Torture case to go back to Europe
Torture case to go back to Europe


The Dublin government referred the case of British torture victims in the north of Ireland back to the European courts this week.

It had faced a deadline to decide whether or not to relaunch proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights after new evidence disclosed that Britain had authorised “deep interrogation” tactics against Irish citizens at the highest levels.

The case centres on 14 Catholic men in the Six Counties who were interned in 1971 and who were subjected to torture methods including hooding, being held in stress positions, exposure to white noise, sleep and food deprivation as well as beatings.

The men were hooded and flown by helicopter to a secret location, later revealed as a British army camp at Ballykelly, outside Derry. They were 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 any wrongdoing.

Paddy Joe McClean, a father of 12 from Beragh in County Tyrone and former chairman of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, said he hoped for an official apology for the brutal treatment to which he and others were subjected.

“We were taken to some unknown destination and were put through all the different forms that have been noted - wall standing, hooding, being beaten about the legs and arms and all that... It was horrific,” Mr McClean said.

“An apology from the prime minister [David Cameron] would do. Whether he’s speaking in Parliament or outside of it, it doesn’t matter, as long as he makes the statement.”

Mr McClean was among 10 of the Hooded Men who gathered at Belfast’s Stormont Hotel for a private meeting with Thomas Hammarberg, who investigated internment abuses for Amnesty International in 1971.

The others were Francie McGuigan, Kevin Hannaway, Liam Shannon, Jim Auld, Joe Clarke, Gerry McKerr, Michael Donnelly, Patrick McNally and Brian Turley.

Relatives of some who have since died were also in attendance.

Describing his experience, Liam Shannon said the ‘hooding’ continued for seven days straight as the “hoods were never taken off except during interrogation,” when he was repeatedly beaten.

“We were kept hooded, we were beaten. If we couldn’t stand against the wall for any longer... and if you attempted to get off the wall you were severely beaten and put back open again,” Shannon recalls.

All men in the case, Shannon says, suffered psychologically as well as physically from the confinement.

“I actually contracted Crohn’s disease afterwards when I was released from prison, which left me very, very ill for quite some time and left me having to take strong medication for a long time. We also all have sleepless nights, nightmares, cold sweats... everything else that goes along with it.”

Mr Hammarberg said: “Time does not heal all wounds, if justice is not done.

“Now that an application has been made by Ireland to revisit the judgment, it should be in the interest of the UK government, as a signatory of the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights, to ensure that the facts be clarified in this critical case and remedial action be taken.”

But a former British ambassador has said he couldn’t seen any point in asking Europe to re-examine the case. Sir Ivor Roberts said he believed people should “stop scratching at the scabs of history”.

“There’s so many things which with the benefit of hindsight one wish would have been done differently or not at all,” he said. “I think it’s time to move on and stop scratching at the scabs of history like this with which don’t serve any useful purpose. Instead I think they simply dance to a Sinn Fein agenda.”

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s programme director in the Six Counties, said there was an obligation to hold those responsible to account with a full, frank and fair investigation.

“It is utterly unacceptable that, in 43 years, the UK authorities have never conducted a proper investigation into the abuse and that no-one, not the people who carried out the abuse, nor the people who authorised it, has ever been held accountable before the law,” he said.

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