Belfast Telegraph

European court rules 'Hooded Men' were not tortured by British Army

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected a request by the Irish government to find that people detained by the UK during the Troubles in the so-called Hooded Men case suffered torture.

The so-called Hooded Men claimed they were subjected to torture by the British Army in 1971.

In 1978, the ECHR held the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment but not torture.

Ireland took legal action following new evidence and amid pressure from Amnesty International and other human rights organisations.

However, the ECHR today rejected Ireland's request.

A statement from the court said: "The ECHR has rejected a request by Ireland to revise a 1978 judgment and find that men detained by the United Kingdom during Northern Ireland's civil strife suffered torture, not just inhuman and degrading treatment."

It added: "The court found that the Government of Ireland had not demonstrated the existence of facts that were unknown to the court at the time or which would have had a decisive influence on the original judgment. There was therefore no justification to revise the judgment."

The revision request was dismissed by six votes to one. The judge elected by Ireland issued a dissenting opinion.

The 14 Catholic men interned- detained indefinitely without trial- in 1971 said they had been subjected to a number of torture methods.

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 a British Army camp at Ballykelly.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland campaigns manager, said: “This is a very disappointing outcome, for the men and their families. We believe the court has missed a vital opportunity to put right a historic wrong. Instead, it relied largely on procedural arguments to avoid substantively revisiting its 1978 ruling.

“Forty years ago, the UK succeeded in persuading the court to absolve it of the ‘special stigma’ of a finding of torture. It did this by deliberately withholding from the court evidence it had about the severe physical and psychological suffering that these ‘techniques’ inflicted. It also claimed this was the unsanctioned behaviour of local military and police.

“When Amnesty visited the detainees in 1971, we found clear evidence of torture. Our findings have not changed in the years that have passed.

“What has been revealed in the files withheld by the UK Government cannot be denied. These men were tortured, and with approval at the highest levels of government. The record of what these men endured in those interrogation rooms 47 years ago, and the devastating impact on them afterwards, still stands.

“The ‘hooded men’ have been denied justice for too long. The UK Government must now urgently conduct an independent and effective investigation into what happened, and prosecute any state agents involved in sanctioning or carrying out these violations at the time.

“This case underscores the need for a comprehensive means of dealing with historic human rights violations and abuses in Northern Ireland.”

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