Some of those tortured by the British military in the early days of the recent conflict walked out of court on Wednesday morning after a judge adjourned their case for almost three months.
Six of the 14 victims known as the ‘Hooded Men’, who were tortured while interned in 1971 walked out of Belfast High Court alongside their supporters following the adjournment.
The group are seeking a full public inquiry into the events of 1971 and are seeking a judicial review and full disclosure of all documents linked to the case.
The men are taking a case against the British Direct Ruler, the head of the PSNI police and the Stormont Justice minister. Outside court, their spokesman Francis McGuigan (pictured) said four members of the group have already died, one has had a heart attack and another has been diagnosed with dementia.
“We have been 45 and a half years waiting to get the full truth out,” Mr McGuigan said.
He said he believed the British authorities were waiting for the group to die so they would not have to investigate their torture claims.
“We’ve been attending this court for a year now to get this judicial review as to why the Royal Ulster Constabulary or the Police Service of Northern Ireland have refused to investigate our claim of torture.
“We’ve already been to the European Court way back in 1976 and 1978 and they still won’t release the documents to us to let the truth out, to let the truth be heard.”
He added: “I think they’re actually waiting until we all die off and hope that the case dies. But I’m going to tell them it’s not going to stop. If we don’t make it, our families will keep pushing it.”
Separate judicial review proceedings have also been lodged by the daughter of Sean McKenna, another of the group whose death has been blamed on his treatment.
Mr McGuigan said their legal challenge was being taken on behalf of those among their number no longer still alive. “We are all comrades in this,” he said.
In 1971, the group were interned, and forced to listen to constant loud static noise; deprived of sleep, food and water; and forced to stand in a stress position and beaten if they fell. They were hooded and thrown to the ground from helicopters, after being told they were hundreds of feet in the air.
In 1978, the European Court of Human Rights held that the British government had carried out “inhuman and degrading treatment”. However, the court fell short of defining this treatment as torture. Last year, the Dublin government said it would ask the European Court to revise this judgement.
Speaking after the case was adjourned until April 6, County Armagh man Jim McIlmurray said they were ‘very frustrated’.
He said the group had expected a date to be set for the judicial review and full disclosure. Documents which had been due to be received by the 18th of December never arrived.
“It’s disgraceful. They know the timescale and yet they come back time after time and ask for an extension,” he said.
Another of the group, Liam Shannon, said: “Some of these deaths were premature, they were brought about as far as we are concerned by the hooded treatment.”
Their lawyer, Darragh Mackin of KRW Law, also expressed frustration at the delay in producing the requested material in the case.
“In the last year one of the men has passed away, one has suffered a serious heart attack and one has an ongoing serious health condition,” he said.
“It’s in the public interest that this matter is resolved expeditiously and in line with international law obligations.”