NATIONAL: Court to rule on landmark human rights case in which Britain is accused of using torture

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is due to deliver its findings today
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is due to deliver its findings today
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A court is expected to rule later on a landmark human rights case in which Britain is accused of using torture in Northern Ireland.

Following new evidence and amid pressure from Amnesty International and other human rights organisations, Ireland took legal action over the so-called Hooded Men case.

They were 14 Catholics interned – detained indefinitely without trial in 1971 – who said they were subjected to a number of torture methods.

These included five techniques: hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and water – along with beatings and death threats.

The men were hooded and flown by helicopter to a secret location, later revealed as a British Army camp at Ballykelly, outside Londonderry.

They were also dangled out of the helicopter and told they were high in the air, although they were close to the ground.

None were ever convicted of wrongdoing.

The Irish government first took a human rights case against Britain over the alleged torture in 1971.

The European Commission ruled that the mistreatment of the men was torture, but in 1978 the European Court of Human Rights held that the men suffered inhumane and degrading treatment that was not torture.

The UK did not dispute the finding.

New evidence, uncovered from national archives in London, throws doubt over the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

It includes a letter dated 1977 from then-home secretary Merlyn Rees to then-prime minister James Callaghan in which he states his view that the decision to use ‘methods of torture in Northern Ireland in 1971-1972 was taken by ministers – in particular Lord Carrington, then secretary of state for defence’.

Mr Rees added that ‘a political decision was taken’.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is due to deliver its findings today.