‘People know it was torture’

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Politicians and human rights campaigners have expressed disappointment over a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decision not to rule 14 ‘hooded men’ detained by the British Army at a secret interrogation centre in Ballykelly in 1971 had been tortured.

The ECHR said it was upholding a 1978 decision that deemed the use of five infamous British Army techniques used to induce distress in captives - spread-eagling, hooding, white noise, food deprivation and sleep deprivation - amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment” but not torture.

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said she will continue to raise their case in Europe.

“The public know what happened to the so-called ‘hooded men’ and there is a weight of evidence to support that. The ‘hooded men’ were subjected to hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and water at the hands of the British state. Some were thrown out of helicopters.

“The misclassification of this conduct as inhuman and degrading treatment, but not torture, in 1978 led to a four-decades-long fight for truth, justice and accountability by the survivors.”

Mrs. Anderson commended the men for their tireless campaign for justice and said that if the law did not recognise what they suffered as torture then the law needed to catch up with further legislation.

“I have repeatedly raised their cause in Europe and brought some of those involved and their supporters to Europe to meet with legislators as part of their campaign.

“I will continue to raise their case in Europe and elsewhere as they continue to campaign for truth and justice,” she said.

Grainne Teggart, of Amnesty International, said: “We believe the Court has missed a vital opportunity to put right a historic wrong. Instead, it relied largely on procedural arguments to avoid substantively revisiting its 1978 ruling.

“Forty years ago, the UK succeeded in persuading the Court to absolve it of the ‘special stigma’ of a finding of torture. It did this by deliberately withholding from the Court evidence it had about the severe physical and psychological suffering that these ‘techniques’ inflicted. It also claimed this was the unsanctioned behaviour of local military and police. When Amnesty visited the detainees in 1971, we found clear evidence of torture. Our findings have not changed in the years that have passed.”