Lisa Dunn, sister of Nick Dunn, one of the security guards on the Seaman Guard Ohio, has spoken out on the impact her brother's on-going detention in India has had on her family.
Nick is a veteran of the Parachute Regiment of the British Forces. He served tours in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq. He left the armed forces after nearly eight years in order to pursue a career in the private security industry, and after several contracts, he was offered work with Advanfort.
He was 27 when his detention in India began four years ago.
Indian media portrayed Nick as spies and terrorists linked with Al Qaeda and the Tamil Tigers. “Have you any idea how deeply offensive it is to have your loved one linked as a terrorist?,” says Lisa. “My brother fought for our country against terrorists and now protected shipping and crews from terrorists of the high seas. He was not a terrorist himself.”
She speaks of her family's anguish at the injustice of the situation. “To sustain this for one day was excruciating enough, but the suffering we feel four years on is truly indescribable. Never would any of us have ever imagined back in 2013 that we would still be living through this very real nightmare today.
“Nick and his colleagues are currently locked away in a prison cell having to exist in the most horrifically inhumane and barbaric conditions. Nick has woken up with rats crawling on him, there are snakes within the compound. He shares a cell of five men. They are forced to sleep on concrete slabs, they do not get washing facilities, making do with a bucket of cold water. Sometimes they do not receive that if the prison guards turn the water pump off. They have a hole in the ground in their shared cell that they must use as a toilet so there is no dignity.”
The men have to cope with the arduous, intense heat that often reaches almost 50 degrees with no fan. They must buy drinking water although do not get paid for any work they do. They cook their own meals which has been helped enormously by food parcels posted from family, friends and supporters. “Nick has gone into the kitchen to cook and there has been human feces and urine in there,” says Lisa.
The company that contracted Nick, Advanfort, has not paid the men since their arrest and has never paid any legal fees. “Samir and Ahmed Farajallah, the Palestinian father and son who own Advanfort have contacted me several times throughout telling me that I need to raise £1,000,000 in order to rectify this situation. They have betrayed and abandoned their employees in the most despicable way without making any attempts to intervene and help.”
Whilst Nick was detained in prison during the first arrest, on December 21, 2013, their mother suffered an enormous bleed on her brain from two aneurysms that she was not aware she had. She had to undergo an emergency craniotomy and the consultant, after describing the bleed as catastrophic, stated there was no doubt in his mind that the stress she was suffering as a result of her youngest son’s detainment was a contributory factor.
“Our mother was extremely lucky to survive as we had been told to prepare for the worst. She spent over four months in hospital and is now brain damaged with life changing disabilities including loss of her speech,” said Lisa. “Nick blames himself for this and has said numerous times that when he finally comes home, he will never ever be able to put this horror to the back of his mind because every time he see’s his mother, it will be a constant reminder that her ill health occurred during this ordeal. The thought that my younger brother blames himself for our mothers illness devastates me.”
Lisa feels for the families of the other men. “There are families including our own, who have lost loved ones, families have lost their homes, marriages and family units have now been torn apart, children have been born and children are growing up without their fathers, precious moments missed that can never ever be replaced.”
It's one of the most horrendous travesties of justice the maritime world has known, she says. “The British Government has lobbied Indian counterparts and we are truly grateful for that. The extent of lobbying on this case has gone as high as Prime Minister level and on more than one occasion.
“The British Government continue to tell us it’s one of their most important cases and at the top of their agendas. The fact that they have raised this case with the Indian authorities over 50 times brings me very little comfort because this situation is still ongoing. The men are still in prison with a conviction that is wrong. The men are still waiting for a verdict from their appeal which they should have had in February meaning India are violating their own laws.
“The men are still suffering. We are still suffering. At this stage, I can’t see that any lobbying that has been done has made any difference. It’s absolutely shameful that our government knowing full well of the men’s innocence, having the proof in print in front of them, having actually issued that proof, still don’t have the backbone to stand up to the Indian authorities and demand the release of innocent men. They still don’t have the backbone to stand up and really fight for them and fight this despicable injustice against their own!”
More information is available from Human Rights at Sea here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.