Belfast Telegraph

Amnesty International: Clock ticking for European Court of Human Rights to address 'hooded men' torture case

By Amanda Ferguson

Allegations that the UK government sanctioned the use of torture and ill-treatment in Northern Ireland in the 1970s should be re-examined by the European Court of Human Rights and subject to a new independent investigation, Amnesty International has said.

Amnesty is urging the Irish government to request a re-opening of the landmark 1978 Ireland v UK judgement involving the 14 so-called ‘hooded men’, who were interned in Northern Ireland in 1971.

The call was supported by the ‘hooded men’ at an Amnesty press conference in Dublin this morning.

In 1978 the European Court found the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment - but not torture.

The Ministry of Defence has repeatedly rejected allegations that it used torture.

In 1971 the men were hooded and thrown from helicopters, they were advised prior to this were hundreds of feet in the air but in reality were only a few feet from the ground.

Other Army techniques used during what was referred to as "deep interrogation" included the men being forced to stand in stress positions, being subjected to white noise, plus sleep, food and water deprivation.

None of the interned men was ever convicted.

Amnesty Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said: “As well as a re-opening of the Ireland v UK case, the UK has a long overdue responsibility to establish an independent investigation into the torture of these men, and to hold to account those responsible.

“That has never happened.

“That is unacceptable, both for the men, their surviving family members, and society more generally.

“That responsibility lies squarely with the UK government.

“We call on Ireland to use its good offices to ensure that the UK carries out such a human rights compliant investigation.

“This case underscores the need for a comprehensive means of dealing with the past in Northern Ireland, and the need for all parties to the conflict to come clean about their role in human rights violations and abuses.”

Executive director of Amnesty Ireland Colm O’Gorman said: “These men and their families have a right to truth and justice.

“We recognise the diplomatic challenges in Ireland’s seeking to have this case reopened.

“However, we hope the Irish government today shows the same determination of its predecessors in 1971 who took a bold and unprecedented step to uphold the rule of law and expose human rights violations.

“The Irish state argued then that the UK’s actions amounted to torture - we call on it to do so again now.

“That means that a request to the European Court to look at this new information must be lodged within the next two weeks.

“The clock is ticking.”

The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) have both welcomed Amnesty's call.



In 1971, Ireland took the first inter-state case to come before the European Court of Human Rights, alleging that the UK had breached the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) through the torture and ill-treatment of the 'hooded men' by members of the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

The use of what Ireland and Amnesty International considered to be torture during internment was central to what became known as the “hooded men” case.

Amnesty’s new call for allegations to be re-examined follows archival material uncovered by an RTE television programme, The Torture Files, broadcast in June, which revealed that the UK government withheld crucial evidence from the European Court during the hearing.

The withheld evidence, Amnesty believes, could possibly have led to a different finding by the European Court in 1978, which ruled that the ‘five techniques’ of interrogation inflicted on the men constituted inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Article 3 of the ECHR, but not torture.

The five techniques were hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and water, and were combined with physical assaults and death threats to the men.

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