Many countries that subscribe to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights interpret its meaning in narrow self-serving terms. According to reports published by Amnesty International, Helsinki Watch, Asia Watch and the US State Department, approximately one-third of the U.N. member states are guilty, to varying degrees, of human rights abuses. One would not expect England and Ireland to fall into this category. Unfortunately, they do, as both have enacted laws that contravene provisions of the European Court for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedom. A review of the repressive laws enacted by both governments shows a remarkable similarity in content and timing. It appears as if their efforts were coordinated and directed against those who would challenge or attempt to change the immoral partition of Ireland. It’s estimated that close to one million people in both England and Ireland have been victims of these repressive laws.

The political leaders of the eviscerated state of Northern Ireland, realizing that their only hope of maintaining control over the rump state was by repressive means, enacted as their first piece of legislation the infamous Special Powers Act of 1922. This draconian piece of legislation gave the police extreme powers to arrest without warrant and incarcerate without trial, any Catholic they classified as a “political suspect”. In 1973 the Special Powers Act was repealed and replaced by the Emergency Act. This Act retained most of the repressive sections of the 1922 Act. Amongst other measures, the Emergency Act provided for non-jury courts, arrest without warrant, interrogation without an attorney present and internment without trial. As a consequence of the atrocities committed under these repressive Acts, the European Court of Human Rights in 1978 found the British guilty of “inhuman and degrading treatment”. Amnesty International in its 1978 report on human rights found that “systematic brutality” was used in Castlereagh Police Barracks during interrogations.

The Irish Free State has been just as brutal to its political dissidents as has the Northern Ireland State The pro-Treaty government, at the onset of the civil war in 1922, set up military tribunals to sanction the execution of Republican prisoners of war. Also, in a blatant affront to human rights and the rules of war, they summarily executed Republican prisoners in reprisal for military attacks on their forces. Again, in 1931 the Free State government set up a Special Powers Tribunal to silence Republican activists as they had done in 1922. Eight years later in 1939, in response to an IRA campaign in England, the Free State government enacted the Offenses against the State Act, which as in 1922 and 1931 provided for military tribunals that again sanctioned the imprisonment and execution of Republicans. In subsequent years the Special Powers Act was amended to circumvent the rules of evidence, impose censorship, arrest without warrant, detain incommunicado, interrogate without an attorney present and incarcerate without trial political and civil rights activists and others whom the government wanted silencing. As a result, the Free State government was criticized and reprimanded by the European Court of Human Rights for the use of such repressive measures against its citizens, a reprimand they choose to ignore.

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