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Government asks European court to revise ‘Hooded Men’ ruling

Court ruled in 1978 that treatment of 12 men was inhumane but not torture

Pictured are nine of the ‘hooded men’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The Government is to ask the European Court of Human Rights to revise its judgment in a case involving controversial interrogation practices by the British army in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said in a statement the Government had decdied to request the European court to revise its judgment in what became known as the ‘Hooded Men’ case. Several men involved in the case took a recent High Court action seeking to force the State to ask for a revision of the ECHR ruling.

The action was brought by Francis McGuigan, Jim Auld, Patrick McNally, Gerard McKerr, Liam Shannon, Kevin Hannaway, Michael Donnell, Brian Turley, Joe Clark, Paddy Joe McClean, Tony Shiver on behalf of the late Pat Shivers, and Deirdre Montgomery on behalf of the late Michael Montgomery. All live in Northern Ireland.

All 12 men were detained in 1971 and subjected to five sensory deprivation techniques at the Ballykelly British Army Base in Co Derry including prolonged hooding, continuous loud noise, sleep deprivation, food and water deprivation and forced stress positions.

The Irish Government brought a complaint against the UK Government to the ECHR about their treatment. In 1978 the ECHR ruled the techniques constituted inhuman and degrading treatment but not “torture”. The court said a special stigma was attached to torture as deliberate inhuman treatment causing very serious and cruel suffering.

Mr Flanagan said Tuesday’s decision had been taken “following a review of thousands of recently released documents and taking account of the legal advice received”.

“ In 1971, the deep concern of the Irish Government and the Irish people led to Ireland bringing a case against the UK before the European Commission and Court of Human Rights alleging human rights violations arising from internment and a particular focus of the proceedings was the use of the so-called ‘Five Techniques’ of interrogation suffered by 14 detainees,” Mr Flanagan’s statement added.

“The ‘Five Techniques’ are hooding, wall-standing, subjection to noise, sleep deprivation, and deprivation of food and drink.”

Mr Flanagan said the Government examined the matter following the broadcast of an RTÉ documentary on June 4th this year on the case.

The documentary alleged that the British authorities at the time purposely misled the European Commission on human rights and the court by withholding information in the case. It also alleged that the decision to employ the interrogation techniques had been taken at UK Cabinet level.

“The Government is aware of the suffering of the individual men and of their families, of the significance of this case, and of the weight of these allegations. The archival material which underlay the RTÉ documentary was therefore taken very seriously by the Government and was subject to thorough legal analysis and advice,” Mr Flanagan said.

“On the basis of the new material uncovered, it will be contended that the ill-treatment suffered by the Hooded Men should be recognised as torture.”

He said the decision was “not taken lightly”.

“As EU partners, UK and Ireland have worked together to promote human rights in many fora and during the original case, the UK did not contest before the European Court of Human Rights that a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human rights took place.

“The British and Irish Governments have both worked hard to build stronger more trusting relations in recent years and I believe that this relationship will now stand to us as we work through the serious matters raised by these cases which have come to light in recent months.”