From Belfast to Baltimore, Police Tactics Spread. Can Justice Go Global?

It’s an old adage but it’s true, especially when it comes to policing: an injury to one really is an injury to all. That’s because like a bad movie, bad police tactics spread the globe. Accountability can go global too, but as in a recent case out of Ireland, justice moves more slowly.

Shortly after the death of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray, a leaked police document claimed that a prisoner transported with Gray heard him “banging against the walls” of the vehicle as if he “was intentionally trying to injure himself.”

That prisoner quickly refuted the story, but not before it brought to my mind very similar claims from police in Northern Ireland.

“Throwing oneself down stairs…punching own face and poking own eyes…injury to the neck by attempted self-strangulation.”

That’s how investigators explained injuries sustained in police custody in Ireland according to documents recently dug up by human rights investigators. They’ve spent years getting beneath the spin, and now we know that while they fed the public guff about “self inflicted” harm, internally British ministers sanctioned torture .

The new evidence is returning attention to a case that has serious implications for the UK and the US also.  It involves twelve men, aged between 19 and 42, who were rounded up during the period of mass internment in the early ’70s and subject to hooding, prolonged stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and drink – the so-called “five techniques” developed by the British Army during what they called “The Troubles.”


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