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Hooded Men hail 'watershed moment' in fight for justice

Liam Shannon, Francis McGuigan, Jim Auld, Joe Clarke, Kevin Hannaway, and Brian Turley on their way out of the High Court in Belfast yesterday. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

A court ruling in the case of the Hooded Men has been hailed a "watershed moment", after a judge said their treatment would probably be viewed as "torture" today.

Fourteen Catholic men from across the north have long claimed they were subjected to state-sanctioned torture when they were interned in 1971.

The techniques included being hooded, made to stand in stress positions, forced to listen to loud static noise and being deprived of sleep, food and water.

In some cases the men were also thrown from helicopters they were told were hundreds of feet in the air despite being just feet from the ground.

A High Court judge yesterday rejected claims that the state was in breach of a legal obligation to carry out a full and independent investigation, given that the events occurred decades before human rights legislation came into force.

However, he quashed a PSNI decision not to take further steps to identify and potentially prosecute those responsible for any criminal acts.

Mr Justice Maguire also said: "It seems likely to the court that if the events here at issue were to be replicated today the outcome would probably be that the European Court of Human Rights would accept the description of torture in respect of these events as accurate."

In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights held that the techniques constituted inhuman and degrading treatment - but fell short of torture.

In 2014 the case was referred back to the court with the support of the Irish government.

The men's solicitor, Darragh Mackin, last night described the judgment as "truly momentous in the Hooded Men's campaign for justice”.

“For the first time, the court has directly held that the description of ‘torture' is an accurate reflection of the treatment to which our clients were subject," he said.

“For over 45 years, it has always been our clients' case that they were the victims of torture.

“Today's judgment exonerates their campaign.”

He added: “We look forward to the next step, and for the first time an investigation into the tortuous treatment to which they were subject."

Jim McIlmurray, case co-ordinator for the Hooded Men, also said: “The fact that a British judge used (the word) torture in a British court is a major development for us.”

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