CAIN: Events: Internment: John McGuffin (1974) The Guineapigs

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Extracts from 'The Guineapigs' by John McGuffin (1974)

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Text: John McGuffin ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
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Chapter 6
The After-effects

'No detainee in Northern Ireland has suffered
permanent lasting injury whatsoever, mental
or physical' — Reginald Maudling[1]

'The basic fact is that there was no brutality,
no torture, no brainwashing, no physical
injury, no mental injury' — Lord Balniel
(as Minister of State for Defense) [1]

When the Parker Committee was set up it invited several well-known psychiatrists and doctors to 'advise' it. In the Majority Report of Lord Parker and Mr. Boyd-Carpenter they admit blandly that the simple answer as to whether the men subjected to SD are likely to suffer mental after-effects was, 'Don't know.' As they explain (para. 15), 'One of the difficulties is that there is no reliable information in regard to mental effects, particularly long-term mental effects, and, as one would expect, the medical evidence varied somewhat in emphasis.' Further on they state that 'it is true that in a small minority of cases some mental effects may persist for up to two months. There is no evidence of a mental effect lasting longer . . .' There is a simple reason for this. No one had ever (outside of the Soviet Union, possibly) been subjected to this particular intensive SD treatment before, and consequently at the time of the Parker Report no follow-up psychiatric tests had been run on the victims.* [*Some psychiatrists have subsequently been making a healthy living — $16.80 a case is the figure quoted — doing tests on the caged inmates of Long Kesh. Indeed, psychiatrists are not the only ones to profit from Long Kesh. Apart from the English and Scottish prison warders imported at great expense and paid considerably more than their Irish counterparts, there are the lawyers. At times they have protested about the ludicrous proceedings at the secret 'trials' but, as Fortnight magazine has pointed out (8 February 19741, 'a day's work at Long Kesh is worth a couple of hundred pounds'] As the Majority Report admits (para. 16), previous tests on Army personnel were no guide to the effectiveness of SD — hence the Army's desire for 'rebel guineapigs': 'In such cases no lasting mental effect whatever has been observed, but in our opinion this is by no means conclusive. The real thing is obviously quite different from the experiments.'*
[*My emphasis — JM ]

Going on to explain that the same inadequacies applied to the civilian experimentation, Messrs Parker and Boyd-Carpenter then proceed to widge [To widge: deliberately to draw conclusions totally at odds with the evidence hitherto presented — especially during what are termed 'whitewash operations'. cf. Lord Widgery of Bloody Sunday.]   in a most ludicrous manner. 'There is no real risk for long-term mental injury if the proper safeguards are applied in the operation of these techniques.'

Lord Gardiner in his Minority Report is much less sanguine. He admits that 'it would seem unlikely that the procedures would not result in some minor physical injuries' (para. 13a) and, in contrast to his colleagues, states that the decibel level of the 'white noise' might result for 8 per cent in temporary loss of hearing and in 1 per cent in some permanent loss of hearing.

As for the mental effects, he is again more frank than his collaborators on the origins of the SD treatment:

According to our information, interrogation in depth as described in the first Compton Report is a form of sensory isolation leading to mental disorientation which was itself invented by the KGB [sic] in Russia where they first placed suspects in the dark and in silence.

As one group of distinguished medical specialists put it: 'Sensory isolation is one method of inducing an artificial psychosis or episode of insanity. We know that people who have been through such an experience do not forget it quickly and may experience symptoms of mental distress for months or years. We know that some artificially induced psychoses, for instance those produced by drugs like LSD or mescaline, have in fact proved permanent; and there is no reason to suppose that this may not be a danger with psychoses produced by sensory deprivation. Even if such psychotic symptoms as delusions and hallucinations do not persist, a proportion of persons who have been subjected to these procedures are likely to continue to exhibit anxiety attacks, tremors, insomnia, nightmares and other symptoms of neurosis with which psychiatrists are familiar from their experience of treating ex-prisoners of war and others who have been confined and ill-treated.'

There is a considerable bibliography of experiments in this field, particularly in Canada. Some experiments have been done in England with troops and civilian volunteers, but it was the cumulative effect of the techniques which was important in the present context and naturally neither troops nor civilians had ever been subjected to such cumulative techniques as were used in Northern Ireland and it was impossible scientifically to prove that they would, or that they would not, have lasting effect . . .* [*My emphasis — JM]   All emphasised the fact that in the field of mental disorientation everyone had a different threshhold, which made the imposition of specific time limits of great, and some though insuperable, difficulty.

So much for the 'safeguards' suggested by Messrs Parker and Boyd-Carpenter, in flagrant contradiction to their own expert witnesses. And what is one to make of Reginald Maudling's statement at the beginning of this chapter? One point worth bearing in mind here is that a distinguished neurologist and a psychiatrist had been invited by the Tory government to give evidence to the Parker Committee. Professor Wall and Dr. Antony Storr were asked by BSSRS [The British Society for Social Responsibility in the Sciences. Soon after the Compton Report, they published a memorandum urging the British government to abandon disorientation techniques. They stated that while Russian methods did not involve physical torture or complete SD, they still left 'enormous scars on the personalities of the sufferers'. 'There is no reason,' they went on, 'to suppose that the Ulster methods. shorter, though apparently more intense, than the Russian ones, would not leave comparable after-effects and there is some evidence to suggest that they would. Brainwashing and disorientation techniques overlap to a great extent. In the light of the psychological evidence and of the findings of the committee of inquiry, we urge the government to abandon the use of disorientation techniques during the interrogation of political prisoners.']   to visit the 'guineapigs' in Long Kesh accompanied by a Belfast doctor, Pearse OMalley, who had already seen three of the men, to give an impartial assessment of their mental state. But permission to visit Long Kesh was refused them — the man responsible being none other than Reginald Maudling.

Dr. O'Malley, a Belfast psychiatrist, was the first medical man to see any of the men who had undergone the SD experiment. He saw two of the original twelve men in Crumlin Road jail sixteen days after their ordeal, and one of the subsequent 'guineapigs' in October. He estimated that all three had developed a psychosis within the first day of interrogation. 'The psychosis consisted of loss of sense of time, perceptual disturbances leading to visual and auditory hallucinations, profound apprehension and depression, and delusional beliefs — e.g. hearing Paisley lead an evangelical choir intent on slaughtering Catholics.'[2]

Of the three men, Dr. O'Malley gave as his professional opinion that one would recover completely, one would possibly recover but the process would be a lengthy one, and one was in need of urgent psychiatric assistance if he was to make a full recovery. Despite the doctor's recommendations, nothing was done by the authorities and all fourteen men were subsequently moved from Crumlin jail to Long Kesh.

