Obituary: Lord Archer of Sandwell, patron and friend

REDRESS is very saddened to learn of the death of Lord Peter Archer of Sandwell, QC. Lord Archer died on the 14th June 2012, aged 85.

He will be remembered by all at REDRESS for his support of victims of torture. Lord Archer campaigned tirelessly for human rights throughout his career as barrister, Labour MP and Peer, using his legal expertise to aid this cause.

Lord Archer was a valued patron of REDRESS for many years. He supported the organisation by advancing the Torture (Damages) Bill in the House of Lords. The bill was first introduced by Lord Archer in the 2006-2007 parliamentary year and subsequently in three following parliamentary sessions.

The Torture (Damages) Bill sought to create an exception to the State Immunity Act, 1978, in order to allow civil suits against torturers and the states that support them. It successfully passed a First, Second and Third Reading in the House of Lords in the 2007-2008 parliamentary year.

The bill received support from parliamentarians, most notably, from the Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2009. An inquiry by the committee heard evidence from REDRESS and the government, among other parties, and concluded that a civil remedy should be available in the UK to victims of torture.

The bill had First Readings in the House of Commons in 2007-2008, 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. Lord Archer’s support was highly valued by REDRESS and many torture survivors in the UK who are unable to seek justice in English courts for the torture they endured overseas.

Justice is a torture survivor’s right and an essential part of the healing process. Lord Archer was conscripted as part of the Bevin Boy programme in 1944, shortly after he had left school. It was during this time that he joined the Labour Party. Leaving the Bevin Boys after four years service, he enrolled at the London School of Economics and University College London, harnessing his political interests and qualifying as a barrister in 1952.

Lord Archer became a QC in 1971 and was appointed a Crown Court Recorder in 1982. He simultaneously pursued his political ambitions, winning his first seat in the constituency of Rowley Regis and Tipton in 1966. He then sat as Labour MP for Warley West from 1974 to 1992.

Lord Archer was appointed to the position of Solicitor General by Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1974, but demonstrated his modest nature by refusing the customary knighthood. He was appointed as a Labour Peer to the House of Lords in 1992.

Lord Archer will always be remembered with great appreciation by REDRESS for his principled commitment to the advancement of human rights and to the dignity of the individual. Our thoughts are with his wife and son, and his wide circle of friends and colleagues.