Government urged to appeal ‘hooded men’ European Court judgment

Liam Shannon: “We don’t need anybody to tell us we were tortured – We know we were tortured”

Francis McGuigan and Liam Shannon , two of the ‘hooded men’ give their reaction to the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in their case at a press conference in Belfast. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Francis McGuigan and Liam Shannon , two of the ‘hooded men’ give their reaction to the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in their case at a press conference in Belfast. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

“We are far, far, far from giving up,” said Francie McGuigan, one of the so-called “hooded men”, after the European Court of Human Rights rejected the Government’s case that he and his 13 fellow internees were tortured by the British army and RUC in the early 1970s.

Another of the fourteen, Liam Shannon was dismissive of the result. “We don’t need anybody to tell us we were tortured. We know we were tortured,” he said.

“It is important that torture is stopped and stopped for good,” he added at a Belfast press conference on Tuesday hosted by the men’s solicitors KRW Law.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin urged the Government to appeal the case to the grand chamber of the European Court while Grainne Teggart of Amnesty called on the British government to order an independent investigation into the treatment of the men.

Encourage abuse

Now in their late 60s and early 70s the men said this latest judgment would only serve to encourage such abuse by other states.

“Torture must be stopped no matter where or by whom, it must be stopped throughout the world and the European Court have the responsibility of doing that. I think there is a strong onus on the Irish Government to take this appeal and push it for all it’s worth, ” said Mr McGuigan,

“The European Court had an opportunity to outlaw torture all over the world and they have missed the opportunity. What a disgrace of a thing to happen,” added Mr Shannon.

He said he was “dismayed but not down”.

The survivors allegedly were subjected to the so-called five techniques: wall-standing, hooding, subjection to white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and drink. It was further alleged that some of the men were made to believe they were being ejected from helicopters from hundreds of feet in the air when in fact they were thrown to the ground from a relatively short distance.

Another of the fourteen, Brian Turley from Armagh, said he still suffers flashbacks as a result of the treatment at the British army base in Ballykelly, Co Derry in 1971. “It went on for hours on end. It was torture surely.”

He was released after a year but later spent a period in a psychiatric hospital. “The dreams, the dreams, the nightmares are still there: I am walking down the street of Amagh and I see the police coming. Whenever they come to me there is just a big skeleton head, and I waken up and my whole body is soaked in sweat.”

“We were not the same men that went in there. You came out a different man,” added Mr Turley. “Everybody told me my personality had changed, you were more snappy, more agitated.”

Ill-treatment

It was Armagh priest Fr Raymond Murray who coined the phrase “the hooded men”. With the late Fr Denis Faul, he investigated the abuse in the early 1970s. They published their findings in the influential book, The Hooded Men in 1974. They were central also in exposing other allegations of ill-treatment by the police and British army during the Troubles.

He too was disappointed with the result. “If that terrible torture and ill-treatment is passed over as not being torture it opens up to other states to continue these kind of things,” he said.

Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member Doug Beattie in a statement referred to victims of the IRA who were “held, tortured and murdered” and who “unlike the hooded men were not alive to tell the tale in a courtroom”. He queried if there were lawyers who would take human rights cases on behalf of these victims.

Added Mr Beattie, “Many people will now be asking if the Irish Government would be prepared to take such a stand for the victims of the IRA.”