Right of Reply; Paul Mageean

An officer of the Committee on the Administration of Justice responds to a leading article about torture
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The Independent Culture
The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) recently examined the record of the UK. The Independent said that to use the language of torture in a UK or Northern Ireland context debased the currency of universal human rights.

An obvious case of debasing human rights was heard in the Northern Ireland High Court earlier this year when David Adams was awarded pounds 30,000 for injuries which the court found were inflicted by RUC officers at his arrest and in Castlereagh detention centre. Mr Adams's head was allegedly grabbed and pounded against the ground a number of times. He is said to have been subjected to continued beating during which his lung was punctured by one of the ribs that the police had broken. Allegedly the barrel of a rifle was driven into the back of his head, causing a severe laceration and in the detention centre, a number of officers took turns to perform running jumps directed at Mr Adams's left leg, which eventually broke. To date no officer has been disciplined, much less brought to trial.

Cases such as this illustrate the need for continued international vigilance by human rights mechanisms. While CAT did not find that the UK used torture as an instrument of policy, it did highlight the fact that regimes in detention centres create the conditions for ill-treatment. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been paid in compensation for ill-treatment in the holding centres, yet none of the complaints made has ever been upheld.

The Government refused until this year to introduce silent video recording of interviews. Lawyers are still not permitted to attend the interviews, and audio recording, although promised, has still not been introduced. The courts in Northern Ireland and the House of Lords have found that the regime in the detention centres has been constructed to coerce suspects to speak. The supervision of human rights remains essential.