Northern Ireland news

British minister witnessed interrogation demonstration

Hooded Man Francis McGuigan
Connla Young

A former British government minister witnessed a demonstration of the techniques used to interrogate group of Catholic men who claim they were tortured during internment.

Documents obtained by the legal team for some members of the group known as the Hooded Men reveal that former defence minister Robert Alexander Lindsay, known as Lord Balniel, visited an “interrogation training centre” after internment was introduced in August 1971.

Lord Balniel was recently named on a writ issued by some of the Hooded Men, which also included the estates of former British Prime Minister Edward Heath and Stormont Prime Minister Brian Faulkner.

The 91-year-old life peer, who also holds the title the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, has been on a leave of absence from the House of Lords since 2013.

It has now emerged that the former Conservative MP visited the unnamed centre in October 1971 - weeks after 14 men claim they were tortured.

The men have said they were subjected to ‘five techniques' including being hooded, made to stand in stress positions, forced to listen to loud static noise and being deprived of sleep, food and water.

In some cases they were also thrown from helicopters they were told were hundreds of feet in the air despite being just feet off the ground.

Details emerged from an affidavit by a Northern Ireland Office official which reveals that a senior British army intelligence officer confirmed in a 1972 memorandum that the then secretary of state for defence, who was Peter Carrington, was informed in writing on the day internment was introduced, “of what was involved in interrogation in depth”.

The memorandum provided answers to a series of questions regarding the background to and the purpose of the five interrogation techniques.

He also refers to a briefing received by Mr Faulkner by the director of intelligence “on the same lines”.

According to the official the memorandum also confirms that then minister of state for defence Lord Balniel visited “an interrogation training centre on October 28 1971 and witnessed a demonstration of the five techniques”.

The detained men were interrogated at British army base in Ballykelly, Co Derry.

Last year the European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal by the Irish government against a ruling that they were not tortured.

In 1978 the court held their treatment was inhuman and degrading, but fell short of torture.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, said: “It is undoubtedly a matter of grave concern when ministers are briefed, authorise, and indeed watch a real life demonstration of torture techniques in practice.”

Lord Balniel could not be contacted for comment.

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