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Hooded Men: 'British government is waiting on us to die so torture case disappears'

By Alan Erwin

Published 06/01/2016

The case has been hit with delays.
The case has been hit with delays.

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 the Department of Justice in a bid to have their case fully investigated.

A judge was told today 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 passed away within the last year. Another suffered a heart attack while a third has been diagnosed with dementia.

And outside the High Court in Belfast the men claimed their efforts to gain access to the files are being stalled.

Francie McGuigan said: "I thought it was shameful. We have been waiting for 45 and a half years to get the full truth... and they still won't release the documents.

"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 back 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 today as their case was adjourned to April.

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

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

Mr McGuigan, 67, insisted their legal challenge was being taken on behalf of those among their number no longer still alive.

"We are all comrades in this," he said.

He also vowed that their families would continue with the legal battle if any more of them were to die. 

Another of the group, 67-year-old Liam Shannon, claimed: "Some of these deaths were premature, they were brought about as far as we are concerned by the hooded treatment."

Their solicitor, Darragh Mackin of KRW Law, also voiced dismay at the alleged delay in producing all material in the case.

"In the last year one of the men has passed away, one has suffered a serious heart attack and one has an ongoing serious health condition," he said.

"It's in the public interest that this matter is resolved expeditiously and in line with international law obligations."

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