CentreForum’s ‘Liberal Hero of the Week’ #14 – Trevor Hicks (and Ambassador Christopher Stevens)
The aim is to showcase public figures who help promote the four liberal tenets identified in The Orange Book: economic, personal, political and social liberalism. We highlight individuals regardless of their party affiliation and from beyond Westminster. If they stick up for liberalism then they’re in contention. The usual contributor Stephen Tall is away this week, and so the CentreForum team have put their heads together and come up with the following…
Chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group.
Reason: For campaigning to uncover the truth behind the 1989 Hillsborough disaster
This week finally saw a form of justice for the families and survivors of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. This would not have happened without the tireless campaigning of those like the Hillsborough Family Support Group, led by Trevor Hicks.
The Hillsborough disaster saw 96 football fans crushed to death inside the Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield during a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989. Directly after the incident, though the 1990 Taylor Inquiry pointed to a ‘failure of police control’, much of the blame was apportioned to the fans themselves, described by many police officials and subsequently newspapers as intoxicated, loutish and out of control.
The families of the victims refused to accept these explanations and conducted a 23 year long campaign to see the release of further police documents related to their deaths. The Hillsborough Family Support Group, led by Trevor Hicks was front and centre in this fight. Despite incredible odds against them, they refused to simply accept the official line, and were validated this week with independent findings of significant police failings and cover ups in the case.
It demonstrates the importance of citizens holding to account those bodies there to protect them. The HFSG campaign also championed the cause of transparency, as they rightly saw that there can be no full accountability without full public access to relevant data. The findings of the independent report are thus a substantial victory for justice and liberty. We must must recognise that this would never have come about without the active role of ordinary individuals and groups, like Trevor Hicks and the HFSG.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens along with three colleagues were killed in an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi late on the evening of 11 September 2012. An Arabist, Stevens had served two previous diplomatic tours in Libya during the Gadaffi years, and was the first US diplomat to Benghazi to establish contact with the National Transitional Council when the city was threatened by Gadaffi forces at the start of the Libyan Revolution. In short, he had spent the better part of his career helping to build understanding between the US and the Arab world.
It is particularly poignant that Stevens and his colleagues met their deaths at the hand of an enraged mob at the time they were helping Libyans build the democratic future denied through the years of the Gadaffi dictatorship. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is surely right to condemn the attack as unjustifiable. For making the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of promoting liberty, democracy and international understanding, Ambassador Christopher Stephens is honoured by CentreForum as a Liberal Hero of the Week.