As mentioned before, little or nothing had hitherto been known about the long-term effects of such intense and prolonged sensory deprivation upon people. What was certainly known was that in order for men to recover, amongst many other things, relaxed, peaceful and friendly surroundings were needed.* [*There is a strong suggestion from data such as those provided by EEGs (electroencephalographs) that the effects of SD depend critically upon how the subject conceives of the situation. Fear and uncertainty clearly exacerbate his state of mind. See C. W. Jackson and J. C. Polland, Behavioural Science, 7 (1962), pp. 332-43.]  In stark contrast to this are the conditions in Long Kesh. Long Kesh is damp. It is overcrowded — and many believe that the overcrowding is deliberate. The actual space allocated, fifty feet by twenty-five feet for forty men, living and sleeping combined, is liable, when applied on a similar scale to rats or monkeys, to produce cannibalism in the former and very aggressive behaviour in the latter. [Long Kesh saw its first suicide in May 1973, when Patrick Crawford took his life. There have been over a dozen cases of men being transferred to mental institutions.]  It is almost totally lacking in adequate recreational or educational facilities. Worst of all, perhaps, are the medical facilities. Since 1971 when the camp was first opened there have been numerous complaints about lack of treatment for people suffering from deafness, asthma, dental problems, heart complaints, etc. On 9 September 1973 an internee Francis Dodds, aged 31, who had been previusly examined the day before by the camp doctor and informed that there was nothing wrong with him, collapsed and died of a heart attack. Hygiene with regard to sheets, pillow-cases and towels was non-existent and the internees often went for weeks without clean laundry. As for medical treatment, the most common was a standard issue of tranquillizers — 2 mg. or 5 mg. of Valium or the sedative Mist. Chloral Hydrate. This tended to be given out for any ailment, from a sprained wrist to acute anxiety neuroses. Clearly this was not the best environment for men recovering from intense SD. Nonetheless, these were the conditions to which they were subjected.

Although no test results existed, this side of the Iron Curtain at least, of the after-effects of intense SD, much work had been done on the after-effects of similar highly traumatic experiences, such as battle fatigue. Loughlin says: 'Post-traumatic symptoms can run the gamut of clinical manifestations. We also recognize that anxiety, hypochondriacal and hysterical reactions are the most frequent. Phobias, depressions, emotional fatigue and the obsessive-compulsive reactions are less frequently observed.'3 Hocking adds that the anxieties created can in their turn produce gastro-intestinal, cardlo-vascular and genito-urinary symptoms, tremors, sleep disturbance and its subjective reactions, all of which may be very long lasting, if not permanent.[4]

Nonetheless, the government continued to refuse to allow independent and distinguished doctors, psychiatrists and neurologists to examine the men concerned. Despite this, a committee from Amnesty International, consisting of a Swedish chairman, a Dutch doctor and a Norwegian lawyer managed to examine four of the internees mentioned by Compton and concluded that their treatment clearly amounted to brutality', adding that the techniques used on them were 'dangerous both to the immediate mental health of the individual subjected to this treatment and to the long-term health of some subjects, especially those with a family history of mental illness'. Again, there was no response from the authorities.

There the matter rested for some time. The fourteen men remained incarcerated in Long Kesh, all independent inquiries were consistently refused, and the men were not even allowed visits from their own doctors. Gradually things went from bad to worse as many of the men s mental and physical health deteriorated. In March 1972, seven months after the SD treatment, one of the men, Sean McKenna, became so bad that he had to be transferred to the camp hospital He couldn't bear to be alone, shook continually, found it hard to articulate, had severe headaches, recurrent nightmares about being attacked by groups of men, and kept bursting into tears. He was subsequently transferred to a psychiatric hospital and eventually released. Jim Auld too had to be moved to the camp hospital in a state of collapse. News of this leaked out,[5] and more pressure was put on the Whitelaw administration to speed up the release of internees as he had promised. (That many of the men were being held solely as political hostages was common knowledge, and was confirmed when Whitelaw ordered the release of several hundred men whom both Lord Carrington and Brian Faulkner had publicly, and without a shred of evidence, branded as 'murderers'. Faulkner then hastily made yet another volte-face and announced that he had been going to release the men anyway if Whitelaw had not taken over the imposition of direct rule.) And so, when the gates of Long Kesh opened in July 1972 and large-scale releases began, amongst those freed were six of the 'guineapigs'. Six remained, and were there still two years later. (Francis McGuigan had already escaped and Sean McKenna had been transferred to the psychiatric hospital.) Once some of the men were released reputable doctors, as opposed to paid government functionaries, were able to examine them.

Professor Robert Daly is an expert on Sensory Deprivation. A graduate of Dublin University and then an instructor in psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, he later became a lecturer in psychiatry at Edinburgh University before moving to University College, Cork, where he lectures at present. Among his many publications are articles on the Sensory Deprivation elements in aerospace medicine and artificial kidney machines. Consequently, when the Fianna Fail government of Jack Lynch decided to take the British government to the International Court at Strasbourg it is hardly surprising that Dr. Daly was one of the experts asked to examine some of the victims of Army and Special Branch 'interrogation', and in particular, some of the SD 'guineapigs'.* [*Subsequently, the government of the 26 Counties, first under Jack Lynch and then under the Cosgrave Fine Gael/Labour coalition, has backpedalled rapidly on the question of indicting Britain for torture, brutality and flagrant breaches of the Human Rights Charter. Now they prefer to use the charges as a lever when they negotiate with Britain. Most observers believe that, lust as the Greeks did over Cyprus. they will eventually accept a secret settlement and drop the charges. Despite this, attempts are still being made by various individuals, with the help of the NI Civil Rights Association, to raise other cases, much to the embarrassment of Sir Peter Rawlinson, Britain's representative at Strasbourg to say nothing of the irritation afforded to the Dublin government.]   Because the cases were due to be heard at Strasbourg, most of the psychiatrists held their counsel for a time. As the procedures were prolonged and procrastination followed delay, some began to speak out, feeling it to be a very real matter for public concern. One of the first was Dr. Daly.

In an interview with The Times — hardly a 'pro-Republican' or 'subversive' newspaper — he said that he had interviewed around twenty men who had been subjected to extreme coercive pressure while in the hands of the security forces in the North, including some who had been subjected to Sensory Deprivation.

Almost all the patients I saw had overt psychiatric illness. The individuals I have seen have been experiencing considerable psychological disability and suffering, and also psychosomatic problems. The commonest symptoms found were of marked anxiety, fear and dread, as well as insomnia, nightmares and startle responses. These were characteristic of people who had been subjected to traumatic experiences, like shell-shock in wartime. Depression was almost universal amongst these individuals. Weeping attacks have also been common. I feel that it is particularly worrying that the probems of psychosomatic illness, such as peptic ulcers, headaches and buzzing in the ears have emerged in the men so quickly — a considerable number are already showing such symptoms.

Usually, he explained, these symptoms would not emerge until a long period had elapsed.

The shortness of the period in these cases might point to the severity of the experience. The men have a diminished will to live, a generally diminished hold on life. Some of the men have said they don't care if they live or die. These people exhibited 'parasuicidal phenomena'.

In other words, although they may not actually attempt suicide, they might well take undue and dangerous risks, regardless of their safety. 'Some of the men said they would sooner die than face further interrogation or torture chamber experience.'

'The men are generally irritable and inattentive to their surroundings.' (Although Professor Daly does not mention it, one of the 'guineapigs' walked out of one of the Professor's testing sessions saying that he 'couldn't take it anymore', and that it reminded him too much of the interrogations.) 'Some of the men have had emotional disturbances to the extent that it is disabling. Some are now unable to work.' (One, indeed, had to be sent to Dundrum psychiatric hospital in the South for a period of time after his release from Long Kesh.)

As to whether the mental illness in the men could be permanent, Professor Daly had this to say:

Only the future can tell us. It would be irresponsible to say that there would be no more long-term effects. In other contexts there has been considerable delay, in some cases, between exposure to ill-treatment and the appearance of symptoms. We should be very worried about the delayed onset of symptoms in a person who has been subjected to ill-treatment.

