The Court of Appeal in Belfast has ruled an investigation must be carried out into the treatment of fourteen republican internees who were tortured by the British Crown Forces in 1971.
The majority ruling came following an appeal by the PSNI against a previous High Court judgment that it should investigate the treatment of the men.
The ‘Hooded Men’ were subjected to a variety of torture methods when they were interned without trial at a British military camp in County Derry in 1971. These included the ‘five techniques’ -- hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and water -- along with beatings and death threats.
The European Court of Human Rights previously ruled that while the men suffered “inhumane and degrading treatment”, it didn’t amount to torture.
Delivering the ruling at the Court of Appeal in Belfast on Friday, Chief Justice Declan Morgan said the treatment of the men “would, if it occurred today, properly be characterised as torture”.
The court agreed with a previous ruling that an investigation carried out by the Historical Enquiries Team was “irrational and did not honour the undertaking given by the Chief Constable”. It added: “In light of the manner in which the investigation was pursued it seems unlikely that an investigation by the Legacy Investigation Branch of the PSNI or its successor is likely to engender public confidence”.
Outside the court, Francis McGuigan, one of the Hooded Men, welcomed the decision but also questioned how the legal understanding of what they had endured could have changed.
“We are delighted with the result we got this morning, Justice Morgan confirmed Justice Maguire’s decision that if this happened today it would be torture,” he said.
“I would just like to know how they differ between today and 48 years ago when they use the word torture.
“It’s a small word but let me just give you some of the impact it had on me as a 23-year-old of average intelligence, what they had done to my brain and my body.
“I finished up that I couldn’t spell my own name. They asked me to spell my own name and I couldn’t spell my own name.
“I think Europe made a mistake then, and I want to stand in front of the judges in Europe and tell them what happened to me and the rest of us.
“There were 14 of us, over a third of us are now dead, since we initiated this case, two men have died, since Justice Morgan heard the appeal one man has died, there are nine of us left, each one of us have been in hospital for different treatments and this must be done before we all pass away.”
Gráinne Teggart of Amnesty welcomed the ruling as a vindication of the Hooded Men’s fight for justice, which she said offered hope for torture victims around the world.
“No victim should have to wait nearly 50 years for justice,” she said.
“We must now urgently see an independent, human rights compliant investigation into their torture which was authorised at the highest levels of the UK government.
“Those responsible for sanctioning and carrying out their torture, at all levels, must be held accountable and, where possible, prosecuted.”