Amnesty International and Irish political prisoners

22/05/2014 by socialistfight

Amnesty International has launched a global anti-torture campaign calling for an end to the practice which it acknowledges is becoming less frequent.

Amnesty singled out five countries where torture is considered a particular problem and where it believes it’s campaign can have the most impact. Countries identified are – Nigeria,
Mexico, Uzbekistan, Phillipines and Western Sahara. However the North of Ireland is not listed.

Nobody would suggest for a minute that Amnesty International hasn’t done tremendous work campagning for human rights and prisoners rights for many decades. But it would appear to the casual observer that where Irish political prisoners are concerned Amnesty International remains strangely silent – which is more than a little surprising when we consider that Britain has a long history of using torture on political prisoners at home and abroad. The Compton Enquiry acknowledged detainees were tortured in Long Kesh and other detention centres throughout the north of Ireland during “the troubles” – were fed bread and water for long periods and then blasted with noise – known thereafter as ‘white noise.’

As a result the European Court of Human Rights found Britain guilty of using “inhuman and degrading treatment causing serious physical and psychological suffering to the victim”.
To their credit however Amnesty did (at that time) help the Compton Enquiry by submitting their own report on events. So isn’t it surprising that allegations of torture and
ill-treatment of political prisoners and detainees that Amnesty have now decided not to include the North of Ireland in their global anti-torture campaign?

Nobody now denies that Stephen Murney, Press Officer for the socialist organisation EIRIGI
was subjected to physical and mental torture while illegally interned in Maghaberry Prison in the North of Ireland for 14 months and was strip-searched twice a day by six prison guards.
Bearing in mind Maghaberry Prison is equipped with an electronic chair that can detect any concealed object. Following his trial Stephen was acquitted of all charges. His lawyer – rightfully – is pursueing a civil action for damages to his client. We pose the question – how can Stephen’s treatment be justified? It’s not just harassment and intimidation – it’s a form of torture as well. Prior to his arrest and wrongful internment his home had been continually raided by the RUC/PSNI numerous times – and always at 6am in the morning. They learned well from the Gestapo! This was not ordinary or garden-type harassment of Stephen but of other innocent persons in the house – namely his family.

Amnesty International could well have found Stephen Murney’s case a case of real interest. It must surely have all thehall-marks of what they’d be looking for in Nigeria or the Phillipines. They would find the case of Gavin Coyle also of interest. Gavin Coyle is serving a 9 year sentence in the Isolation Wing of Maghaberry. Gavin’s case is unique in as much as he is incarcerated in the Isolation/Special Supervision Unit and has been there now for over three years. Gavin wrote to us in December 2013 but we only received his letter in April 2014! His incarceration in this unit is based on the prison governors belief that ‘Coyle will not be accepted on the prison wing by the other prisoners.’ This is a blatant and down-right lie! Gavin went on a three day hunger-strike in March this year, he was joined in solidarity by the other prisoners. Their support nails the lie he isn’t welcome on the Wing by them.

Amnesty should also remember that Gavin Coyle’s long-term imprisonment on the Isolation Unit contravenes Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – that “no one be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading punishment.”

Probably the worst case scenario of all is that of Tarlach MacDhomhnaill. This prisoner is serving a sentence also in Maghaberry. He was recently forcibly strip-searched on his return from the prison Visiting Area, and what is of considerable concern to us he has a medical condition called “Arteriovenous Malformation.” This medical condition can cause fits and epilepsy triggered by trauma and stress. The fact the prison governor and staff are aware of his condition yet persist in ill-treating him this way has prompted us to make the British Medical Association aware and have requested they investigate his case without delay. We have also asked Amnesty to highlight the case of Gavin Coyle’s continued incarceration in the Isolation Unit of Maghaberry Prison. Both these men are being subjected to torture and inhuman conditions.

We are in solidarity with political prisoners in Mexico, Nigeria, Uzbekistan and other countries around the globe but we believe Amnesty International has a duty also to include Irish political prisoners in their global anti-torture campaign, but more on this in next issue
of Socialist Fight.

Michael Holden, Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group.

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