Professor Daly stressed that the whole SD process was a 'package deal'. Being awoken in the middle of the night, being beaten, confused as to your whereabouts, lied to and insulted, was all part of the 'unfreezing process' through which your psychological defences were broken down, and terror and humiliation were induced. Hence the photographing in the nude, being forced to urinate while running, refusal to allow toilet visits, the sadism and abuse. Meanwhile the physiological functions of the body were being disturbed by the very low or non-existent intake of calories, high temperatures caused by sweating which could lead to dehydration, coupled with the cold at night, sleep deprivation and loss of the sense of touch. 'The whole experience was a package,' he said, put together in a pre-planned way. 'Whether you want to call it interrogation in depth or brainwashing is academic. The aim of the treatment was to cause temporary psychosis — temporary insanity, which was a severe psychological injury liable to have lasting consequences.' Of course, the men did have psychotic illnesses, with delusions and auditory and visual hallucinations.

When questioned by The Times reporter as to whether the men could be faking the symptoms, Professor Daly replied in the negative. 'It is very hard for a layman to simulate mental illness in a clinical interview,' he said. 'There was a consistency, with a variety of details, in what they told me, which was not in keeping with simulated mental illness. When the men took psychological paper-and-pencil tests their scores indicated that they were what they said they were.' His interviews had been conducted a year after their original SD treatment (i.e., August-September 1972) and judging by the state most of them were in it is important that 'considerable medical help is made available to these men, both for treatment and for prevention of the emergence of further difficulties'.[6]

Confirmation of Dr. Daly's conclusions came from Dr. Anthony Starr, the Harley Street psychiatrist. As early as November 1971 he had warned: 'Nearly everyone can be reduced to a state of helplessness, dependency and even mental illness if the right techniques are used. The physical results of such treatment are severe enough, and some may be permanent. The mental effects are much more difficult to predict, but the effects of terror are seldom entirely transient.'[7] Dr. Storr had given evidence to the Parker Committee on the dangers of SD interrogation methods, but his words had largely been ignored (except perhaps by Lord Gardiner). Two years later, when interviewed by The Times about Professor Daly's conclusions, he said: 'It is exactly what I would expect. All the evidence is that SD, even for paid volunteers in the best possible circumstances, is an extremely alarming experience. It is very frightening to go mad.' . . . 'They (the security forces) have by these methods made people experience what schizophrenics or others experience.' In conclusion he said: 'The thing that I think needs stressing is that the general public does not realize that procedures which do not actually involve beating up other people can still do permanent harm to them. What interrogators want today, all over the world, is to find methods of breaking people down which don't leave marks.'[8] Sensory Deprivation is one of those techniques.

The government's response to this barrage of scientific evidence and opinion was predictable — and dishonest. The Northern Ireland Office said that it 'stood by the statement made by Mr. Maudling in November 1971'! Asked if any checks had been made on the 'hooded men' since they had been released in order to find out the long-term effects of the Sensory Deprivation the anonymous spokesman said: 'We have no access to these men. They are not under surveillance.' (A somewhat slipshod attitude for soldiers to take to men whom they had previously alleged were terrorists, or 'murderers', as Lord Carrington would say!) 'It is not really possible to follow up such private individuals, nor do we know what they have been doing since then.' This is another lie. Five of the men have been living at home, at the same addresses from which they were 'lifted' on the morning of 9 August 1971. Four of them have been frequently 'screened' by the Army and one, Micky Montgomery. was recently in the news when he became the first Republican to be elected to the Derry City Council for forty years. As for those still held — Donnelly, Hannaway, Clarke, Shannon. McNally and McKerr — the spokesman admitted that they were still in Long Kesh but declined to comment when asked what mental and physical state they were in or what tests had been carried out on them. In fact. reports emanating from Long Kesh indicate that two of them are in a particularly bad way and are given heavy doses of Librium and-Valium daily. Kevin Han naway, moreover, still has the blood disease which he had on arrest, but now in an exacerbated state which necessitates special blood tablets daily. Most have not been allowed to see their family doctors.*
[*'Packi' McNally was finally released on 18 December 1973, Shannon in January 1974. Joe Clarke was refused release on the grounds that 'since August 1971 he had frequently consorted with known Republicans'. Clarke's efforts to explain that the only way he could avoid doing that was to escape, which would have been illegal, were greeted with stony and hypocritical silence. He has just spent his third winter in Long Kesh. For further information on how people's alleged behaviour while imprisoned without charge or trial has affected their chances of getting out see The Times of 31 January 1974.]

Further light on the after-effects of Sensory Deprivation was also given at the Conference for the Abolition of Torture organized by the Irish Section of Amnesty International in Dublin on 6 October 1973.[9] Despite the apparently naive state of mind of some of the speakers — Professor Russell of Bristol University, for example, claimed that the security forces in Northern Ireland were 'strikingly unaware of the significance of what they were doing' — a patent nonsense — much valuable confirmation of Professor Daly's, Dr. Storr's and Dr. OMalley's findings was presented by Mr. Brendan McGann, Director of the Institute of Psychology in Dublin, Dr. Inigo Fischer, Director of the Behavioural Studies Unit at University College, Dublin, and Mr. Brian Glanville, Director of Psychology of the Eastern Health Board. They had interviewed and tested five of the SD victims and confirmed that long-term after-effects were present. Mr. McGann made the point also that whereas in the early days after the men's release from Long Kesh in 1972 the Southern government had been only too willing to help, there had been in 1973, 'a change in the political climate in the Republic'. Their work into the personality changes experienced by the men had run into serious difficulties. 'When we mentioned the nature of the study, nobody wanted to have anything to do with it.' Supporting him, Dr. Fischer claimed that 'we feel it is absolutely necessary that there should be a follow-up of all persons who have had the in-depth interrogation. As psychologists, because our techniques are being used, and particularly to the detriment of people, we must make a very strong protest.'[10]

As a result then of the 26-Counties government's recent cordial relations with the British government, despite the Littlejohn Affair and the car bombs in Dublin at the end of 1972, virtually all research into after-effects of SD has stopped in the Republic of Ireland, though research from the interrogators' standpoint of course continues. [ See the next chapter for examples.] And, as has been pointed out, the British government has continually refused permission for responsible independent scientists to visit the 'guineapigs' still in Long Kesh.
[The long-term effects on men who have been tortured and held in concentration camps have been fully documented. See in particular the work of Prof. Paul Thygesen of the University of Copenhagen and Leo Eitinger of Oslo. Precis of their work in English can be obtained from Amnesty International. Briefly, they conclude that after-effects are still present twenty years after the event.]

In researching this book I have, however, spoken to six of the men concerned. I am not a doctor, nor do I have any psychology credentials, bar a one-year course at university; but I have read widely on SD research and techniques, and interviewed doctors and psychiatrists fully conversant with symptoms and after-effects. Of the six SD victims to whom I have talked, it is obvious even to a layman that at least four have been badly affected. Only two appear to have made an almost total recovery, two years after the experience, and even they are prone to violent nightmares and migraine headaches. One of the other men has had periodical blackouts — once when he was behind the wheel of a car — and has lost all his powers of concentration. He hates to talk about his experiences, but once he starts has an uncontrollable urge to keep on talking about them for hours. Another man has a bad facial tic and is obsessive about 'his case', which his lawyer is bringing for compensation. Two of the men still have trembles in their hands. And, as mentioned before, another has had to be admitted for a spell (two months) to a psychiatric hospital.

