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Ireland's Hooded Men continue fight for torture recognition

The ECHR's failure to hold Britain to account for the ‘severe interrogation’ of 14 men in 1971 has ‘opened the door for governments throughout the world’ to torture suspects

VICTIMS of severe interrogation techniques used by British state forces during the Troubles period in Ireland are continuing their campaign for the original torture ruling to be upheld, lawyers said today.

Francie McGuigan, one of the so-called Hooded Men, warned that a failure by the European Court of Human Rights to uphold a ruling of torture against the British government “opened the door for governments throughout the world” to torture suspects.

He was one of 14 men arrested in August 1971 after the British government implemented internment without trial, a policy which was seen as targeting Catholics and Irish republicans.

Mr McGuigan and the others were subjected to what were known as the “five techniques” during a week-long interrogation at a British army base in Co Derry.

The men were hooded and subjected to prolonged wall standing, white noise, sleep deprivation and denial of food and drink. 

They were beaten, had their heads smashed against walls and were threatened with injections during the interrogation.

Some of the men were hooded, taken in a helicopter and told that they were high up before being pushed out of the aircraft just feet from the ground.

British intelligence trained forces of the then Brazilian dictatorship to use the so-called five techniques as the regime tortured and disappeared leftwingers and other opposition figures.

In 1976, the European Commission of Human Rights found that the men had been subjected to torture.

But the British government appealed against the decision and the European Court of Human Rights amended the judgment to one of “inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Speaking in a documentary entitled Finne screened last night by Irish broadcaster TG4, Mr McGuigan said that Europe had made a big mistake.

“They have now opened the door for governments throughout the world to take ‘Sean Citizen’ off the streets and out of his bed and torture him and call it degrading and inhuman treatment,” he said.

“History has proven me right. We have got Guantanamo Bay, we had Abu Ghraib and what happened in black sites — people have been tortured all over the world. Europe had a marvellous opportunity to help eliminate that.”

Fellow Hooded Man Liam Shannon said: “Some of the men would have a forgiving nature and would have said that at this stage: ‘Well, you have to put it behind, get on with your life.’ I will never put it behind me. I will never get on with life until we get justice.”

Solicitor Kevin Winters, who is representing some of the men, said the case was being pursued on a number of fronts.

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