A Conservative MP and former British army officer, Bob Stewart, has said he worked as “kind of a torturer” when he was serving in the north of Ireland.
The 67-year-old said that torture is sometimes “justified”, and that techniques such as starvation and sleep deprivation were acceptable in certain situations.
“Technically as you look at it today I was a kind of a torturer,” he told the BBC. “Of course it was acceptable then. It’s now unacceptable and now it’s defined as torture.”
Asked about the types of torture techniques that might be suitable in those situations, he replied: “Sleep deprivation. Lack of food. Perhaps, as I’ve done, showing people pictures of their friends that have been blown up. That sort of thing.”
In 2013, it emerged that the British Army sanctioned four methods of interrogation - hooding, starvation, sleep deprivation and the use of stress positions. Later, the use of a white-noise technique was added.
The British government is facing a legal challenge from a group of Irishmen known as the Hooded Men, who were tortured by the British Army after they were arrested and interned without charge in August 1971.
The group is taking a judicial review at Belfast’s High Court next month and they also have a separate case before the European court. The men were subjected to food and sleep deprivation and loud static noise for long periods of time.
The European Commission ruled in 1976 that the government was guilty of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment but following an appeal the European Court later ruled that the techniques did not amount to torture.
Liam Shannon, one of the Hooded Men, said torture can “never be justified under any circumstances”.
“It’s illegal, immoral and against God’s law and anyone else’s law,” he said. For anyone to say that they can find justification for torture is ridiculous.”
Mr Shannon said torture is not only unjustifiable but also unreliable. “Whatever information that you would get from someone under torture is completely unreliable,” he said. “People will tell you anything when they are being tortured. It will never stand up in court.”