These men have been the victims of a callous and sadistic experiment. As yet, not one has received any compensation whatsoever.* [*At last, some claims have been settled. See Afterword.] On the contrary, they have been vilified and slandered by men like Carrington and Maudling. In the past it has been said of the British Empire that the sun never set on it, and the blood never dried. Now that she has been deprived of her Empire the British government, and her agents the British Army, must divest themselves of their callous colonial state of mind. In the Guardian Peter Jenkins wrote a piece after the Compton Report condemning interrogation in depth and stating that what might have been acceptable treatment of people in Aden was unacceptable in Birmingham or Leeds.[11] It is, apparently, acceptable in Belfast. It should not be. In Belfast. In Aden. In Buenos Aires. In Moscow. In Athens. In Madrid. Anywhere.

'He jests at scars that never felt a wound.'
SHAKESPEARE. Romeo & Juliet.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Throughout this chapter I have followed Professor Daly and Mr. McGann's decision and not named the men suffering from specific after-effects. This is an attempt not to make any recovery they may make any more painful for them. The sceptical or the hostile may attempt to claim that this detracts from any 'scientific validity' this chapter may have. So be it. They have not seen the men involved. The above-mentioned doctors and I have.



Statements made in the House of Commons, 17 November 1971.


From an interview with the author, 12 September 1973. See also articles by Dr. Tim Shallice (Cognition, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 385-405), and Nicholas Wade (Science, 176 (1972), pp. 1102-5).


H. P. Laughlin, The Neuroses (Butterworth, 1967).


F. Hocking, 'Extreme Environmental Stress and its Significance for Psychopathology', in American Journal of Psychotherapy, 24(1970), pp. 4-26.


See, for example, an article by Simon Hoggart in the Guardian of 6 May 1972.


Article by Martin Huckerby in The Times of 9 June 1973. See also the Irish Times of the following day.


See 'Why Hooding is Mental Torture' in the Sunday Times of 21 November 1971.


The Times, 9 June 1973.


For a report, see Dick Grogan's article in the Irish Times of 8 October 1973.


For an interesting statement on the culpability of scientists and psychiatrists who allow their researches into SD to be used for the purposes of torture, see Dr. Shallice's article on Cognition, cit. cf. material from the BSSRS. op.


Guardian, 24 November 1971.

Return to Publication Contents


Author's Note.

The Guineapigs was finished in February 1974. Since then there have been various developments which the present publishers feel necessitate a final chapter to update the Guineapigs' story. I have divided this into four sections.

Section 1.

The Strasbourg Case
The European Commission for Human Rights, which meets spasmodically at Strasbourg is supposedly the highest court in Europe. A court where the individual can have recourse if he feels that the courts in his own country are inadequate or biased. It cannot exercise legal sanctions except for the most flagrant breaches — e.g. the Greek colonels — but it is supposed to exert 'moral suasion'. In practice, it does nothing of the sort.

Elephantine, cumbersome and subject to the machinations of its more powerful members, it is burdened with a bureaucratic structure which makes it practically impossible for the aggrieved citizen to get his or her case heard fairly or impartially, as the following two cases will illustrate.

Case No. 1 Donnelly et al v The British Government.
In April 1972, seven Irishmen, Gerard Donnelly, Gerard Bradley, Edward Duffy, John Carlin, Francis McBride, Anthony Kelly and Thomas Kearns were savagely beaten by Special Branch detectives of the RUC and by soldiers in various 'interrogation' centres in the North of Ireland, the most notorious one being Springfield Road Barracks in Belfast. As the medical evidence was to show, in horrifying detail, two of the men nearly died as a result and the rest suffered terrible injuries, so bad that even police and prison doctors were prepared to testify on their behalf. After spending months in various hospitals and jails on remand, they were eventually acquitted of having committed any crime and released. Their lawyers decided, with the assistance of the Republic of Ireland's Government to take their case to Strasbourg.

FOUR YEARS LATER, the Commission, in an 86 page report, put out in May 1976 rejected their complaint 'on technical grounds." They did not deny that the men had been tortured, nor did they deny that members of the RUC and British Army had been responsible, but decided that since some of the men had subsequently received financial compensation, the case was "inadmissable." In other words, the British Government was allowed to pay for the right to torture Irishmen. (To date, October 1980, the British have paid out over $4,800,000 in compensation for injuries received while in police and/or army custody. As we shall see, to date, not one RUC man or soldier has served one day in jail for these crimes.)

The twisted reasoning of the Court in the Donnelly case, which baffled many legal experts throughout the world may not be quite so hard to understand when one realizes the following facts, however. The Secretary of the HRC was a Mr. Anthony McNulty, an Englishman who just happens to be a self confessed officer in British Military Intelligence. (He claims to have retired from the secret service when he took the job of HRC Secretary.) The President of the HRC at the time was also an Englishman, a Mr. John E. S. Fawcett. Angry European legal figures have demanded an explanation why these two men, holding the two most sensitive positions on the Commission were allowed to sit in on and indeed direct the proceedings against their own Government. As yet, there has been no reply, but the image of the HRC has been badly tarnished yet further.

Case No. 2 concerned the Guineapigs and the massive violations of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by the United Kingdom Government in Northern Ireland. The allegations, which were made by the Irish Government covered the period August 1971 to March 1972. In simple terms the allegations were as follows:—

1). That the Government of the U.K. was responsible for practices which constituted 'torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of arrested persons in N. Ireland.

2). That the Government of the U.K. was not a) justified in the introduction of internment in August 1971 and b) that it was guilty of discrimination in its application of internment, i.e., despite the violence from Protestant extremists, only Catholics were interned for most of the period.

The thirteen commissioners in Strasbourg accepted, reluctantly, that torture and inhuman and degrading treatment did take place. As a sop to the U.K. government they rejected the allegations concerning internment. Some comments are in order. The proceedings of the Commission are ludicrously slow. On no fewer than five occasions the U.K. Government was granted extensions of time limits set by the Commission. In view of the lack of co-operation which the U.K. Government afforded the Commission one can be sceptical about the reasons for such procrastination. Amongst other things. they hoped that a new Government in the Republic of Ireland might be induced to drop the charges in order to 'cement friendlier relations'. During the five years that the Commission took to report its findings, which finally appeared in September 1976, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and general repression continued unabated on the streets of N.Ireland and in the police and army centres.

The cases between March 1972 and September 1976 were not of course covered by the Report, thus enabling Mr. Merlyn Rees to talk about the Irish Government 'raking up the past'. The innumerable delays in effect provided him with a smokescreen to obscure the fact that the torture was still going on.

The weaknesses of the Commission's powers should be mentioned also. These included:—

1) Its inability to discover where the SD experimental torture was actually carried out. The U.K. refused to say, and throughout the Report 'the unknown interrogation centre' is all we get. (In 1974 I believed that the centre was at Palace Barracks in Holywood, I now tend to subscribe to view of Fathers Faul and Murray that it was more likely at Ballykelly Air Base in County Derry.)

2) Its failure to subpoena the torturers.

3) The success of the British Government in prohibiting its witnesses from replying to any questions concerning 'the five techniques.

4) The refusal of the British Government to give any information on the torture seminar held in N. Ireland in April 1971, nor about the various torture training centres in Britain. (More about them later.)

5) The refusal of the British Government to allow the victims to confront their torturers.

6) The accession to the British demands that part of the hearing be conducted at the isolated Soal Air Base in Stavanger in Norway.

7) The refusal of the British Government to submit copies of the interrogation records showing which police officer interrogated each particular witness and during what period.

These were serious obstacles in the way of discovering the full facts, and the Commission, lacking the powers to overcome them must be seen as a very imperfect instrument of justice indeed, and it is a serious matter that there are no worthwhile sanctions which can be applied to a powerful Government like Britain which authorizes torture. Even more seriously, those who have tortured have not been and will not he brought to justice. As one of the Guineapigs. Pat Shivers, said in a TV interview. "monetary compensation for the victims, which, anyway can never compensate them for their sufferings. is no substitute for a fair trial of the torturers.

