Appeal decision is ‘a green light to torture’ says ‘Hooded Men’ campaigner

Some of the Hooded Men leaving court in Belfast
Some of the Hooded Men leaving court in Belfast

A decision by the European Court of Human Rights to reject an appeal by Ireland to find the ‘Hooded Men’ suffered torture at the hands of the British authorities has been described as ‘a green light to torture’.

The judgement was delivered this morning (Tuesday) on whether the treatment of 14 men, interned in 1971, amounted to torture.

The Court found that the Irish Government 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 Court stated.

Case Co-ordinator for the Hooded Men, Jim McIlmurray vowed to fight on.

“Whereas the judgement is disappointing, it is not unexpected. The ECHR had the opportunity to make a change and they didn’t.

“It’s a bad day for humanity, not just us. Politics and interstate relationships should not be in bed with justice.

“We are currently exploring other avenues to appeal. The judgement is appalling. It is a green light for torture.

“Personally I am disappointed with the Irish government and we can expect other nations to hide behind this ruling. It’s a get out of jail for those who torture.”

The 14 men, including Gerry McKerr from Lurgan, were detained indefinitely without trial and 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.

They were hooded and flown by helicopter to a secret location, later revealed as a British Army camp at Ballykelly.

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.

After the Irish government took a human rights case against Britain in 1971, the European Commission ruled the mistreatment of the men was torture.

However in 1978 the European Court of Human Rights held that the men suffered inhumane and degrading treatment that was not torture.

Later new evidence emerged including 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 revision request was dismissed by six votes to one.

The judge elected in respect of Ireland issued a dissenting opinion.