Group Says British Police May Have Tortured Northern Ireland Man
LONDON (AP) _ Amnesty International said Wednesday it had strong evidence that British police tortured a Roman Catholic man in Northern Ireland.
The independent human rights organization called for the government to publish the findings of an official inquiry into the alleged torture of 23- year-old Paul Caruana.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning group, which has made political prisoners worldwide its special concern, said in a report that it had carried out its own investigation and medical examination of Caruana and that there was strong evidence to support his allegations.
The organization said Caruana alleged he was tortured last August at Castlereagh interrogation center in Belfast after he was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The report said Caruana alleged that police repeatedly punched him, rammed his head down against his chest, pulled his legs apart and put plastic bags over his head so that he could not breathe.
Caruana also charged that police spat and blew their noses in his face, and threatened that his wife would be sexually abused.
Caruana told Amnesty International that after the first day of interrogation, he was taken to a hospital and fitted with a cervical collar as a result of his injuries, the report said. He said he was then subjected to more systematic ill-treatment.
The report said Caruana was arrested at a police road block in Londonderry last Aug. 11. It quoted him as saying the beatings began when he stayed silent after officers told him to ″confess.″
The report gave no details of the confession they were alleged to have sought. But Amnesty International spokesman David Laulicht said the questions indicated police believed Caruana, a Roman Catholic, to be sympathetic with the Irish Republican Army, which is fighting to end British rule in Northern Ireland.
The report said Caruana claimed the torture stopped only when his lawyer was allowed to see him 72 hours after his arrest.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act allows police to hold a suspect for up to seven days without charge but says the suspect should be allowed to see a lawyer within 48 hours of arrest.
Amnesty International said Caruana was released from police custody after five days.
Amnesty said it sent a Danish doctor, Jorgen Kelstrup, to examine Caruana a month later. Kelstrup, who was accompanied by lawyer Dick Oosting, the secretary-general of Amnesty International’s branch in the Netherlands, concluded there was ″considerable evidence″ to substantiate Caruana’s claims, Amnesty International said.
It said similar findings were reached by local doctors who examined him soon after his release.
Amnesty International asked Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government last December to investigate the case.
It said authorities replied that a police inquiry had been carried out and the results sent to the director of public prosecutions, Sir Thomas Hetherington, to decide if there would be criminal proceedings.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland’s predominantly Protestant police force, said in a statement that the office of the province’s director of public prosecutions ordered, after reviewing the allegations, ″that no prosecution against the police should be proceeded with.″ The statement did not elaborate.
In 1978, the British government appointed am investigative panel after Amnesty International listed allegations of ill-treatment by 78 people who had been held at Castlereagh.
The panel made several recommendations. But the government said that of 3,000 people held in police custody at the center in 1977-1978, only 15 suffered injuries not self-inflicted.
The controversy continued when two doctors at the center voiced concern about ill-treatment.