A request to find that men detained during internment in Northern Ireland suffered “torture” was last week rejected by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The group, known as the hooded men, have always maintained they were tortured by the British Army in 1971. They were forced to listen to constant loud static noise and deprived of sleep, food and water; forced to stand in a stress position and beaten if they fell. They were also hooded and thrown to the ground from helicopters – despite being at near ground level which they did not know at the time having been told they were hundreds of feet in the air.
Lawyers for the fourteen men called on the Irish government to appeal the latest ruling. In 1978, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment but drew the line at calling it “torture”.
Four years ago, under then Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Irish government started proceedings ask the ECHR to revise its 1978 judgement.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the ECHR’s decision would be “fully considered by the government” and said last week’s judgement did not alter the court’s original 1978 ruling that the men “suffered inhuman and degrading treatment”.
He said: “I am due to meet the men in the coming weeks and look forward to hearing their views.”
One of the men Francie McGuigan said: “While any one of us have breath left in our bodies we will fight it and we will keep on fighting it. With the exception of two, the rest of us are now over 70 and I don’t see a weakness in our determination yet.
“At this stage, the European Court has missed a great opportunity to try to stamp out torture, be it here in Ireland or any corner of the world.
“I think there’s a strong onus on the Irish government to take this appeal and push it for all it’s worth.”
A number of countries, including the USA and Israel, have long relied on the ECHR’s 1978 judgement to defend their own security forces’ interrogation techniques. Another of the men, Jim Auld, told BBC Northern Ireland that he was “angry and frustrated”.
“It’s important for people to understand that none of us had any self gain out of this, we embarked on this to try and create the conditions where no government could torture their citizens.”
A solicitor who represented some of the men, Darragh Mackin, said the High Court in Belfast, and the Supreme Court in London had ruled these techniques amount to torture. He said he therefore could not comprehend how the ECHR had missed such an opportunity.
“It is deeply regretful that we are left with only the consideration that it is procedural gymnastics that have allowed for this ruling to continue and for this grave injustice that the hooded men suffer and continue to suffer,” said Mr Mackin.
The ECHR said: “The Government of Ireland had not demonstrated the existence of facts that were unknown to the court at the time or which would have had a decisive influence on the original judgment. “There was therefore no justification to revise the judgment.”
The revision request was dismissed by six votes to one.