Belfast Telegraph

Ireland accuses UK of torture as new 'Hooded Men' probe is sought

By Brian Hutton

The Republic has accused Britain of using torture during the Troubles ahead of formally asking Europe to reopen a landmark human rights case.

In a remarkable move - due to diplomatic sensitivities and the impact the move could have on the use of controversial interrogation techniques in other conflicts - Dublin said it had not taken its decision lightly.

A RTE documentary in June disclosed fresh evidence that London authorised the "deep interrogation" tactics at the highest levels.

Fourteen Catholic men interned in 1971 claimed they were tortured.

These included hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation, and deprivation of food and water, along with beatings and death threats.

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

None was ever convicted.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the new evidence had been taken very seriously by Dublin.

"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 government's 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."

The Irish government first took a human rights case against Britain over the alleged torture in 1971.

The European Commission ruled that the mistreatment of the men was torture.

But in 1978 the European Court of Human Rights held that the men suffered inhumane and degrading treatment that was not torture. The UK did not dispute the finding.

The new evidence, uncovered from national archives in London by the Pat Finucane Centre, throws doubt over the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. It includes a letter dated 1977 from then-Home Secretary Merlyn Rees to then-Prime Minister James Callaghan in which he states his view that the decision to use "methods of torture in Northern Ireland in 1971/72 was taken by ministers - in particular Lord Carrington, then Secretary of State for Defence".

Mr Rees added that "a political decision was taken".

The Irish government had until December 4 - six months after the new evidence came to light - to inform Europe if it wanted the case reopened. A High Court case was launched in Dublin seeking to compel the Cabinet into acting.

Amnesty International said the reopening of the case would help the surviving Hooded Men and the families of those who have since died to their right to truth and justice.

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