Northern Ireland

Conservative MP Bob Stewart 'was kind of torturer' during Troubles

A hooded man standing in a stress position - picture posed Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption The Army's use of "deep interrogation" techniques during the Troubles remains controversial - picture posed

Conservative MP Bob Stewart has said he was "kind of a torturer" during his time as a soldier in Northern Ireland.

The former Army officer said torture was "sometimes" justified, and he had used now-forbidden techniques during the Troubles in the 1970s.

The UK government authorised the use of five interrogation methods during the Troubles but later reversed that move.

Col Stewart made his comments in a BBC Radio 5 Live interview after remarks about torture made by Donald Trump.

The US president said senior intelligence officials had told him torture "absolutely works".

He suggested the illegal waterboarding interrogation technique could be reintroduced in order to fight radical groups in the Middle East.

'Amount of persuasion'

Col Stewart said: "No-one likes torture - not even Trump likes torture."

"The fact of the matter is, as we both accept, sometimes it might work, and sometimes it might be justified," he said.

"In circumstances where a great number of people, or indeed one person, is going to be killed, you have to think very carefully about what pressure you can put on people in order to give that information to stop peoples' lives being lost.

"A certain amount of persuasion might be justified if someone, for example, had the knowledge about where a nuclear weapon that was going to explode in London was."

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Media captionConservative MP Bob Stewart said "sometimes" torture might work and be justified

But the Beckenham MP said he was "qualifying" his suggestion that torture could be justified, and added that he does not agree with the use of waterboarding.

He referred to his own experiences as a soldier during the Troubles, saying he had used techniques that were legal at the time but later banned by the UK government.

"So, in a way, technically, as you look at it today, I was a kind of a torturer," Col Stewart added.

"Of course, it was acceptable then - it's now unacceptable and now it's defined as torture."

'Boastful and arrogant'

Controversy still surrounds the Army's use of what it called "deep interrogation" techniques during the Troubles.

The government is facing a legal challenge from several men, who claim they were tortured by the Army during the conflict, for its failure to fully investigate their case.

Known as the Hooded Men, they were arrested on suspicion of terror offences and imprisoned without trial in August 1971.

Jim McIlmurray, case coordinator for the Hooded Men, said Col Stewart's admission did not come "as any great surprise".

"I consider the remarks by Bob Stewart somewhat boastful and arrogant and will request our legal team to call upon him as a witness seeing he is so forthcoming with this new information," he said.

The Hooded Men claim they were subjected to torture techniques, including food and sleep deprivation and constant loud static noise for long periods of time.

The European Commission of Human Rights ruled in 1976 that the government was guilty of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment.

But the government appealed and the European Court of Human Rights later ruled that the techniques did not amount to torture.

The men want the decision to be revised and are also seeking to secure a full inquiry.

The government has consistently rejected allegations of torture.

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