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Friday, 10 December, 1999, 17:42 GMT
Interrogation centre had international reputation

Castlereagh detention centre acquired dark reputation Castlereagh detention centre acquired dark reputation

Over a 20 year period, thousands of republican and loyalist paramilitaries were questioned at Castlereagh RUC barracks in Belfast and it was for a time the focus of fierce controversy over allegations about police ill-treatment of terrorism suspects.

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The RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan announced on Friday that the centre will be closed by the end of the year.

Allegations which led to Castlereagh's black reputation for ill-treatment first surfaced in the 1970s at a time when republican violence was at its peak.

In one three year period around this time more than 3,000 people were charged with terrorist offences based largely on confessions obtained at Castlereagh.

The centre played a key role in the RUC's war against a mounting tide of terrorist violence.

Heavy-handed techniques were widely believed to have produced many confessions. But there were also numerous allegations of torture and physical abuse which came to a head with the death of a suspect in the holding centre in 1978.

A highly critical report by Amnesty International published around the same time accused the RUC of ill-treatment at Castlereagh and led to a government investigation.

In 1992 another report by Amnesty listed detailed allegations of of ill-treatment at the centre.

Review called for

Soon afterwards, Lord Colville, who was conducting an independent review into emergency legislation in Northern Ireland called for urgent action to deal with such allegations.

That brought an almost immediate announcement from the then secretary of state, Sir Patrick Mayhew, of an independent commissioner for RUC holding centres.

Lord Colville also wanted some sort of non-police presence at holding centres.

Alex Maskey: welcomed news of closure Alex Maskey: welcomed news of closure
On hearing of the closure of Castlereagh, one Sinn Fein assembly member from west Belfast, Alex Maskey, said there could be no place in the modern world "for institutions such as these which are synonymous with human rights abuse".

He added: "Many nationalists still live with the nightmare of Castlereagh. The brutal litany of physical and psychological abuse meted out to unfortunate victims by RUC interrogators earned Castlereagh international notoriety.

"The history of this centre stands as an indictment of the RUC and successive British governments who consistently turned a blind eye to the appalling brutality which was served daily in Castlereagh.

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