Belfast Telegraph

Minister: UK tortured Hooded Men

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

In a remarkable move, because of its diplomatic sensitivities and impact on the use of controversial interrogation techniques in other conflicts, Dublin said it did not take its decision lightly.

On the back of new evidence and under pressure from Amnesty International and other human rights organisations, Ireland will call for a reopening of proceedings in the so-called Hooded Men case.

They were 14 Catholic men interned - detained indefinitely without trial - in 1971 who said they were subjected to a number of torture methods.

These included five techniques - 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, outside Londonderry.

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

None were ever convicted of wrongdoing.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said Dublin had taken legal advice on the fresh evidence - unearthed by human rights group The Pat Finucane Centre - and will ask Europe to rule that the men were tortured.

"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."

Mr Flanagan said the UK and Ireland have worked hard to build stronger more trusting relations in recent years and that this would stand to them "as we work through the serious matters raised by these cases which have come to light in recent months".

Liam Shannon, one of the 14 men, said they were absolutely delighted.

"We've waited 43 years and we want to thank everyone involved, our legal team and all the researchers who turned up the relevant information in order that we could make a case and we'd particularly like to thank Amnesty International for their assistance," he added.

A documentary on Irish State broadcaster RTE in June aired the new evidence that the British government authorised the "deep interrogation" tactics at the highest levels.

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, 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 died to their right to truth and justice

"The UK withheld from the European Court what it knew about the terrible suffering deliberately inflicted on them and its being sanctioned at the highest levels of the UK Government," said spokesman Colm O'Gorman.

"Ireland's decision today bravely flies the flag for human rights and the universal and unconditional prohibition of torture."

Paul O'Connor, of The Pat Finucane Centre, said three successive British governments had deliberately deceived the European court over the case, which has since been used to justify techniques in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo.

"The recently discovered documents show the British government withheld vital medical, legal and policy documents from both the European Court and the Irish government in respect of the case taken by the Irish state on torture," he added.


From Belfast Telegraph