Irish Examiner

Plea for Ireland to treat Iraqi victims of torture
By John Breslin

A DOCTOR and former political prisoner yesterday appealed to the Government to allow Iraqi torture victims to travel to Ireland for treatment.

Dr Chris Neilson, the victim of torture when imprisoned for three years under South Africa's apartheid regime, issued the challenge as he pledged his support for demonstrations against US President George Bush's visit to Ireland.

"I was helped when I came to Ireland 10 years ago. If I can be helped, they (the Iraqis) have the right to be helped as well," said Dr Neilson, founder of the Irish Foundation for Torture Survivors.

His organisation of volunteer medical professionals has helped 600 victims, mostly refugee applicants, since 1999.

Dr Neilson, who suffered electric shock treatment in South Africa, said victims needed careful treatment.

There are 150 dedicated rehabilitation centres around the world, he said, but most are full and will not be able to take in Iraqi victims although Ireland can and should.

Physical, psychological and sexual torture as seen in Iraq was designed not to extract information but to shatter victims, make them powerless and create a clear warning to others in opposition, he said.

Dr Neilson linked the torture to the use of Shannon as a transit point for US troops, including those involved in events in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities. He claimed Ireland is a third party to this torture and in breach of the Geneva Convention.

The Anti-War Movement, an umbrella for a number of different groups, has announced a series of events to voice opposition to Mr Bush's visit on June 25 and 26. A petition condemning it is to be circulated from today, a concert is planned for Dublin's Point Depot on June 19 and simultaneous demonstrations are planned for Dublin, Galway, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Tralee at 7pm on June 25. Crowds of up to 100,000 are expected, said movement leader Richard Boyd Barrett.

Dr Juliet Bresson, of the Doctors against War group, called on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to withdraw facilities at Shannon. She described as "utterly disgraceful" the spending of millions on the Bush visit while the Government prepares to close the nearby Ennis Hospital.

The calls for the withdrawal of Shannon facilities have been echoed by former UN Assistant Secretary-General Denis Halliday, who said Ireland must end its facilitation of pre-emptive war.

Mr Halliday said Ireland should espouse the cause of those who suffer as a result of injustice, poverty and the denial of human rights.

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