‘Hooded men’ seek state help in torture case

Kevin Hannaway and Francis McGuigan, who claim they were subjected to torture in the North. Picture: Courtpix

A group of men detained by British security forces during the Troubles want the Irish Government to step in and seek a review of a controversial 1978 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights which said their treatment was "inhuman and degrading" but not torture.

In proceedings before High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns yesterday, the court heard the group known as “the hooded men” wants the Government to apply to have the ECHR’s decision revised as new evidence revealed in a RTÉ programme supports their claims they were tortured.

The action is being brought on behalf of Francis McGuigan, Jim Auld Patrick McNally, Gerard McKerr, Liam Shannon, Kevin Hannaway, Michael Donnell, Brian Turley, Joe Clark, Paddy Joe McClean, Tony Shivers on behalf of the late Pat Shivers and Deirdre Montgomery on behalf of Michael Montgomery (deceased). All of the parties reside in Northern Ireland.

The men were detained in 1971 and subjected to five sensory deprivation techniques at the Ballykelly British army base in Co Derry, including prolonged hooding, subjected to continuous loud noise, sleep deprivation, food and water deprivation, and being forced into stress positions.

The Irish Government brought a complaint against the UK government to the ECHR about their treatment. However in 1978 the ECHR held the techniques constituted inhuman and degrading treatment, but said the evidence “did not suggest the five techniques constituted torture”.

This was on the grounds a special stigma was attached to torture as deliberate inhuman treatment causing very serious and cruel suffering.

This ECHR conclusion was based on medical evidence produced by the UK government which suggested the effect of the five techniques, including the psychiatric problems the men suffered, were minor and due to everyday life in Northern Ireland at the time rather than torture techniques.

However an RTÉ programme entitled The Torture Files, and presented by journalist Rita O’Reilly, last June revealed that evidence produced to the ECHR was deliberately misleading.

Mr Justice Kearns adjourned the application to Monday afternoon.


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