Northern Ireland

Hooded Men: Alleged torture 'on scale of war crime' court hears

Some of the Hooded Men
Image caption In 1978, the European Court of Human Rights held that the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment

The alleged torture of the so-called Hooded Men was "on the scale of a war crime", Belfast High Court has heard.

The 14 men were held without trial during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

They claim to have been subjected to "deep interrogation" in 1971.

A barrister representing the men said their alleged treatment fell within the definition applied to international atrocities dealt with at The Hague.

He also insisted any ministerial involvement in the case should become the subject of criminal proceedings.

He said: "If one doesn't prosecute people at the highest level, it gives rise to a greater sense of impunity."

'Torture'

In 1978, the European Court of Human Rights held that the UK had carried out inhuman and degrading treatment on the men.

However, the court fell short of defining this treatment as "torture".

Surviving members of the group are taking legal action in a bid to secure an independent and human rights-compliant investigation into what they claim they were subjected to.

Action is being taken against the chief constable, secretary of state and the Department of Justice over alleged failures to properly probe and order a full inquiry.

Five techniques are said to have been used against the group as part of "deep interrogation" -

  • Being hooded and made to stand in a stress position against a wall and beaten if they fell
  • Being forced to listen to constant loud static noise
  • Being deprived of sleep, food and water.

"It's difficult to see how torture in the context one is talking about, people detained by the State in the circumstances they were, is any less serious than torture inflicted in a wartime situation," the barrister representing some of the men said on Wednesday.

"Where one is looking at allegations of torture, which is an issue in this case, one is at the level of a war crime."

The case continues.

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