Fifty Years Ago a British Minister Formally Approved Torture in N Ireland

Fifty years ago the UK Secretary of State for Defence Lord Carrington approved torture as a means of the UK Security Forces extracting information from detainees.

In August 1971 Brian Faulkner (then N Ireland Prime Minister) introduced internment without trial and men detained were tortured. The UK always denied this and still does. An initial successful case brought at the ECHR found there had been torture however on appeal this was held to be inhuman or degrading treatment (itself still a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights).

However the UK deliberately withheld information from the ECHR and specifically the admission that as early as 1971 Carrington (then Secretary of State for defence) had approved its use by the British Army.

Correspondence (in the form of a memo) from NI Secretary Merlyn Rees to British PM James Callaghan in 1977 detailed a meeting between Rees and the Dublin governments Attorney General.

Rees states in the letter that it was his “view (confirmed by Brian Faulkner before his death [NI’s prime minister at the time]) that the decision to use methods of torture in Northern Ireland in 1971/72 was taken by ministers – in particular Lord Carrington, then secretary of state for defence.”

A RTE investigation forty years later unearthed the memo.

I mentioned earlier that Faulkner introduced internment in August (9th) days earlier on the 5th of August Faulkner had met in London with Carrington, British PM Edward Heath and the GOC N Ireland Lt General Harry Tuzo. Its inconceivable in my view that Messrs Heath and Tuzo were unaware of the decision to use torture on detainees.

British government duplicity about torture of detainees in both 1971 and late 1972 and the subsequent ill treatment of detainees at various holding stations in the North for decades afterwards has still never been fully acknowledged by the United Kingdom.

Carrington was regarded as a great statesman and went on to become Secretary General of NATO despite his shameful endorsement of the torture of innocent civilians.

Main image: The Rees/Callaghan ‘torture’ memo – Inset: Lord Carrington pictured at Heathrow just weeks after giving the green light to torture in the six counties.

Sources: CAIN, RTE, BBC

Bernard Moffatt

AGS Celtic League (19th October 2021)

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