Hooded men lose torture ruling appeal

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected an Irish government request to find that men detained during internment in Northern Ireland suffered torture.

But following the discovery of new evidence from the national archives in London and amid pressure from Amnesty International and other human rights organisations, the Republic launched new legal proceedings in December 2014.

The 14 men have said they were hooded, beaten; deprived of sleep, food and water and forced to listen to loud static noise while being held without trial in Northern Ireland in 1971.

Ireland submitted that it was likely that the Court would have come to the conclusion that the application of the five techniques amounted to torture and not "only" to inhuman and degrading treatment, if the "new facts" were disclosed to the Court at the time.

In 2014 Dublin said it would challenge the 1978 finding based on "new evidence" presented in an RTÉ 2014 documentary 'The Torture Files, ' which, it claimed, showed the effects of the "ill-treatment had been long-term and severe".

Dismissing the case today, the ECHR said that "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 no justification to revise the judgment., it concluded.

The Court added that "Even assuming that the documents submitted in support of the assertion the Commission was misled as regards the effects of the five techniques, the Court considers that it can not be said that it might have had a decisive influence on the Court's finding in the original judgment that the use of the five techniques constituted a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Article 3 of the Convention but did not constitute a practice of torture within the meaning of that provision". It did this by deliberately withholding from the Court evidence it had about the severe physical and psychological suffering that these "techniques" inflicted.

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The "Hooded Men" judgment is a landmark in worldwide law as it was the first time a state took on another state at the European Court.

The Government first took the human rights case against Britain over the alleged torture in 1971 - during politically febrile times.

"In recent decades, especially in the counter-terrorism context, we have seen states undermine and chip away at the unconditional prohibition on torture".

Mr Allister is of course right to say that we must now have scrutiny of Ireland's persistent and long lasting extradition failures during the Troubles, that was so helpful to the IRA campaign of murder and - without doubt - real torture. It also demanded an independent inquiry in the case of the men. The request was rejected on a 6-1 vote by the judges. It is very important that this be understood.

He said: "The European Court had an opportunity to outlaw torture all over the world and they have missed the opportunity". As the Court noted today, it very quickly expanded its interpretation of torture after the 1978 Ireland v United Kingdom case. States using the sort of interrogation methods like these "techniques" must not be allowed to take comfort from today's ruling.

"We commend the Irish Government for trying to help these men, and the families of the men who have since died, to seek to have their rights to truth and justice vindicated". In 1971, Ireland took a courageous, unprecedented step when bringing the case against the UK. So did the men, their lawyers, and Amnesty International.

"Whereas the judgement is disappointing, it is not unexpected".

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