The Hooded Men 1971
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The Hooded Men are 14 men who were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in Northern Ireland by the British army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1971. The mistreatment took place as part of Operation Demetrius and included the illegal interrogation methods known as the five techniques.
On behalf of the men, the Irish Government took the case to the European Commission of Human Rights (Ireland v. United Kingdom, 1976 Y.B. Eur. Conv. on Hum. Rts. 512, 748, 788-94 [Eur. Comm’n of Hum. Rts.]).
The Commission "...unanimously 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."
The Commission's findings were appealed.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) trial Ireland v. the United Kingdom (Case No. 5310/71) in 1978 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. On 8 February 1977, in proceedings before the ECHR, and in line with the findings of the Parker Report and UK Government policy, Sam Silkin, both Attorney General for England and Wales and for Northern Ireland, stated:
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
In early 2013, declassified documents were uncovered that revealed the existence of the interrogation centre at Ballykelly. This information had not been mentioned in any of the inquiries, and proved the British Government had deliberately hid these documents from the inquiries and the European Court of Human Rights.
The British government had, in fact, lied to the European Court of Human Rights regarding multiple aspects of the case: (1) the severity of the methods used on the men; (2) the long term physical and psychological consequences of the methods; (3) where the interrogations took place; and (4) who gave the political authority and clearance for it.
In June 2013, a meeting was arranged in Lurgan between the Hooded Men and the legal firm of KRW Law to explore reopening the case.
An RTÉ documentary entitled, "The Torture Files," reported on a letter from the UK Home Secretary Merlyn Rees in 1977 to the then British Prime Minister James Callaghan. It confirmed that a policy of "torture" had, in fact, been authorized by the British Government's ministers, specifically the Secretary for Defense Peter Carrington, in 1971, contrary to the information shared with the Irish government and the ECHR.
The letter states: "It is my view (confirmed by Brian Faulkner before his death) that the decision to use methods of torture in Northern Ireland in 1971/72 was taken by ministers - in particular Lord Carrington, then secretary of state for defence".
Following the revelations in June 2014, The Hooded Men, their solicitor Jim McIlmurray and case coordinator Darragh Mackin, called on the Irish government to bring the case back to the ECHR on the ground of the newly uncovered vital evidence intentionally withheld by the British government during the original ECHR proceedings.
On 2 December 2014 the Irish government announced that upon review of the newly uncovered evidence and receipt of requests from the Hooded Men, it had decided to officially ask the ECHR to revise its 1978 judgment. Prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney was recruited to lead the re-opened case; the court rejected the final appeal in September 2018.
Four of the original Hooded Men have since died, Sean McKenna, Michael Montgomery, Pat Shivers and Gerry McKerr. On Wednesday 16 November 2016, a historic first meeting took place in Dublin between the Irish government and the surviving Hooded Men.
- Corrigan, Patrick (13 February 2015). "If Amal Clooney wins the 'Hooded Man' case, the embarrassment for the UK would be huge". The Independent. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
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- Bowcott, Owen (11 September 2018). "Human rights judges reject final appeal of Troubles 'hooded men'". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
- "Irish government meet with 'Hooded Men'". www.portadowntimes.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Amal Clooney accuses Ted Heath of torture conspiracy". The Independent. 2015-05-10. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "'Formidable' Hooded Man McKerr dies at 71". The Irish News. Retrieved 2017-03-18.