*  *  * 

Section 2.

And what of the guilty men?
The European Commission found the Government of the United Kingdom guilty of the inhuman treatment of prisoners in Northern Ireland under Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention. Despite this the British Government continued to conceal the identities of those members of the security forces who were directly responsible for the torture. In September 1976. after the Strasbourg Report. they claimed that 'some of the soldiers have been internally court-martialled by the army.' They refused to give any details, however, and denied that any special torture training courses existed. Both these statements are lies.

In 1974. although I was in possession of some of the names of the torturers I was unable, for legal reasons, to print them. I did manage to name Special Branch Chief Michael J. Slevin, who had been awarded a M.B.E. for his 'good work' and Special Branch man Harry Taylor as being two of the men responsible. As a result, myself and Penguin books received legal writs in April 1975. When, after consulting our lawyers we replied with the response "go ahead and sue", the matter was dropped and we heard no more of it.

When in October 1976 Hibernia (The Dublin magazine) decided. after analysing the European Commission's report, to name more of the torturers, strenuous efforts were made to suppress the article. Some details were, reluctantly omitted, but, nonetheless both Hibernia and An Phoblacht, the Dublin Republican newspaper, did subsequently publish the names of various of the guilty men. What follows is a condensation of their reports.

Palace Barracks, Holywood is a British army barracks used by the RUC to 'interrogate' suspects. The RUC officer in charge there between August and December 1971 was Special Branch Inspector S. H. Kyle. His deputy was SB Inspector Harry Taylor. Assisting were Inspectors Jackson and Browne, based in Andersonstown RUC station and the head of the Omagh SB Inspector Peter Flanagan, (who was shot dead by the IRA subsequently.) Amongst the Detective Constables selected by the Crown to give evidence about the torture were B. J. Wilson, A. Libey and D-Cs Morrison and McKnight. The Commission found that in Palace Barracks the torture was the result of 'an administrative practice' and not just caused by the over enthusiastic actions of a few thugs.

From the report it appears clear that members of the RUC Special Patrol Group (members of which have subsequently been convicted of sectarian murders.) were employed to torture internees at the secret interrogation centre.' In 1971 the SPG was commanded by Superintendent J.I.C. Gilchrist, then based in Musgrave RUC station. (He has subsequently been promoted to being in charge of 'T' division in the notorious Castlereagh torture centre.) Other senior members of the SPG. most of which have been promoted. include Chief Inspector K. Patterson. Inspector Hood. Inspector R. A. Stewart. Inspector R. J. A. Catterson and Inspector Nichol. all stationed in Belfast. and Inspector D. J. Robinson (Derry) and Inspector N. Crowe. (Armagh).

Albert Street Barracks was, according to the Commission, the scene of various tortures. It was under the command of Lt. Col. Richard Freeman Wallace. The Commission also threw up the name of SB man Samuel George McKinney. who has been frequently named by people claiming that they have been tortured, including Donnelly. Bradley and Duffy whose case was heard at Strasbourg. He is one of the few to be charged (twice) with 'ill-treatment' but has been acquitted.

Ballykinler camp where many of those interned on the 9th of August were held and beaten was supervised by Capt. Eric Ronaldson Bryson, ably assisted by Lieutenant Ian Roger Barton, and Staff Sergeants Smith and Love. The military doctor was Captain David Plant and in charge of 'interrogation' was Superintendent Magill.

The British witnesses before the Commission were identified only by code, but a study of the report makes it clear that one of the top men, variously identified as P0 17, P0 12B and 13B and who was questioned about the 'five techniques' was none other than Inspector S. H. Kyle. Though refusing to answer questions about the 'five techniques' as the British continued to euphemistically call the SD torture or the torture seminar held in Belfast in April 1971, Kyle did admit that members of the MRF, aka the SAS were present at Palace Barracks during the 'interrogations'.

Strongly associated with Kyle was PO 4B aka 14A aka 17C aka 2A and 12G — aka Harry Taylor. His deputy was Det-Constable Morrison, who is referred to variously as PO 4C, P0 2B. 12E and 17A. Constable B. J. Wilson was also heavily involved in the interrogations'. In 1974 he was charged with assaulting a prisoner but acquitted 'through lack of evidence.'

Officers who took part in the torture seminar in April 1971 and who have all been promoted rather than punished include Chief Superintendent C. H. Rodgers, and Superintendents W. J. Hood and Michael Slevin. Another deputy head of the Branch Ross Laird left the RUC and emigrated.

These are some of the key figures who were responsible for the torture of 'the Guineapigs' and of hundreds of other men and women arrested and 'interogated' through the seventies. Readers of this book might also chose to consider that the politicians in charge, Edward Heath, William Whitelaw, Reginald Maudling and Brian Faulkner to name but a few should shoulder much of the responsibility. as indeed should those in charge of the newspapers and television networks who studiously tried to pooh-pooh the torture allegations when they were first made and have consistently refused to document the continuing excesses in Castlereagh Barracks and in the H Blocks in Long Kesh camp. Nor should the medical profession, with a few honourable exceptions be exonerated. Without doctors the torturers work would have been made much more difficult, yet, to date, not one single doctor has been accused of prostituting his Hippocratic Oath by such august bodies as the British Medical Association.

*  *  * 

Section 3. The Victims.

On June 5, 1975 Sean McKenna died. On the death certificate the cause was recorded as 'heart attack'. In the funeral oration Ruari OBradaigh, President of Sinn Fein said:— "Before 1971 Sean McKenna was a strong, healthy man, but after suffering at the hands of the enemy the great tortures to which he was subjected his time was marked. He started to die for Ireland at 4 am. on August 9, 1971." At the time of his arrest Sean McKenna, at 42 was the oldest of the Guineapigs. He was also one of those worst-affected. Following the experiment he was kept interned at Long Kesh, in a very bad state, for two years before being transferred to various psychiatric hospitals and finally released, only to die a year later.

Professor Robert J. Daly of Cork University, who carried out a five year study of many of the Guineapigs, examined McKenna four months before his death. "He had a feeling of impending fatal illness (a 'brain tumour' or a 'heart attack'), and had gross symptoms of anxiety. His EEG (brainwave test) and EKG (heart test) were however, normal. His blood pressure was 150/100. Other laboratory investigations were also normal."

Professor Daly also spoke of three of the other Guineapigs. "One 29 year old hooded man has developed Hodgkin's disease, of which there was no evidence prior to his arrest. (Hodgkin's disease is a rare form of cancer. It is still not curable but can be treated.) Another man has had surgical treatment for carcinoma of the skin which developed on one of his scars which he received on his leg while being 'interrogated in depth.' A fourth man has had colonic resection for suspected Chron's disease. He developed intense and chronic diarrhoea some three months after the 'interrogation in depth'. All the hooded men report disability to a greater or lesser extent and this has included outpatient and inpatient psychiatric treatment as well as treatment for medical illness."

Personality tests compared with the British norm showed the men to be "more affected by feelings and emotionally less stable and easily upset; shy, timid; suspicious, more apprehensive and self reproaching; worrying and troubled; undisciplined self conflict: more tense, frustrated, driven and overwrought." However, he went on to say, they showed no evidence of psychopathy; instead they appear as an intelligent, shy, conservative group."

The most frequently reported symptoms were increased nervousness, followed by startle reactions, subjective depressed mood, loss of energy, increased suspiciousness, appetite disturbance and reliving of the experience.

