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'I was stripped and photographed in the nude, while being held by the hair'

The 14 Hooded Men who were interned in the North in 1971 met with Tánaiste Simon Coveney yesterday.

When they came along in the line, they actually passed me by. I sort of thought, ‘what’s the matter with me?’ They came back around… and said ‘we have something special in mind for you’. I was stripped by the commanding officer, and he himself photographed me standing in the nude with him holding me by the hair.

THIS IS JUST one account by one of the so-called Hooded Men who were in Leinster House to meet with Tánaiste Simon Coveney yesterday.

The men were in Dublin to urge Coveney to appeal the decision by the European Court of Human Rights which last month rejected a request by Ireland to revise its judgement in the case involving the alleged torture and ill-treatment of the 14 men who were interned in the North in 1971.

The court dismissed by six votes to one the request to look at its judgment into whether or not the treatment of the men amounted to torture.

Briefing politicians yesterday, the men said they want the case to be raised in the Grand Chamber, the highest court in the European courts system, when it comes up for appeal again in the coming months.

The men, ten of whom are still alive today (aged between 66 and 85) claim members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) – the precursor of the PSNI -  caused them long-term psychological damage because of the techniques they used on them over seven days in 1971.

Although the techniques were initially found to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1976, that finding was reversed by the European Court of Human Rights two years later.

Five techniques

The five techniques used on the men were hooding, wall-standing in stress positions for hours, white noise, sleep deprivation, and food and water deprivation.

One of the men, Liam Shannon, said there was a sixth technique:

“Sheer and utter brutality. We were beaten to a pulp, forced to be on our fingers and toes – you can’t last, eventually you fall and you were beaten back up again.”

Francie McGuigan also recounted what happened to him over the course of a week, and how he’s been coping with the memory of what happened.

Pushed out of helicopters

At times he said groups of men were hooded and herded up together and taken to the yard. They were put in a helicopter that would go up and move from side to side, up and down. The men were then pushed out of the helicopter backwards.

“They were just three or four feet off the ground – but they did not know that. It was a terrifying experience.”

Shannon said for over a week, they didn’t know where they were, and neither did their families.

At the time of the ECHR rejection of the Irish case, Coveney said the government would consider the ruling carefully.

My thoughts are with the men who suffered this treatment, and who have had to deal with the long-lasting effects. I know that they will be understandably disappointed with [the] judgment.

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney is part of the legal team representing the men.

While she was not in Dublin with the men yesterday, solicitor for the group Darragh Mackin said the fact the Irish judge sitting on the seven-judge ECHR chamber has said her colleagues took a “unduly narrow” approach in their decision offered some hope that the case can be appealed.

The dissenting judge, Judge Síofra O’Leary, said she did not agree with her six colleagues who rejected the application from the Irish government in March.

Mackin urged politicians to put pressure on the Irish government to take action and see the case to the end, arguing that despite frayed relations between Ireland and Britain in light of Brexit, politics should never get in the way of justice.

Coveney has previously said that it is “important to note” that the original court ruling from 1978 still stands, which shows the techniques used were in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

A comment from the Tánaiste following yesterday’s meeting with the Hooded Men was not forthcoming, however, yesterday’s meeting has been described as “constructive” by the men’s legal team.

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