PFC seeking information on waterboarding victims

01 February 2017

The Pat Finucane Centre is seeking the help to identity two victims of waterboarding in Belfast in 1972. At least four cases have recently come to light and the centre has already spoken to two of the victims. According to declassified documents discovered by the PFC concerns were raised by Taoiseach Jack Lynch at a November 1972 meeting with British Prime Minister Edward Heath about the treatment of a particular individual who probably came from the Belfast area.

According to a declassified British minute of the meeting the Taoiseach highlighted,

“...the treatment of an epileptic who had been interrogated five times:the first three times he had been treated as an epileptic , but on the last two occasions he had been forced to lie on his back on the floor, a wet towel had been placed over his head, and water had been poured over it to give him the impression that he would be suffocated;then, when he he had got up, he had been required to run the gauntlet of batons wielded by the army.” 

According to the PFC it is likely that this case was reported to the Irish Government by a priest. Sara Duddy from the PFC has appealed to readers for help in identifying this individual.

“Given the specific circumstances of this instance of torture and his medical condition we believe that family members, friends or neighbours may know the identity of the victim. We are also appealing for help in a second case where horrendous allegations were made in a statement to the Association for Legal Justice.”

The anonymised statement was included in documents submitted to the Cardinal O’Fiach Archive in Armagh by Monsignors Denis Faul and Raymond Murray.

According to Ms Duddy, 

“the detail in this statement is harrowing but may help to identify the victim.”

He was arrested in Belfast on August 1st 1972 and taken to an RUC barracks where he was held for 36 hours. According to his testimony he was assaulted throughout this time, his hair was set on fire and at one point a wire was put around his neck. When he complained that he suffered from claustrophobia he was put in solitary confinement where he eventually passed out.

“When I came around I was lying on top of a table, and still not clear just what happened. I was being held by the Special Branch and my head was placed over the side of the table while water was poured up my nose.” 

PFC Caseworker Sara Duddy said,

“We are hopeful that readers may be able to help identify these two individuals and can assure anyone who contacts us that all information will be treated with the utmost sensitivity and confidentiality. Recently the PFC presented the evidence in these four cases to the European Commissioner on Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks in Strasbourg. He has promised to follow this up. The former Liberal Democrat leader and British soldier Paddy Ashdown described the evidence of waterboarding by the Parachute Regiment and RUC Special Branch as a ‘war crime’. We agree and we fully intend to put this issue of systematic torture on the agenda. The British Government is already in breach of its Article 3 obligations to investigate these claims despite the matter being raised twice in recent weeks by Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan TD.”

The PFC can be contacted at 02871 268846 or