Professor Daly published his report, five years after the men's ordeal at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association at Miami Beach. Five years on the survivors were still suffering and yet the British Government were still quoting Reginald Maudling who claimed that "no detainee in NI. has suffered permanent lasting injury whatsoever, mental or physical", and Lord Balneil, then Minister of State for Defence, who proclaimed: "the basic fact is that there was no brutality, no torture, no brainwashing, no physical injury, no mental injury." As Adolf Hitler said in 'Mein Kampf', "The great mass of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one."

That the British Government did not know about the deteriorating state of health of those Guineapigs interned in Long Kesh is, of course, a nonsense. They were frequently examined by Army doctors, blood tests were taken, psychiatric reports prepared and filed away. This was the follow up to the experiment. No medication was given to the men, apart from the ubiquitous handfuls of Librium and Valium which were periodically handed out to all the internees like sweeties'. Those of the men who were still in the camp in October 1974, when the internees rose up and burnt the camp to the ground and were then subjected to the notorious and top secret CR gas (which is banned in the U.S.A.) also had additional blood tests. Did they but know it at the time, all the internees were the first human Guineapigs subjected to CR gas in such quantities. Tests in America on rabbits dosed with CR revealed that they were suffering from severe respiratory diseases and serious blood poisoning.

And what of the 13 men who went through the experiment and are still alive? Pat Shivers was one of the first released. In February 1974 he was awarded $36,000. His health is still bad. Archie Auld was released in 1972, in poor health and Joe Clarke, the youngest Guineapig in June 1974. Both had claims pending and were then rearrested and interned in December 1974, two days before they were respectively awarded $38,400 and $30,000 by the courts.' That their re-arrest had nothing to do with them being a danger to the security of the state was clearly seen when they were released again after Christmas. It seems that the authorities had wanted them in custody in order to carry out more health checks on them to complete their experiments.

Francis McGuigan decided that he was tired of being a Guineapig. On February 7th, 1972, after spending just over four months in Long Kesh camp he became the first prisoner to escape from it, disguised as a priest, and successfully made his way over the border. In October 1976 he was awarded, 'in absentia', $26,400 by the Belfast courts.

Gerry McKerr was still being held without charge or trial in Long Kesh when, in June 1974 he was awarded $24,000. Along with Micky Donnelly, (who eventually got $27,000) he was one of the last inernees to be released in 1975. Professor Daly referred to some of the men being 'almost paranoid'. McKerr had good reason. In January 1977 Loyalist would be assassins fired on him outside his home, narrowly missing and then, the next month, he discovered a booby trap bomb under his car. He has survived both attempts.

Kevin Hannaway, also held until 1975 was eventually awarded $28,800. He now has Hodgkin's disease, smokes 80 cigarettes a day, suffers from black outs and amnesia and has also survived two assassination attempts, which have forced him and his family to leave Belfast and settle in the Republic of Ireland.

P. J McClean, who suffered some of the worst treatment is still involved in the N. I. Civil Rights Association. In January 1975 he received $33,600 "compensation". As he says, "if someone offered me $240,000 to go through it again I wouldn't take it."

The others, Rodgers, Shannon, Montgomery, Turley and McNally all eventually received between $24,000 and $27,600. In all, the taxpayer had to shelve out $360,000. (Plus over $4,800,000 for other victims of interrogators' 'excesses'. Many claims are still pending.)

The last word in this section goes to Joe Clarke, the youngest (then 19) of the men:—

"I remember most the bad beatings. I couldn't bear the pain. When I was talking to my interrogators I thought I was talking to my brothers. It just drove me round the bend. I was very frightened of the hood. I can still sometimes smell it. It has a paraffin smell and sometimes when I'm working at cars the smell and fear come back to me. In the Kesh I couldn't sleep at nights because I kept having these nightmares about the beatings. I had to talk it out of my system, and many, many nights two other lads would sit up with me all night — all night while I talked about it. I used to get into terrible depressions. I used to be very easy going, but I'm a lot more nervous now. I don't like sitting in one place for any length of time, I have to get up and move about. Sometimes (nine years later) I still have to talk it out of my system. One of the things that galls me most is that not one of the men who did these terrible things to us has ever been put on trial. They think that just by giving us a bit of money they can make it all go away. But it can't. It'll never go away.

Army training into 'psyops' (psychological operations), torture and sensory deprivation has, of course, continued, long after the British Government gave an 'assurance' that such methods would never be used again. From the British point of view one advantage of the Guineapigs experiment has been that the British are now regarded as experts at this sort of thing and are regularly invited to give demonstrations and hold seminars, notably at Fort Bragg, Carolina, and Fort Huachuca, Arizona in the States and at Bad Tolz in West Germany. For a time they were also instructing the fascist P.I.D.E. Portuguese secret police until, to their embarrassment, they discovered that since the Army coup they had for some time, unbeknownst to them, been giving lectures in counter-insurgency and torture to Latin American guerrillas whom Communist members of the Portugeese Army had infiltrated into the courses.

In England courses are held at Ashford in Kent, Catterick in Yorkshire, Bradbury Lines (the SAS camp in Hereford), and, most notably, Old Sarum in Wiltshire. Old Sarum is where the Officers' Psyops Course is held in the RAF base. An average course consists of 15 or 16 men, drawn from the Green Jackets, SAS, Royal Marines and Royal Artillery, with personnel from the Ministry of Defense and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. At the session held from February l4th-15th, 1972 according to Peter Watson, in his valuable book "War on the Mind",[2] the star speaker was Lt. Col. B. R. Johnston, described as 'the foremost British authority on psyops. He spoke about the useful experience that they could all gather from N. Ireland. (Johnston, whose position has always been shrouded in secrecy eventually came to the public's attention during the 'ABC' case, when two journalists, Duncan Campbell, Crispin Aubrey and a former soldier called Berry were tried for publishing 'official secrets' about Britain's telecommunication spying activities in Time Out and the Leveller, two London magazines. Johnston gave evidence against them but was only described in court as 'Colonel B.' Gleefully the 'Leveller' then published his name and issued badges to all attending the court proclaiming who he was. The prosecution collapsed with egg over its face and the accused escaped with fines.)

The courses, which include demonstrations of SD, are highly secret. On several occasions the relevant ministers in the British Government have lied and denied their existence. Even when the Army Minister Robert Brown was forced to admit, in 1976, that the courses did take place, he lied and said that they had only started in '1973-4.' In fact, as Watson has shown, they began at least in 1971 and possibly sooner. Whitehall sources vaguely stated that somewhat over 250 personnel underwent the courses per annum. One of the organizers of psyops, the famous/infamous Brigadier Kit-son has bemoaned the 'fact' that the psyops team in Old Sarum numbers only 18, (an implausible figure), but, nonetheless, even if notoriously underestimated Government figures are to be believed, up to October 1976, 262 civilians and 1,858 Army officers had been through the course.

The SAS of course, in its training sessions, where they generally 'lose', i.e. kill, half a dozen or so volunteers a year in cross country endurance tests over the Brecon Beacons, include SD torture. Former SAS men have, in interviews with such variegated papers as the Irish Times, Time Out, The Leveller, and Red Weekly, claimed that many SAS men have been subjected to horrific 'ill-treatment' in order to 'toughen them up'. One former SAS man, now a 'respectable business man in the city' recounted gleefully how one of the techniques taught was how to insert a Y shaped twig into the stomach of an interrogatee and twist it so that you could draw out the intestines. He claimed that in the Gulf states one SAS officer had succeeded in drawing out twenty feet of intestine from a 'guerrilla.' The story may not be true, and it is not suggested that such methods have, as yet, been used in N. Ireland, but it does give an interesting insight into the mentality of soldiers — 'heroes of the Iranian Embassy seige' — who would boast about committing such atrocities.

