4 October 2007 Edition
Secret British Army document from 1971 uncovered
Internment torture methods endorsed by commanders
A SECRET British Army document from September 1971 shows that military interrogators in Long Kesh wanted to continue using brutal torture methods against men who had been interned without charge or trial and later ruled by the European Court of Human Rights as “inhumane and degrading treatment”.
The file, uncovered by the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre and the campaign group Justice for the Forgotten, offers an assessment of the political and military situation in the North by senior members of the British Army just weeks after the introduction of Internment.
It reveals not just the mindset of British commanders at the time but also exposes the tissue of lies on which the British Army occupation was based.
According to the document, internment was a “success”, the UDR was a non-sectarian force, and civilians killed by the British Army in August 1971, during what was later called ‘The Ballymurphy Massacre’, were all “gunmen”.
Those shot dead by the British Army during the massacre were Fr Hugh Mullan, Joan Connolly, Frank Quinn, Noel Phillips, Daniel Teggart, Edward Doherty, John Laverty and Joseph Corr.
The author estimates that between 12 and 30 people were killed by the British Army from 9 and 12 August. The document describes the British Army “clearing” areas with “gunmen fighting a rearguard action” and British soldiers “having to use cover fire”. It goes on:
“Fire and movement became very much the order of the day. Some gunmen fought hard, on occasions right through large buildings floor by floor, until they were killed on the roof-tops.”
In reality, the majority of people killed were civilians shot by British Army snipers from roof-tops in the Springmartin estate.
Fr Hugh Mullan was shot dead by British soldiers positioned on top of flats in the loyalist Springmartin estate. The local priest had attempted to administer the last rites to a man he saw shot by the British Army. He was waving a white cloth at the time he was shot. Frank Quinn was shot dead when he attempted to crawl out to help the two stricken men.
Joan Connolly was shot dead as she was searching the streets for her children. After being hit, the Ballymurphy mother attempted to get up when the force of a second shot to her head lifted her body from the ground and threw her into a field. Noel Phillips was found shot dead on the bank of a stream between Springhill and Ballymurphy.
Father of ten, Daniel Teggart, was hit by more than a dozen high-velocity shots by British soldiers who opened fire from the Henry Taggart fort on the Springfield Road. John Laverty and Joseph Corr were shot dead by the British Army during the same incident. John’s body was discovered in a derelict yard, showing signs that he had been beaten before being shot dead. Joseph’s body was discovered a short distance away.
An internal memo describes the British Army as stretched and says “we must get more UDR”. The author is in favour of expanding the UDR and maintains that, despite the fact that the force would be almost exclusively Protestant and unionist, “It is the opinion of General Anderson that such a force would still retain its non-sectarian identity.”
The document describes internment as “successful” and calls for the use of brutal interrogation techniques against internees.
“If we are going to gain the full military advantages of internment we must continue the process of interrogation-in-depth on carefully selected detainees,” says the document.
The British Government was later found guilty of “inhumane and degrading treatment” by the European Court of Human Rights for its treatment of prisoners interned without trial.