British interrogation camp: European Court of Human Rights asked to review case of ‘hooded men’

Michael Donnelly.
Michael Donnelly.

A Derry man subjected to brutal physical and psychological interrogation techniques at a former British Army barracks in County Derry has said he ‘pleased’ the Irish Government has decided to urge the European Court of Human Rights to revise its judgement on what has become known as the case of the ‘Hooded Men’.

Michael Donnelly was one of 350 republican suspects detained and interned without trial on August 9, 1971. Twelve of these men, including Mr Donnelly, were singled out and subjected to ‘deep interrogation’ techniques. However, he has told the Journal he believes the Irish Government were left with no option but to pursue this course of action given the recent campaign surrounding the case.

Declassified British documents published in August, 2013, eventually revealed that the location of the activity was at Ballykelly-around 15 miles outside Derry City.

In 1971, the Irish Government took a case to the European Commission and court of Human Rights alleging the treatment of the men constituted torture. The accusations centred on the use of what became known as ‘The Five Techniques’-which were hooding, wall-standing, subjection to noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and drink.

The European Commission found that torture had taken place, but in 1978, the European Court held that the treatment of the men amounted to ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’.

But, in a statement this afternoon, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flannagan said the Irish Government will ask the European Court of Human Rights to revise its 1978.

It said the Irish Government had “taken the decision following a review of thousands of recently released documents and taking account of the legal advice received.”

Mr Flannagan continued: “Minister Flanagan stated: “The Government is aware of the suffering of the individual men and of their families, of the significance of this case, and of the weight of these allegations. The archival material which underlay the RTÉ documentary (June 4, 2014) was therefore taken very seriously by the Government and was subject to thorough legal analysis and advice. On the basis of the new material uncovered, it will be contended that the ill-treatment suffered by the Hooded Men should be recognised as torture.

“The Government’s decision was not taken lightly. As EU partners, UK and Ireland have worked together to promote human rights in many fora and during the original case, the UK did not contest before the European Court of Human Rights that a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human rights took place. The British and Irish Governments have both worked hard to build stronger more trusting relations in recent years and I believe that this relationship will now stand to us as we work through the serious matters raised by these cases which have come to light in recent months.”

Speaking to the Journal, Michael Donnelly said: “It is good news. I think they had no option but to go this route because the case was handled so well by our legal team from Kevin Winters solictors and by Amnesty International. The press attention we received also pushed it forward.

“There is more at stake here that just the case of the ‘hooded men’. If successful it will set a precedent that will force other regimes around the world to look at what they are doing. George Bush once agreed with the European ruling on our case, that it was ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’. But given the behaviour of the American’s in places such as Guantanamo bay, that is hardly surprising.

“However, I didn’t think this was going to happen. I am surprised by the decision of the Irish Government. After all, it has been six months since we contacted the Irish Attorney General and we did not get a response until now. I would congratulate our legal team and Amnesty International who took onboard our views on how to handle this at every stage.”