And what of the use of SD in N. Ireland in the past nine years? It is implausible to explain, as British Army personnel have, that SD torture is demonstrated to its men solely for their own protection in case they are captured by 'the enemy'. In fact, although there does not appear to have been another full scale experiment into the use of 'the five techniques', various elements are still used by interrogators. In September 1976 the N. I. Civil Rights Association, a body violently opposed to the Provisional IRA, at a press conference announced that they were taking the cases of six men, three from Belfast and three from Cookstown to Strasbourg. All had been subjected to hooding, deprivation of sleep and prolonged wall standing before being released without being charged. In 1980 hooding is rare in the interrogation centres but wall standing, in the stoika position is very common.

In 1974, just after 'The Guineapigs' was published, Bernard Dineen, Business Editor of 'The Yorkshire Post', was just one of the journalists who enthusiastically urged that SD should be 'imported' to England. "Take off the kidgloves and use this weapon against the terrorists", he trumpeted. He would presumably have been glad to learn that some members of the Metropolitan police agreed with him when it was alleged by a London Irishman Eddie O'Neill, in February 1975, during his trial at the Old Bailey where he was accused of being part of a bombing conspiracy, that during a five day period:—

'I was made to stand for hours with my fingertips to the wall and my feet as far back as possible. There was a whistling sound like wind escaping and lights were flashed on and off. After a while I collapsed. I was picked up and put in the same position. If I refused, the usual procedure was to kick me in the privates. After two or three hours I was interrogated and urged to confess. When I insisted on my innocence I was given the cold room treatment. I was put in a refrigeration room. It was a small cubicle and I was in there for two hours, then taken out and put between two convector heaters. With that treatment you lose all control of your muscles. I couldn't use my hands or legs. They did that to me four times in all. Then I was put into another cubicle and made to count the pinholes in the wall. If I did not get the answer right they came back and gave me a hiding, pulling my hair and slapping my face.

He claimed that detectives put fingers on pressure points on his body — behind the ears, the shoulder blades and the solar plexus and continuously made him take cold showers. The whole treatment lasted between 60 and 70 hours, over a five day period and he was made to sleep in an empty detention room, naked, which had water all over the floor.

The judge and jury were obviously unimpressed. Eddie O'Neill got 20 years on the strength of his alleged 'confession'. Clearly it was unbelievable that British policemen would do such things.

*  *  * 

There remains one other purpose to which information derived from the SD Guineapigs has been put, and that is to break recalcitrant/ troublesome revolutionary prisoners in jails. In this short section 1 shall concentrate on the use of Control Units in English jails and then on the 'German experiment'.

Section 4. Control Units.

After two years preparation the control units at Wakefield jail received their first inmates in August 1974. One of these was John Masterson. In spite of later denials by Home Office spokesmen, the existence, nature and purpose of the units was kept secret from all but a handful of people. It was not until October that the public learned about them, through a report by the Sunday Times Insight team. The adverse publicity resulted in the control units in Wakefield and Wormwood Scrubs prisons being 'closed' in February 1975.

The control unit experiment consisted of exposing a selected group of prisoners, whom the authorities regarded as 'troublemakers' to an oppressive, semi-sensory deprivation regime in a 'control unit.' The psychology behind the prison authorities' rationale was based on the SD experiments in Ulster. The 'Treatment' was expected to last a minimum of six months, divided into two periods of ninety days. The first ninety days consisted of solitary confinement with the very minimum of communication, followed by a further ninety days of slightly increased contact with others and primitive occupational activity. Any deviation from the rules, as defined by the warders/screws would result in the prisoner going back to Day One, and starting the whole sequence from scratch.

Solitary confinement is a common prison punishment, but the Control Unit differed from the ordinary solitary in that there was a high ratio of prison officers to prisoners, and the prisoner was watched by at least two officers when he did anything such as going to the toilet or having his food brought to him. There were frequent searches of the cell and intimate body searches of the prisoner, including anal examinations, such as the men in the H Blocks in Long Kesh have to endure daily to this very day. These searches are obviously designed to degrade, since the absence of contact with other prisoners or visitors, and solitary confinement in the Unit precluded the possibility of anything being hidden either in the cell or on the prisoner.

Conversation between the prison officers and the prisoner was not permitted, the screws using gestures instead of words, thus combining SD with degradation. The prisoner was made to feel that he was sub-human.' The result was not exactly what the experimental psychologists had probably envisaged. John Masterson, by his own admission, a 'criminal' with a lot of prison experience, had been brutalised before, but never to this extent. "I was treated like a subhuman animal and, as a result, started to feel like an animal. I could see that they (the warders) could do anything they liked to me and get away with it. I believed that they could kill me and get away with it. After all, dozens of people die in British jails every year and it is put down to 'suicide' or 'natural causes'. (Cf. Noel Jenkinson. Framed for the Aldershot bombing and, although a perfectly fit man, indeed a fitness fanatic, found dead of 'a heart attack' in his cell, just before his case was due to come up at Strasbourg. See also, Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Carl Raspe et al who managed, mysteriously, 'to commit suicide' in maximum security German jails.)

In an interview Masterson, subsequently released in a very troubled mental state, which has necessitated hospitalisation. said. "we weren't allowed to talk . . . they wouldn't even talk amongst themselves. You never seen (sic) the other prisoners because you're only opened up one cell at a time . . . the screws just stand about staring at you with their feet astride. I knew that the bastards were quite prepared to kill me if they were ordered to do so." The interviewer, on the BBC programme 'Tonight', reacted incredulously to such a suggestion. Masterson must obviously be a paranoid.

"A paranoid is someone who has some vague idea of what is really going on." — (William Burroughs.)

On 20th May, 1976, BBC2 'Man Alive' programme did a report on 'segregation' (i.e. SD) in British jails. In it, a Dr. Pickering, exdirector of the Prison Medical Service, (who was in charge when Masterson was going through his ordeal) admitted that 'control units had been a mistake.' A year previously he had been reassuring concerned colleagues in the medical profession that where were no causes for concern.

In conjunction with this statement it might be instructive to consider the following two quotations from that great hearted liberal (with a small 'I') Roy Jenkins, the then Home Secretary and the man who refused to repatriate the Price sisters who had been on hunger strike and forcibly fed for over 250 days.

"I am satisfied that the safeguards and procedures are such that the trained staff of Wakefield are able to maintain a careful and caring watch on the progress and condition of prisoners in the control unit."
(House of Commons. 14th November 1974.)

"I am satisfied that allegations, which have received considerable publicity, of sensory deprivation, cruelty and brutality in the unit, are completely unfounded and that the Governor and staff have conducted themselves in a commendably professional manner.
(House of Commons. 24th October 1975.)

The only definite conclusion that one can draw from these statements is that Roy Jenkins (Woy' to his very few friends) is a satisfied man. With his vast salary and paid sinecure as President of the EEC this is not too hard to understand. What is more difficult to comprehend is his apparent surprise when the 'popular' press informed him that he was listed as a prime target by the Provisional IRA.

