The Hooded Men are to take Britain’s refusal to investigate legacy state crimes in the conflict to the Supreme Court in London.
In 1971, the British government arrested hundreds of men as part of “Operation Demetrius”. 342 people were interned (imprisoned without trial) as part of the Operation, while 14 men were taken to a secret torture centre. The men were forced to wear hoods and thrown to the ground from low-flying helicopters while hooded, as well as forced to ensure stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation, and deprivation of food and water. These 14 men became commonly known as the ‘Hooded Men’. None of the men were ever convicted of any wrongdoing.
Almost five decades on, after years of legal efforts, the Court of Appeal in the Belfast ruled that an investigation into the men’s treatment should be carried out by the PSNI without delay. Nevertheless, the PSNI still refuses. The PSNI’s appeal to England’s highest court is now to be cross-appealed by the Hooded men.
The British government is currently seeking to shut down most historical investigations with a new law, as a way of protecting former soldiers from future prosecutions.
Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson, who left her role in Belfast this week, criticised Britain’s refusal to implement the relevant section of the 2014 Stormont House Agreement. That included a new Historical Investigation Unit to hold investigations into most historical cases, a move which prevented “healing” and was not in compliance with international law, according to the Commissioner.
Hooded man Francis McGuigan said: “It is now 49 years later and nobody has held accountable for the torture that was inflicted on me. It is infuriating that the Chief Constable continues to challenge what two successive Courts have ruled.”
Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, said “it is difficult to envisage a case in which touches upon more important issues of law and wider public importance. In taking this case to the Supreme Court in London, we now look forward to the Court taking this opportunity to clarify the law in the field of legacy litigation so that those victims who have also waited too long can now seek justice via the courts.”