Irish Government to appeal against decision that UK did not torture ‘Hooded Men’

The European Court of Human Rights dismissed a request to find 14 men suffered torture in 1971.

Seven of the so-called Hooded Men
Seven of the so-called Hooded Men

The Irish Government is to appeal against a European court decision that found the UK did not torture 14 men interned without trial during the Troubles.

The so-called Hooded Men claim they were subjected to a number of torture methods when they were detained without trial at a British military camp in Northern Ireland in 1971.

These included five techniques – hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and water – along with beatings and death threats.

Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed Ireland’s request to find the men suffered torture and said there was no justification for revising an original judgment in 1978 that held that while the men suffered inhumane and degrading treatment, they were not tortured.

Liam Shannon, one of the so-called Hooded Men
Liam Shannon, one of the ‘Hooded Men’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Irish authorities took the case to Europe after highlighting what it said was fresh evidence.

In March, the court said new material had not demonstrated the existence of facts that were not known to the court at the time or which could have had a decisive influence on the original judgment.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin has confirmed it will appeal against that ruling to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR.

Kevin Hannaway, one of the Hooded Men, hailed the move.

“Today’s ruling is not only a mammoth step for us, but for many other torture survivors all around the world,” he said.

“We always knew the judgment was flawed, and that we had strong grounds of appeal, we are delighted the Irish Government has accepted our submissions and an appeal will now be lodged.

“We all intend on fighting this case to the very end on behalf of ourselves and those who have passed away since the treatment we underwent.”

Mr Hannaway’s solicitor Darragh Mackin added: “We warmly welcome the position adopted by the Irish Government in today’s decision.

“From the day on which the judgment was handed down, we have engaged with the Irish Government in calling for an urgent appeal to be lodged.

“The international significance of this case is duly reflected by the fact that this case will now be referred to the highest court in Europe. The grounds were self-evident. We now look forward to an expeditious hearing in the Grand Chamber.”

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The March 20 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the Government’s application for a revision of the 1978 Ireland v UK case has been fully considered by the Government, taking account of advice from the Attorney General.

“The Government has decided to request a referral of the matter to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

“The request for a referral will be submitted to the court in Strasbourg before the deadline of June 20.”

The men were hooded and flown by helicopter to a secret location, later revealed to be a British Army camp at Ballykelly, outside Londonderry.

The ECHR judges rejected the Irish case by a majority of six to one. The Grand Chamber of the court is made up of 17 judges.

Solicitor Michael Halleron, who represents Mary McKenna – a daughter of another of the hooded men, Sean McKenna – said: “This is a significant decision.

“A referral to the Grand Chamber allows Ms McKenna on behalf of her father, as well as the other applicants, another opportunity for the judgment made in 1978 to be revised, insofar as the five techniques on persons interned in Northern Ireland in 1971 constituted inhuman and degrading treatment but not torture.”

Sinn Fein senator Niall O Donnghaile, who had tabled a motion in the Irish Seanad calling for an appeal, welcomed the move.

“The judgment in the Hooded Men case has live, global implications and it is only right that those who have committed, are committing or would seek to commit the kind of torture inflicted on these 14 Irishmen are exposed and held to account on the international stage,” he said.

“Government have made the right decision with this appeal and I encourage them, as this appeal process moves ahead, to ensure they remain fully engaged with the men themselves as well as their legal representatives.

“The Hooded Men have been campaigning for truth and justice for almost 50 years now, their steadfast courage and dignity is renowned the world over; we know that what these men endured was systematic and calculated torture, it is long past time that that reality was held firm on the international stage.”

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