NI: PSNI ordered to carry out criminal investigation into treatment of Hooded Men

NI: PSNI ordered to carry out criminal investigation into treatment of Hooded Men

Darragh Mackin

The PSNI must carry out a criminal investigation into the treatment in custody of the “Hooded Men” in 1971, the Court of Appeal in Belfast has ruled.

In their majority ruling, appeal judges added that the treatment of applicant Francis McGuigan and fellow detainee Seán McKenna “would, if it occurred today, properly be characterised as torture”.

Mr McGuigan’s solicitor, Darragh Mackin of Belfast-based human rights firm Phoenix Law, welcomed the “significant” ruling.

The treatment of the 14 men was the subject of a controversial European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in 1978, which said the “five techniques” used during interrogation did not constitute torture.

The judgment, explored in our Irish Legal Heritage series last year, has been widely criticised and was notably used as justification for torture techniques later used by the USA.

New information pertaining to the case, suggesting the UK government had misled the ECtHR in 1978, was the subject of an RTÉ documentary in 2014 which prompted fresh appeals.

Commenting on today’s court ruling, Mr Mackin said: “Today is significant as the court firmly said that the rule of law is undermined if that extends to protecting ministers from investigation in respect of criminal offences committed by them.

“It is now essential that an effective and independent investigation is commissioned without any further delay.”

Mr McGuigan added: “Today’s judgment makes it expressly clear that the treatment that I suffered at the hands of ministers was torture and should be investigated by an independent police force.

“This treatment cannot be forgotten, it has had lasting and terrible effects on my mental health to this day and I can only hope that this judgment will assist someone somewhere in the world that suffers torture at the hand of their Government.”

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