The term five techniques refers to certain interrogation practices adopted by the Northern Ireland and British governments during Operation Demetrius in the early 1970s. These methods were adopted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary with training and advice regarding their use coming from senior intelligence officials in the United Kingdom Government.
The five techniques were wall-standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and drink. In 1978, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) trial "Ireland v. the United Kingdom" ruled that the five techniques "did not occasion suffering of the particular intensity and cruelty implied by the word torture ... [but] amounted to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment", in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In response to the public and Parliamentary disquiet on 16 November 1971, the Government commissioned a committee of inquiry chaired by Lord Parker, the Lord Chief Justice of England to look into the legal and moral aspects of the use of the five techniques.
The "Parker Report" was published on 2 March 1972, and had found the five techniques to be illegal under domestic law:
10. Domestic Law ...(c) We have received both written and oral representations from many legal bodies and individual lawyers from both England and Northern Ireland. There has been no dissent from the view that the procedures are illegal alike by the law of England and the law of Northern Ireland. ... (d) This being so, no Army Directive and no Minister could lawfully or validly have authorized the use of the procedures. Only Parliament can alter the law. The procedures were and are illegal.
[The] Government, having reviewed the whole matter with great care and with reference to any future operations, have decided that the techniques ... will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation... The statement that I have made covers all future circumstances.
"As foreshadowed in the Prime Minister's statement, directives expressly prohibiting the use of the techniques, whether singly or in combination, were then issued to the security forces by the Government". These are still in force and the use of such methods by UK security forces would not be condoned by the Government.
European Commission of Human Rights inquiries and findings
The Irish Government, on behalf of the men who had been subject to the five methods, took a case to the European Commission on Human Rights. The Commission stated that it "considered the combined use of the five methods to amount to torture, on the grounds that (1) the intensity of the stress caused by techniques creating sensory deprivation "directly affects the personality physically and mentally"; and (2) "the systematic application of the techniques for the purpose of inducing a person to give information shows a clear resemblance to those methods of systematic torture which have been known over the ages... a modern system of torture falling into the same category as those systems... applied in previous times as a means of obtaining information and confessions".
European Court of Human Rights trial Ireland v. the United Kingdom
The Commission's findings were appealed. In 1978 in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) trial "Ireland v. the United Kingdom" (Case No. 5310/71) the facts were not in dispute and the judges court published the following in their judgement:
These methods, sometimes termed "disorientation" or "sensory deprivation" techniques, were not used in any cases other than the fourteen so indicated above. It emerges from the Commission's establishment of the facts that the techniques consisted of:
- (a) wall-standing: forcing the detainees to remain for periods of some hours in a "stress position", described by those who underwent it as being "spreadeagled against the wall, with their fingers put high above the head against the wall, the legs spread apart and the feet back, causing them to stand on their toes with the weight of the body mainly on the fingers";
- (b) hooding: putting a black or navy coloured bag over the detainees' heads and, at least initially, keeping it there all the time except during interrogation;
- (c) subjection to noise: pending their interrogations, holding the detainees in a room where there was a continuous loud and hissing noise;
- (d) deprivation of sleep: pending their interrogations, depriving the detainees of sleep;
- (e) deprivation of food and drink: subjecting the detainees to a reduced diet during their stay at the centre and pending interrogations.
These were referred to by the court as the five techniques. The court ruled:
167. ... Although the five techniques, as applied in combination, undoubtedly amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, although their object was the extraction of confessions, the naming of others and/or information and although they were used systematically, they did not occasion suffering of the particular intensity and cruelty implied by the word torture as so understood. ...
168. The Court concludes that recourse to the five techniques amounted to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment, which practice was in breach of [the European Convention on Human Rights] Article 3 (art. 3).
On 8 February 1977, in proceedings before the ECHR, and in line with the findings of the Parker report and United Kingdom Government policy, the Attorney-General of the United Kingdom stated that
The Government of the United Kingdom have considered the question of the use of the 'five techniques' with very great care and with particular regard to Article 3 (art. 3) of the Convention. They now give this unqualified undertaking, that the 'five techniques' will not in any circumstances be reintroduced as an aid to interrogation.
- Ireland v. United Kingdom – Commission report
- Ireland v. United Kingdom – ECHR Grand Chamber judgment
- Lauterpacht, Elihu; Greenwood, C. J. (1980), International Law Reports, Cambridge UP, p. 198, 241, ISBN 978-0-521-46403-1
- Lauterpacht & Greenwood 1980, p. 198.
- Report of the committee of Privy Counsellors appointed to consider authorised procedures for the interrogation of persons suspected of terrorism, retrieved December 2012 held at CAIN part of ARK in collaboration with Queen's University Belfast and University of Ulster
- Lauterpacht & Greenwood 1980, p. 241.
- "Ireland v United Kingdom 1976", Yearbook of the European Convention on Human Rights, Strasbourg: European Commission on Human Rights, pp. 512, 748, 788–94, retrieved December 2012
- Security Detainees/Enemy Combatants: US Law Prohibits Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, p. Footnote 16[dead link]
- Weissbrodt, David, materials on torture and other ill-treatment: 3. European Court of Human Rights, retrieved December 2012
- Ireland v. the United Kingdom, retrieved December 2012 Paragraph 96
- Ireland v. the United Kingdom Paragraphs 167 and 168
- Ireland v. the United Kingdom Paragraph 102