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Screening of film all the more poignant after torture decision

TESTIMONY: West Belfast man Liam Shannon who was tortured in August 1971 TESTIMONY: West Belfast man Liam Shannon who was tortured in August 1971
By Michael Jackson

A GRIPPING documentary that explores the roots and impact of modern torture is to be screened at An Chultúrlann this weekend.
‘Eminent Monsters’, which will be shown as part of Respect Human Rights Film Festival, features dramatic testimony from those who have experienced and witnessed torture first hand including Ireland’s ‘Hooded Men’.
Directed by Stephen Bennett, the film traces modern torture back to the 1950s when Scottish born psychiatrist Dr. Ewen Cameron experimented on his patients using sensory deprivation, forced comas and LSD injections. His government-backed experi-ment techniques have been used in 29 countries around the world and were infamously used against the 14 Hooded Men and in Guantanamo Bay.
Sunday’s screening comes just weeks after the Court of Appeal ordered a criminal investigation into the treatment of the Hooded Men when they were interned in 1971, stating that it would “be characterised as torture” if it occurred today.
One of the surviving Hooded Men, Liam Shannon, said the film would serve as a lesson about world government’s involvement in torture.
“The film is very impressive,” he said.
“I think people will see that torture is wider spread than what people ever believed it was.
“Governments across the world are using torture and it’s something that we’ve been preaching since our case started. Had the European Court of Human Rights acted when our case came up they could have nipped torture in the bud, but they didn’t. Instead of giving judgement of ‘torture’ they gave a judgement that it was ‘degrading and inhumane treatment’, which allowed every government in the world to torture people. Ireland v the United Kingdom said that the five techniques wasn’t torture.
“When George Bush went into Iraq, the first thing he reached for was that judgment of the European Court. It allowed him to open Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib prison, all the black sites that were used across the world.
“The likes of Baha Mousa, the young Iraqi who was arrested by British soldiers when he was making his way home one night. He was taken in and tortured by the use of the five techniques. When they finished up they killed him. Had they eradicated the five techniques it might not have happened.”
Mr Shannon said that the film screening is made “all the more poignant” following the recent decision in the case of the Hooded Men.
“I think it’s all the more important that we have to get our message across,” he said.
“We have to get it across to government’s to stop using methods of torture.
“The thing about us was that had it been a bunch of squaddies or RUC who took us away – god knows it happened often enough – then it might have been different. This was cleared at government level in 10 Downing Street. These people sat and officiated over meetings where they were talking about torturing us.
“When I was missing my wife took a case of Habeas Corpus. I was missing for nine days, nobody would admit having me. The case was thrown out of the High Court under the guise of the Special Powers Act. Gerry Fitt who was the MP for West Belfast got up on the floor on the House of Commons and asked the Prime Minister ‘where is my constituent, Liam Shannon?’ They said they didn’t know despite the fact that I have evidence that I was discussed at a cabinet meeting that morning and the five techniques were discussed. Despite assurances that the five techniques wouldn’t be used again they were used in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib. T they were used in Palestine, they were used all over the world.”
He added: “The [film] festival is very important and it’s something that we’ve wanted to do for years. We wanted to bring our story to West Belfast, which god knows has had its human rights trampled into the ground as has its citizens.”

Eminent Monsters will be shown on Sunday, October 6, 6.30pm at An Chultúrlann and will be followed by a Q&A with the Hooded Men. Tickets cost £5 and are available online at respectfilmfestival.com

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