Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Kenya move 'boosts internment case'

Nineteen Protestants were detained without trail in Long Kesh in the early 1970s

The case of 19 Protestant men seeking damages after they were detained without trial in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s has been bolstered by a UK torture ruling, their solicitor claimed.

Three Kenyans mistreated by British colonial authorities in the 1950s have been allowed to proceed with legal claims against the UK Government. London`s High Court decided that the case, involving the bloody Mau Mau nationalist uprising, could continue despite the time elapsed.

Kevin Winters is representing former loyalist prisoners at Long Kesh prison camp near Belfast who claim there is evidence they were locked up simply to balance the books because the government was under pressure for only interning Catholics.

"The Mau Mau case and the ruling (on Friday) in our view clears the way for the test case for the ex-loyalist detainees who claim they were unlawfully deprived of their liberty to facilitate a wider political agenda," he said.

The legal action is listed for review before the High Court in Belfast on Monday when several preliminary matters will be dealt with, including whether the lapse of decades means it cannot proceed. Mr Winters added: "The plaintiffs will claim that they were used to counter international concern at the time that interment was directed solely against nationalists.

"The courts in this jurisdiction have already ruled in a number of legacy and abuse cases that in appropriate circumstances they will exercise discretion and extend the limitation period to allow cases to proceed out of time. Today's ruling bolsters significantly these cases."

On August 9, 1971, hundreds of soldiers and RUC officers entered Catholic areas and more than 300 people were held without trial at Long Kesh outside Lisburn accused of IRA involvement.

Internment was introduced by the unionist government at Stormont to counter mounting IRA violence and no loyalists were arrested despite paramilitary gangs targeting Catholics.

The 19 former Protestant internees are seeking damages from the Government, Ministry of Defence and the police for unlawful detention. They believe government documents unearthed recently in the Public Records Office in London reveal they were arrested for political reasons because the government was being criticised internationally for only targeting Catholics.

Former chairman of the Progressive Unionist Party William Plum Smyth and east Belfast community worker Jim Wilson are among those involved in the legal action. Mr Wilson was interned for 14 months. On Monday the High Court is expected to issue direction on how the test cases are to proceed.

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