‘Torture’ judgment in ‘Hooded Men’ case welcomed

PACEMAKER BELFAST  20/09/2019'A group known as the Hooded Men have won the latest stage of a legal battle to force an investigation into alleged torture by the security forces in 1971.'The Court of Appeal in Belfast dismissed an appeal by police against a ruling that detectives should revisit a decision to end their inquiry. Fourteen men claimed they were subjected to torture after being held without trial in Northern Ireland. The dismissal of the police appeal was a majority decision by the judges. Two of the men Francis McGuigan(left) and Liam Shannon(right) pictured outside Belfast court with some of their legal team. 'Picture By: Arthur Allison / Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 20/09/2019'A group known as the Hooded Men have won the latest stage of a legal battle to force an investigation into alleged torture by the security forces in 1971.'The Court of Appeal in Belfast dismissed an appeal by police against a ruling that detectives should revisit a decision to end their inquiry. Fourteen men claimed they were subjected to torture after being held without trial in Northern Ireland. The dismissal of the police appeal was a majority decision by the judges. Two of the men Francis McGuigan(left) and Liam Shannon(right) pictured outside Belfast court with some of their legal team. 'Picture By: Arthur Allison / Pacemaker Press

A judgment from the Court of Appeal upholding a requirement for the PSNI to investigate acts committed during the interrogation of the so-called ‘Hooded Men’ in Northern Ireland in 1971, has been welcomed.

SDLP Justice Spokesperson Dolores Kelly MLA said: “The five techniques used against these men were cruel, inhumane and, in my view, constituted acts of torture.

“I welcome the Court of Appeal ruling today (Friday, September 20) upholding a previous judgment from the High Court. It’s important that the PSNI proceeds with an investigation of the acts committed against the ‘hooded men’ rather than using more resource on needless appeals.”

“The hooded men suffered lifelong physical and psychological harm and for that, those responsible must be held to account going right to the top to the person or persons who gave the order.”

The Court of Appeal have ruled this morning that the treatment endured by the hooded men is torture, and an effective criminal investigation is necessary.

Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law, Solicitor instructed on behalf of Francis McGuigan spoke outside the Court and said: “Today is significant as the Court firmly said that the rule of law is undermined if protection provided extends to protecting Ministers from investigation in respect of criminal offences committed by them”

“It is now essential that an effective and independent investigation is commissioned without any further delay.”

Francis McGuigan, the applicant, said the Judgment made it expressly clear that the treatment he suffered was torture and should be investigated by an independent police force.

He added: “This treatment cannot be forgotten, it has had lasting and terrible effects on my mental health to this day and I can only hope that this judgment will assist someone somewhere in the world that suffers torture at the hand of their Government.”

The Court said at Para 116 of the Judgment that they were satisfied that “the treatment to which Mr McGuigan and Mr McKenna were subject would if it occurred today properly be characterised as torture.”

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager, said: “Today’s ruling is vindication for the Hooded Men’s fight for justice, and offers hope for torture victims around the world.

“Significantly, the Court of Appeal has today upheld that the men’s treatment amounted to torture.

“No victim should have to wait nearly 50 years for justice. We must now urgently see an independent, human rights compliant investigation into their torture which was authorised at the highest levels of the UK government.

“Those responsible for sanctioning and carrying out their torture, at all levels, must be held accountable and, where possible, prosecuted.”

The case involved alleged the torture and ill-treatment of the 14 Hooded Men who were interned in Northern Ireland in 1971. At the time, Amnesty International documented the torture of the men by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British Army, which included hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation, deprivation of food and water, as well as physical assaults and death threats.

Amnesty is an intervener in the case, which is the organisation’s first intervention in a legacy court case in Northern Ireland. Amnesty has backed the men’s campaign for justice for decades. The ruling sets an important precedent for the investigation of serious human rights violations in this jurisdiction.

One of the ‘Hooded Men’ was Lurgan man Gerry McKerr who passed away in March 2015.