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Villiers holding back details, Hooded Men's brief tells court

By Alan Erwin

Published 07/04/2016

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

The Secretary of State is holding back information about ministerial briefings on the alleged internment and torture of a group of men more than 40 years ago, their lawyer has insisted.

Even though Theresa Villiers has met a High Court deadline for lodging a sworn statement in the case taken by the so-called Hooded Men, their solicitor argued that relevant material remains withheld.

Darragh Mackin said: "We know ministers signed off on these (torture) techniques.

"We are asking the Secretary of State to comply with her duty of candour to the court and her disclosure obligations."

The Government, police and Stormont's Department of Justice are all facing a legal challenge over the failure to investigate torture claims. The case involves 14 men arrested at the height of the Troubles and interned without trial back in 1971.

They said they were subjected 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. Then, 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.

Last month the Secretary of State was given a week to file an affidavit amid claims of continuing delays in the case.

Lawyers for the Hooded Men had threatened to bring possible contempt proceedings if there was any further hold-up.

With the deadline met, counsel for the Secretary of State contended that everything relevant had been provided.

But Mr Mackin insisted more details about ministerial briefings prior to interrogations being authorised still have to be handed over.

Following a brief court hearing yesterday, he is to draw up a list of what allegedly remains to be disclosed, and its relevance to the case.

Speaking outside, the solicitor said: "Documents make it clear there were briefings, but the nature and detail of those briefings we don't know yet.

"It's clear what was authorised and what they knew was authorised was torture."

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