICT FOR THE G4S GUARDS ON TRIAL FOR KILLING JIMMY MUBENGA
Thursday, 18 December 6.30pmHome Office, Marsham St. SW1P 4DF
On International Migrants Day join the Black Revs who have called this timely action in outrage at this gross injustice.
The All African Women’s Group and Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike will be there. We attended the trial of the G4S guards all the way through. We wanted to support Jimmy Mubenga’s wife and his five children, and to let everyone know that this Black man's life mattered.Like in the US, we are protesting against being killed with impunity by police, privatised police forces and other agents of the state. Our thoughts are with his family who have had to re-live the horrors committed against him, only for the killers to walk free.
Protesting the verdict, Mr Mubenga’s wife Adrienne wore a T-shirt saying “I can’t breathe.” We were completely devastated that the G4S guards were found not guilty. But we weren't surprised. From watching the trial we already knew. The judge emphasised to the jury (10 white people, and two people of colour, none African or of African descent, unbelievable in multi-cultural London!), not that Jimmy Mubenga had said he couldn't breathe and that they were killing him, but that the guards were saying he was resisting. It stank of racism to us.
From the beginning the intention was to protect G4S and to legalise any brutal, even lethal, treatment by those enforcing deportations – like the Nazis said at Nuremberg, they are “only doing their job”.
The CPS initially refused to prosecute. It took four years of pressure by the family and their supporters, and a verdict of “unlawful killing” at the inquest into Mr Mubenga’s death (2013), to get a trial.
The CPS reversed its decision in April 2014. We all expected they would sabotage the trial with a weak lack lustre prosecution. We called on people concerned with justice to be in the public gallery to support the family and show that Mr Mubenga’s life mattered.
What we witnessed was a catalogue of bias and racism that has been played out in other cases of death by police/private security. The judge was openly biased, many in the public gallery commented on it.
· The guards had shared racist texts, and the coroner’s report had highlighted serious concerns about “pervasive racism” among G4S guards involved in removals. But the jury was not allowed to know about the inquest, and the judge ruled the racist emails inadmissible as too “toxic” to the guards. If they had known a guilty verdict was more likely.
· Over 20 witnesses said they heard Mr Mubenga saying “I can’t breathe” or “They are killing me.” The guards claimed they hadn’t heard it, and their defence said deportees “always say that kind of thing”.
· Mr Mubenga head was repeatedly forced down to waist level, while he was hand-cuffed behind his back. He suffered double-fractured ribs, bruises, cuts – yet he, the victim, was blamed for resisting. He called out for help but didn’t get it.
· The guards claimed they had acted in self-defence, were “only doing their job”, “performing a public service”, and “protecting not only themselves, but property, and the victim himself.”
· The police helped G4S by delaying 24 hours before gathering witness statements from passengers, and took them down hastily as people re-boarded their flight the next day. So the statements were hurried, some witnesses said they didn’t have a translator to check what the police had written. Others said they’d been pressed by police to sign statements they didn’t agree with. Many gave longer statements later, only to have them rubbished in court by defence saying they had been influenced by news of Mr Mubenga’s death or their memory impaired by the passing of time. The judge echoed this by telling the jury not to let emotions get in the way.
· Hughes, the guard central to the racist texting who continued posting racist material on facebook even after Mr Mubenga’s death, told passengers “this flight is going ahead whatever happens”. He was on a retainer of £1,200 a month, butTribelnig and Kaler were on £6 an hour and according to Hughes would have earned a couple hundred pounds bounty for successful deportation. Since the trip to Angola would have been 31 hours, Hughes would have earned £450. Hughes said he was not bothered about money, but concerned that his mates Tribelnig and Kaler got paid. The coroner's report from the Inquest said: "Having a financial interest in getting the job done does give rise to real concerns that inappropriate methods might be used” and “dangerous practices” developed . . . with the specific purpose of ensuring that disruption by a deportee prior to take off does not prevent removal.” These findings were withheld from the jury.
· The set up in court reflected the power balance – three high-powered QCs (we understand paid for by G4S) each representing one of the guards, with junior barristers, against one prosecutor lacking in vigour or conviction.
· One defence barrister had the nerve to bring in the police killing of Eric Garner in New York, saying that the protests there were not calling for “lynching or locking up of the police but for a trial. We have that in this case.” What he didn’t say was that the way this trial was conducted facilitated a not guilty outcome – just like the trial ofTrayvon Martin’s killer in the US. This barrister has a record for defending asylum seekers – sadly, he used it to lend credibility to the claim that deportees are likely to “cry wolf” to stop flights going ahead.
Jimmy Mubenga had done nothing wrong. He was a father raising his family in London. He wanted to be here with his wife and children. He had a right to object to being deported. He had a right to resist being killed. He had a right to live.
What happened to Mr Mubenga can happen to any of us, especially if we are immigrants, asylum seekers, of colour, detainees or labelled as “criminal”. It has been happening to many people, women and men – during arrest, in custody, or even while on the tube as with Jean Charles de Menezes. The first person we know of to be killed during an attempted deportation was a woman, Joy Gardner, in 1993. Every time those responsible got away with it, whether there was a trial or not.
This verdict gives another green light to killing by the state, and to violence of all kinds. G4S has been awarded a contract to run healthcare in Yarl’s Wood Immigration and Removal Centre and SERCO’s contract to run Yarl’s Wood has just been renewed. This is despite reports of racism, rape and sexual assault by the guards and a medical nurse, and protests by women detainees, including hunger strikes. There was also a protest at the Home Affairs Select Committee which investigated the claims without hearing evidence from women in detention.