Irish Republican News · November 29, 2014
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Calls for urgent action on torture case


Amnesty International has demanded the reopening of a landmark case against Britain over the use of torture in the north of Ireland. The Dublin government took the case of the so-called ‘Hooded Men’ to the European Court of Human Rights in 1971.

Fourteen Catholic internees were hooded and flown by helicopter to a secret location, later revealed as a British Army camp at Ballykelly, County Derry, where they were tortured using hooding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, white noise, deprivation of food and water, beatings and death threats. None were ever convicted of any offense.

An Irish television documentary in June revealed fresh evidence the British government had authorised “deep interrogation”. It included a letter in 1977 from then British Home Secretary Merlyn Rees to then Prime Minister James Callaghan, in which he writes that the decision to use “torture in Northern Ireland in 1971/72 was taken by ministers”. Mr Rees added that it was “a political decision”.

Amnesty said these documents, uncovered from British national archives by the human rights group Pat Finucane Centre, shows London withheld crucial evidence from the European Court at the original hearing and senior ministers had in fact sanctioned torture, which they had denied.

Under European rules, the case can be reopened within six months of new evidence emerging. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams TD has called on the coalition government to make a decision quickly on reopening the long-standing case, writing to Taoiseach Enda Kenny to remind him that there are only days until the December 4th deadline.

In the letter, Mr Adams contends the ECHR judgment in 1978 should be appealed because of what he described as “British lies” about its use of such techniques.

Prior to the RTE investigation, the 26-County Attorney General Maire Whelan said the case did not meet “the threshold which would warrant this State bringing an application to reopen the case”.

Mr Adams says the revelations that the British government lied to the ECHR about the use of the five ‘techniques’ and the severity of the interrogations required the case be reopened.

“It is clear from all of the documentation now available that the use of torture against these 14 men was a matter of administrative practice by the British government,” Mr Adams writes. “Time is quickly running out . . . When do you expect that the Government will conclude its deliberations and take its decision?”

A number of the surviving Hooded Men, including Francie McGuigan, Kevin Hannaway, Michael Donnelly, Jim Auld and Joe Clarke, backed the call during a press conference organised by Amnesty International in Dublin.

Thomas Hammarberg, who led the human rights organisation’s 1971 mission to Ireland to investigate internment, said the British government had a responsibility to establish the facts.

“The allegation that the UK government misled the Strasbourg Court in the Hooded Men case must be taken very seriously,” he said.

“If substantiated, this was a grave, additional injustice to the victims, and allowed impunity then and for those who have used such methods in other situations in the last four decades.”

Amnesty’s Colm O’Gorman said the clock is ticking.

“These men and their families have a right to truth and justice,” he said.

“We recognise the diplomatic challenges in Ireland’s seeking to have this case reopened. However, we hope the Irish Government today shows the same determination of its predecessors in 1971 who took a bold and unprecedented step to uphold the rule of law and expose human rights violations.”

A spokesman for the Dublin government said it would not be making any response at this time.

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