The control Units were supposed to be scrapped, following the Sunday Times articles in October 1975. In fact they have not been. Prisoners, and in particular IRA prisoners, the most vulnerable and exposed group of prisoners in the English penal system, have been since subjected to various forms of SD in Control Units in Wakefield, Wormwood Scrubbs and Gartree jails. (Gartree recently spent $948,000 on a new 'segregation unit'). We also have the horror of the 'Inverness cages' in Scotland. The following is a condensed report taken from RAP (Radical Alternatives to Prison), dated June 1976.

"There are six cells in the punishment wing of Inverness prison. Five of them have cage fronts inside. The prisoner enters the ordinary cell, which has concrete walls and a steel lined door, and is then put inside a cage within this cell. Food is pushed through a gap at the bottom of the cage. In order to eat, the prisoner must sit on the floor, resting the meal on his knees or on the concrete. The only furniture is an uncovered chamber pot. There is a small window with opaque glass and a heavy grilled mesh outside. It is hard to tell day from night.

The sixth cell is called the 'silent cell'. (See 'Tote Trakt', in the section on German prisons). It is a concrete cell within a concrete cell. The prisoner is within two sets of walls. Entry is through two heavy doors. Once inside the prisoner hears nothing, except the ringing in his ears. He lies there with no toilet facilities. The ratio of warders to prisoners is five to one. Occasionally one hour's exercise, alone, is permitted. The prisoner is submitted to a humiliating body search three times a day. Co-operative prisoners receive one book (censored) a week. One toothbrush is left in a metal sink. All prisoners have to use it. A toothbrush isn't allowed in the cage because 'it could be used as a weapon'. This applies to every artifact, including the pen, which is loaned once a week. The official period of confinement in the cages is not less than two months and not more than six. Prisoners in the recent past have been confined in such conditions for up to 22 months. (In fairness to the Scottish prison authorities, who, I'm sure, deep in their hearts are very real, wonderful human beings. I recounted the Inverness conditions to a young man recently released from the notorious H Blocks in Long Kesh, N. Ireland. His only comment was — "Luxury".[3]

There is no room in this brief chapter to go into the American experiments in "Behaviour Modification", as it is euphemistically called. Any interested readers are referred to Jessica Mitford's fascinating and horrifying book "The American Prison Business" which deals with behaviour 'modification' as practised on prisoners in such horrendous prisons as Marion, Vacaville and Butner. Drugs, such as anectine which causes the 'guineapig' to feel that he she is dying are relied on heavily in these institutions and the psychological thinking behind the experiments owes much to B. F. Skinner.

The West German authorities, partners with Britain in NATO and great admirers of the British SAS, were not slow to appreciate how the SD experiment in N. Ireland could be put to use in their own jails. Most of the clinical research seems to have been done at the University of Hamburg-Eppendorf, where researchers, led by a J. Gross evaluated the 'camera silens', the silent cell. As a result, many West German prisons are now equipped with 'dead cells', or 'Tote Trakt', as the Germans call them. These include the jails at Hanover, Cologne-Ossendorf, Hamburg-Fuhlsbuettel, Berlin-Tegel, Berlin Lehrter Strasse, Bruchsal, Essen, Straubing, Werl, Butzbach Ziegenhain/Schwalmstadt, Bremen-Oslebshausen, Mannheim and the notorious Frankfurt-Preungsheim. Evidence given at the Third Conference of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control in Amsterdam in 1975 indicated that in addition to the 80 or so alleged members of the RAF/Baader-Meinhof/6th June groups some 100 'ordinary criminals', as the authorities deem them, have spent time in the 250 or so isolation cells which exist in German prisons. (These figures date from late 1975). Recent indications are that more rather than fewer cells are in regular use.

Since 1972 prisoners such as Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Jan Carl Raspe, all subsequently murdered in their cells,[3] were regularly subjected to 'the special treatment' in an effort to break their will. The 'Special Treatment' included:—

  • Systematic segregation from other prisoners, which means exclusion from all communal activities and a ban on all conversation with other prisoners or warders, any attempt to break this rule being punished by confinement to strip cells.
  • Special screens being fitted outside their cell windows which distort perception of the outside world. (This has also been done in the H Blocks in Long Kesh.)
  • Only one hour's exercise a day and that alone, and handcuffed.
  • A ban on all visits and mail except from approved relatives.
  • All visits supervised and tape recorded by the political police, who have than tried to use such conversations as evidence in court proceedings.
  • Total censorship of books and papers.

These restrictions are inhuman enough, but the worst treatment, which involves additional SD techniques is reserved for those prisoners who are put in the 'Tote Trakt'. This is a completely empty wing of a prison where the prisoner is cut off from any normal human sound. In Hanover and Cologne-Ossendorf these wings were originally the prison hospital, and the women's psychiatric wards respectively, which have been converted into isolation units. In these cells, painted a brilliant white, the light is kept on 24 hours a day. The walls and door are soundproofed and a screen on the window insures that the prisoner can see nothing and is kept in a sonic vacuum where the only sound is the beating of one's heart. Evidence from Professors Mueller, Schroeder, Rasch, and Preuss indicate that even a fairly brief sojourn in conditions like these lead to the same kind of symptoms that Dr. Daly found in the N. Ireland Guineapigs. Just one more example of the 'successful' exportation of British techniques designed to make the work of Totalitarian regimes just that bit easier.

John McGuffin. Belfast. 1980.



In private discussions during the Labour Party Conference in 1974 Merlyn Rees and Stan Orme told MPs that they would never sign a second internment order on the two men. Being honourable men, they kept their word. Their deputies signed the orders.


"War on the Mind." Pelican Books. 1980.


Those who feel that this is a rash accusation to make against the German authorities would do well to read "La Mort d'Ulrike Meinhof" (Maspero, Paris. 1979.) and the reports of the International Commission into the deaths of Meinhof, Baader et al, of which the author was a member.

Return to Publication Contents

Proposed Draft for a UN Resolution on a Convention on Torture
and the Treatment of Prisoners

suggested by Amnesty International

The General Assembly,

Gravely concerned at the constant resort to torture and inhuman or degrading treatment of persons imprisoned or detained, particularly during periods of armed conflict, internal strife or internal tension,

Noting that such violations of human rights continue despite the numerous dictates of international customary and convention law,


    (a) that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,

    (b) that the Genocide Convention of 1948 confirms that the causing of serious bodily harm to the members of a group with intent to destroy it in whole or in part is a crime under international law,

    (c) that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 provides that no one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and that all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person,

    (d) that the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination guarantees without distinction the right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual group or institution,

Recalling further the prohibitions against torture and inhuman treatment contained in regional conventions on human rights and the numerous exhortations made by non-governmental organizations, the churches and religious bodies, the press and international public opinion for the elimination of violation of human rights and for the application and implementation of the existing rules of international law,

Noting that in the absence of specific provisions relating to the treatment of persons imprisoned or detained, such persons remain under the protection and governance of the principles of the law of nations as derived from the usages established among civilized nations, from the laws of humanity and from the dictates of the public conscience.

The General Assembly, therefore,

    1. Affirms that the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners constitute authoritative guidelines pertaining to the treatment and rehabilitation of all prisoners under humane conditions and invites Members States to give urgent and positive consideration to the embodiment of the Rules and to the enforcement of their application in national legislation.

    2. Requests the Secretary-General to establish a Committee of Experts to prepare a draft Convention for adoption by the Member States of the United Nations outlawing torture and inhuman or degrading treatment of persons imprisoned or detained as constituting crimes under international law, to render compulsory under international law at the very least the observance of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and to provide an international implementation machinery.

    3. Pending the incorporation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners in an international Convention, urges that there should be introduced a regular machinery for the reporting to the Secretary-General by Member States on the application of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules within their country.

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CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

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