Belfast Telegraph

Hooded men case was used to justify CIA torture: Memo

By Chris Kilpatrick

Aggressive interrogation techniques deployed against detainees in Northern Ireland during the Troubles were used by the Bush administration to justify the torture of al-Qaida suspects.

A 1978 European judgment which cleared Britain of torture in the case of the so-called hooded men was seen as giving the go-ahead for "a wide array of acts that constitute cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishments, but do not amount to torture", White House memos have shown.

In 2002 a memo from the assistant attorney-general to the president's counsel said the United States could view the ruling as permission under international law for "an aggressive interpretation as to what amounts to torture".

The European ruling cleared Britain of torture in a move described by President Bush's lawyers as a "leading" case "explicating the differences between torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment".

"Careful attention to this case is worthwhile," the memo added.

A 528-page document released by the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this week included graphic details of the barbarism and inhumane treatment of detainees at "black site" prisons around the world.

Ordered by President George W Bush to tackle Islamist militants in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the CIA programme's use of extreme interrogation techniques - regarded by many to be torture - was found by the report not to have saved a single life.

There are fresh demands for the Westminster Government to launch a full, investigation into allegations it sanctioned the torture of some internees during the Troubles.

The calls, led by Amnesty International, come after the government in the Republic referred the case of the hooded men back to the European court last week. The case centres on 14 Catholic men who were interned - detained indefinitely without trial - in 1971 who said they were subjected to torture methods including hooding, being held in stress positions, exposure to white noise, sleep and food deprivation as well as beatings.

The men were hooded and flown by helicopter to a secret location, later revealed as an Army camp at Ballykelly.

They were also dangled out of the helicopter and told they were high in the air, although they were close to the ground.

No-one was ever convicted of wrongdoing.

Ten of the hooded men gathered at Belfast's Stormont Hotel for a private meeting with Thomas Hammarberg, who investigated internment abuses for Amnesty International in 1971.

The 10 were Paddy Joe McClean, Francie McGuigan, Kevin Hannaway, Liam Shannon, Jim Auld, Joe Clarke, Gerry McKerr, Michael Donnelly, Patrick McNally and Brian Turley. Relatives of some who have since died were also in attendance.

Yesterday former vice president Dick Cheney said that Mr Bush was "fully informed" about CIA interrogation techniques condemned in the Senate report.

Background

The UN and human rights groups have called for the prosecution of US officials involved in what a Senate report called the "brutal" CIA interrogation of al-Qaida suspects. A top UN human rights envoy said there had been a "clear policy orchestrated". The CIA has defended its actions in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US, saying they saved lives. President Obama said it was now time to move on.

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