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'Hooded men' to ask Irish government to appeal European 'torture' ruling

“I’ve never spoke to the European court about how we feel 45 years later,” one of the ‘hooded men’ Francie McGuigan said.

BRITAIN-IRELAND-NIRELAND-UNREST-EU-RIGHTS Men who were detained by the British in 1971, some of the so-called 'Hooded Men'. Source: AFP/Getty Images

A GROUP OF men who say they were tortured by British soldiers in the 1970s are to ask the Irish government to appeal their case after a decision was given earlier today.

The European Court of Human Rights rejected the appeal taken by the Irish government  against the UK to revise its judgement in the case of the ‘hooded men’ – a case involving the alleged torture and ill-treatment of 14 men who were interned in the North in 1971.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said this evening that the government would consider the ruling carefully, and that he would meet with the ‘hooded men’ in the coming weeks.

My thoughts today 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 this morning’s judgment.

He added that it was “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.

Although the European Commission of Human Rights found in 1976 that the ‘five techniques’ used on the men amounted to torture, the European Court of Human Rights reversed that finding two years later.

By 13 votes to 4, and without hearing evidence from the men, it found that although the events “undoubtedly amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment… they did not occasion suffering of the particular intensity and cruelty implied by the word ‘torture’”.

That finding was appealed by the Irish government, but today the European court ruled that it would not review the finding that the five techniques were torture (the five techniques were hooding, wall-standing in stress positions for hours, white noise, sleep deprivation, and food and water deprivation).

The revision request was dismissed by six votes to one by a Chamber.

One of the ‘hooded men’, Francie McGuigan, told TheJournal.ie that it was “very disappointing” that the court decided against a revision.

“I’ve never spoke to the European court – neither have any of the lads – about how we feel 45 years later, about the effect it has had.”

He said that after the seven days of internment at the age of 23, he had three fractured ribs, the in-steps of his feet were destroyed from being dragged along corridors, and he was diagnosed with PTSD.

Two brothers walked by one of the guys [Kevin Hannaway] in prison and didn’t recognise him, his face was so badly beaten.
Sean McKenna who was 42, his hair had turned from black to pure white in that week. Sean McKenna died within two years.

“Four [of the 14] lads have died, and for them to say this wasn’t torture…”

Today, the European court ruled that the documents did not demonstrate facts such as the longterm impact on the psychology of the men involved.

But the court did acknowledge the lack of assistance from the UK, which had conceded that authorisation for the techniques had been given “at high level”.

Archived documents discovered in 2013 revealed the extent of the UK government’s involvement in and knowledge of the treatment of those 14 men.

Home secretary at the time Merlyn Rees wrote in a letter to Labour prime minister James Callaghan in 1977:

“It is my view (confirmed by Brian Faulkner before his death) that the decision to use methods of torture in Northern Ireland in 1971/72 was taken by Ministers – in particular Lord Carrington.

If at any time methods of torture are used in Northern Ireland contrary to the view of the government of the day I would agree that individual policemen or soldiers should be prosecuted or disciplined; but in the particular situation of 1971/72, a political decision was taken.

The ‘hooded men’ are being provided with legal representation by The Pat Finucane Centre, solicitor Kevin Winters and Amnesty International Ireland.

Read: Treatment of ‘hooded men’ wasn’t torture, human rights court rules

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