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19 November 1998 Edition

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Britain shamed at UN - again

Committee Against Torture demands action



The United Nations Committee Against Torture is expected to slam the failure of the British government to implement recommendations made by the committee three years ago.

British officials appeared this week before the UN's ten member strong panel of independent human rights experts to defend their government's record in the Six Counties and Britain. As a signatory of the eleven year old Convention against Torture, the British government is obliged to periodically appear before the Geneva panel.

In 1995 the committee called for the closure of Castlereagh and other similar interrogation centres in the Six Counties, questioned the British government deployment of plastic bullets and called for the ending of emergency legislation.

On all counts, the British government failed to respond. Appearing before the committee last Monday, British officials could only express ``regret'' that their government has been ``unable'' to carry out the wishes of the committee outlined during Britain's last appearance.

At the hearing the UN committee again questioned the use of seven day detention orders and called for the closure of interrogation centres. The panel reiterated calls for the introduction of audio/video recordings as a safeguard against mistreatment during interrogations. They again expressed the view that defendants should be allowed immediate access to a lawyer during interrogation. The committee also questioned the operation of non jury Diplock courts.

British officials were specifically asked about the case of Davy Adams, who sustained serious injuries during a brutal beating in Castlereagh. The panel also questioned an increase in the use of plastic bullets within the last three years.

Attending the hearing on behalf of the Six County based Committee for the Administration of Justice, Paul Mageean said the CAJ felt that the time for scrapping emergency legislation was well overdue. He said he hoped that the UN hearing would reinforce that view.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Bairbre de Brun, who attended the UN hearing in 1995 said, ``there is a new British government but we're hearing the same old story. ``The Labour Party has been in government for over eighteen months now. No more excuses, it's time for the British government to put its house in order.''
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