The Hooded Men

The Committee on the Administration (CAJ) and the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) welcome Amnesty International’s call to the Irish Government that it seeks to re-open the case it took against the UK in relation to the use of the "five interrogation techniques" inflicted on 14 men when internment was introduced in 1971. While these inter-state proceedings to the European Court of Human Rights were unprecedented they resulted in the Court finding in 1978 that the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment – not torture – in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, it has since emerged from research carried out by the PFC and ‘The Torture Files’ documentary aired by RTE in June that facts were unknown to the European Court when it delivered its judgment 1978. These recently discovered documents suggest that the British Government withheld vital medical, legal and policy documents from the European court of Human Rights and the Irish Government in respect of the case taken to Europe by the Irish state alleging torture.

CAJ acts on behalf of one of the families of the hooded men. Gemma McKeown of CAJ states "we welcome this call by Amnesty International. We have requested that the Irish Government seeks a reopening of the case of Ireland v UK given the discovery of these facts which may lead to the European Court of Human Rights revising its judgment.” CAJ and the PFC also call on the UK to carry out an independent investigation into these allegations of torture as Article 3 of the European Convention requires.

Paul O’Connor of the PFC explained: "Among the many documents we discovered at Kew were the notes of a medical examination of one of the victims who was examined by a doctor who was the chief medical witness to the Tribunal representing the British Government. These medical notes disclosed that this man had a chronic medical condition prior to ‘in-depth interrogation’, that this was known to his interrogators and that his condition worsened as a direct result of his time at Ballykelly airfield and led to his premature death just days after this medical examination in June 1975. None of this was disclosed to the European Court."

The inquiry into the 2003 murder of an Iraqi civilian, Baha Mousa, by British soldiers was told that the five techniques had again been used in Iraq by every single battle group in the field. The failure by the ECtHR to attach the special stigma of torture to a member state in 1978 had fatal consequences for Baha Mousa. Others took note.

In 1999 the High Court of Israel ruled that certain interrogation practices used by the General Security Service against Palestinian prisoners, whilst illegal, did not constitute torture and specifically referenced the Ireland v UK judgement in doing so.

The US Attorney General also took note when seeking to justify torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay.  The infamous ‘torture memos’ prepared for President Bush made direct reference to the Ireland v UK judgment. At p31 the memo reads,

"The European Court of Human Rights ... recognised a wide array of acts that constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but do not amount to torture. Thus they appear to permit, under international law, an aggressive interpretation as to what amounts to torture, leaving what label to be applied only, where extreme circumstances exist."

Notes for Editors:
Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights states that: No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The European Court of Human Rights has decided in a number of cases that allegations of torture should be independently and effectively investigated by the state with jurisdiction.