Damian McLaughlin is currently being moved to Maghaberry torture camp.
The first extradition of a republican from the free state to the occupied six counties was met with massive and vocal protest and a 35 day hunger strike. The protests were due to the inhumane and degrading conditions imposed on prisoners held by the British.
20 years later we are still protesting against extradition to known torture camps. One man, Damian McLaughlin is currently en route to the occupied six counties and two more have their trials looming.
When the extradition order for Damian McLaughlin was signed by the judge Aileen Donnelly, she read a 5 page statement claiming that forced strip searches in Maghaberry were necessary due to the special security concerns. This is despite the free state’s Joint Oireachtas Committee saying they are unwarranted and an agreement from the British administration in 2010 to abolish their use.
Aileen Donnelly’s belief that strip searches are required is not held by Nick Hardwicke, the Inspector of English prisons. His unannounced inspection of Maghaberry led to him describing it as “the most dangerous prison” he ever inspected. Regarding the use of strip searches, isolation and controlled movement he stated “I don’t accept the prison is a special case”.
Strip searches are not the only form of torture used in Maghaberry. Republican prisoners are subjected to controlled movement. This means any time they leave their cells they are surrounded by three screws. This is a blatant attempt at intimidation when we consider the prison administration is run by sectarian and loyalist bigots. Very recently one screw was proven to have strong links to the UVF.
There have been 11 documented assaults on republican prisoners in the last 18 months. These attacks consist of kicks and knees, baton strikes and choke holds, often committed in front of the family and children of the victim. Further to that the families of prisoners are faced with invasive and humiliating search procedures, often denied visits for the most arbitrary reasons. Prisoners face “isolation”, a euphemism for solitary confinement. The British administration do not reveal how many prisoners were subjected to this but at least 10 were held in solitary for over a hundred days, with Gavin Coyle spending five years and Marty McGilloway four and a half years respectively. This is despite the United Nations committee on torture calling for a world wide ban on solitary confinement for more than 15 days.
Prisoners in Portlaoise jail recently undertook a three day fast and protest to highlight conditions in Maghaberry, activists across the 32 counties are doing their best to draw attention to this travesty of justice. Contact Saoradh or the IRPWA to find out how you can help.