British authorities accused of stalling over ‘Hooded men’ inquiry

‘We have been waiting for 45½ years to get the full truth... I think they are waiting for us to die,’ says complainant

‘Hooded men’ case adjourned until April at Belfast High Court to allow more time to trawl official documents.

‘Hooded men’ case adjourned until April at Belfast High Court to allow more time to trawl official documents.

 

A group of men taking legal action over their alleged internment and torture in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago have accused British authorities of waiting for them all to die.

The so-called ‘Hooded men’ are involved in proceedings against the UK government, police and department of justice in a bid to have their case fully investigated.

A judge was told Wednesday that an extensive trawl is continuing for documents relevant to the challenge. But amid concerns concerns at any ongoing delay, a lawyer for the group said one of them had died in the past year. Another had suffered a heart attack while a third had been diagnosed with dementia.

Outside the High Court in Belfast, the men claimed their efforts to gain access to the files were being stalled.

“We have been waiting for 45½ years to get the full truth - and they still won’t release the documents,” said Francie McGuigan.

“I think they are waiting for us to die and our case to die.”

Fourteen men claimed they were subjected to torture techniques after being held without trial in 1971. They said they were forced to listen to constant loud static noise, deprived of sleep, food and water, forced to stand in a stress position and beaten if they fell.

The men were hooded and thrown to the ground from helicopters taking them to an interrogation centre, according to their case. Despite being at near ground level, they had been told they were hundreds of feet in the air.

In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights held that the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment — but fell short of making a finding of torture.

In 2014 the Irish Government decided to ask the ECHR to revise its judgment. Some of the men have now come together in a bid to force a full inquiry.

Separate judicial review proceedings have also been lodged by the daughter of Sean McKenna, another of the group whose death has been blamed on his treatment.

Many of those taking legal action were in court Wednesday as their case was adjourned to April.

Counsel for the Secretary of State and Chief Constable said material was still being received and required assessment for relevance.

According to the men taking the action 16 boxes of files have still to be released.