Roger Casement was an Irish nationalist and human rights campaigner. Whilst working for the British Foreign Office, he investigated human rights abuses and reports of atrocities in the Congo and South America. His investigations were rewarded with a knighthood in 1911.
From 1905 Casement became increasingly involved with the Irish Nationalist movement. After the outbreak of the First World War, Casement travelled to Germany to try and gain support for Irish independence by petitioning the Germans first for an ‘Irish brigade’ – made up of Irish prisoners of war – and later for a supply of arms for the Easter Rising. In April 1916, he attempted to return to Ireland along with a shipment of weapons, but the plan was unsuccessful. After missing the rendezvous and landing in southern Ireland, Casement was arrested by the British government, charged with high treason and sentenced to death.
Arthur Conan Doyle, who had worked with Casement on raising awareness of crimes in the Congo, campaigned against this sentence. This petition, written in Conan Doyle’s own hand, argues that Casement’s actions were due to the 'severe strain' put on him whilst in service to the Crown, as well as the effect of 'several tropical fevers'. Conan Doyle also felt that the British government’s use of slander against Casement during the trial was unfair and unjust.
The campaign was supported by many literary figures, including W B Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and John Galsworthy but was eventually unsuccessful. Casement was executed by hanging at Pentonville Prison, London on 3 August 1916.