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Writer calls for truth about torture in Northern Ireland to be revealed at Amnesty Annual Lecture

A British journalist, who has investigated the secret use of torture in Northern Ireland, has called for the UK authorities to reveal the truth about past abuses as part of a wider process to “deal with the past” in Northern Ireland.

Ian Cobain, author of ‘Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture’, says that it is not clear that the full truth about the use of torture in Northern Ireland has been made public, and called for the British government to open its files as part of any new “truth recovery process” in Northern Ireland.

Cobain recently revealed that the Ministry of Defence is unlawfully holding thousands of files that should have been declassified and transferred to the National Archive under the 30-year rule, including large numbers of documents about the conflict in Northern Ireland, dating from the 1970s and 1980s.

Cobain, who is due to deliver the Amnesty International Annual Lecture in Belfast on Monday evening, said:

'I and others have helped to reveal how the British Army and the RUC used the ‘Five Techniques’ of sleep deprivation, hooding, white noise, starvation and stress positions as part of the interrogation of terrorism suspects in Northern Ireland.

'But now we learn that government departments including the Ministry of Defence have failed to ensure full disclosure of their records, which could shed light on measures, including torture, that were used in Northern Ireland to advance the security agenda.

'Opening the MoD archives would help to send a very clear message that the UK government is willing to play its part in dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. Attempts to avoid telling truths about the past invariably serve only to prolong pain and deepen distrust. Full disclosure by the British authorities and other parties to the conflict could make a huge contribution to healing the past.'

Guardian journalist Cobain recently revealed that more than 66,000 MoD  files are being stored at a warehouse in England, despite the department's legal obligation to assess them for declassification once they are three decades old and either pass them to the archives at Kew, or publicly give a reason for keeping them classified.

The hidden archive includes thousands of files that were sent to the warehouse when the British Army’s Northern Ireland headquarters closed four years ago.

The Amnesty International Annual Lecture will be delivered by Cobain in The Great Hall of Queen’s University Belfast on Monday 21st October at 7:30pm, as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s. The lecture – A Secret History of Torture - will be followed by a question and answer session hosted by William Crawley.

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