Senator Daly asks the Minister for European Affairs on the torture methods used by the British Government in the case of the Hooded Men

Senator Mark Daly:

The last issue is the most serious as it has consequences for citizens around the world. It concerns the RTE documentary about the hooded men and the case taken by the former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, to Europe.

 

The Government pursued the British Government for the torture of those citizens, disputed or otherwise of Ireland. It won the initial court case, but on appeal the judgment that those hooded men were tortured was overturned. It was said that while the torture tactics employed – the use of stress, the hooding of the men, their subjection to white noise and interrogation for hours on end without a break – was a case of enhanced interrogation techniques, it was not torture. It decided that because the evidence provided by the British side in regard to the effects on the men in question was such that it could not be construed as torture.

However, what was uncovered by the RTE documentary was that the effect was traumatic. Lives were shortened, suicides occurred and these men were never the same again after being detained and tortured by the British Government.

In light of this new evidence and of the fact that the Government is now entitled to revisit the case, will it do so? I ask this not because of the historic nature of the offences that occurred against these citizens but in view of the fact that the ruling made by that European Court of Human Rights is now used by states and democracies around the world. They say that because Ireland took this case, those forms of interrogation are legitimate, because a European court has said they did not have an adverse effect on the people subject to them. We now know, because of RTE’s excellent report, that they had a hugely traumatic, debilitating and life-changing effect and that, by any measure, the forms of interrogation used were torture. It is beholden on the Government now, in light of this new evidence, to set the record straight, so that no democracy can use the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, which is false because of the evidence withheld from it by the British Government at the time.

I raise this not because of the historic nature of much of what I have talked about, but it is important the record is set straight on this issue.

 

Minister for European Affairs:

The House will be aware of the RTE “Prime Time” special programme on the “hooded men” case, which alleged that the British Government may have misled the European Court of Human Rights in the case taken by Ireland against the UK on the hooded men and other matters. In that case, the European Court of Human Rights considered an earlier report by the European Commission on Human Rights that the in-depth interrogation methods used by the British authorities in Northern Ireland amounted to torture. The court found that, while the interrogation methods were “inhuman and degrading”, they did not amount to torture. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been in contact with RTE and with the Pat Finucane Centre, on whose work much of the programme was based, and is currently reviewing archival records in order to fully assess the claims made by the “Prime Time” programme.

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