Hooded Men 'far from giving up' after European court ruling on torture claims

The so-called Hooded Men have expressed dismay and disappointment after a European court rejected an Irish request to find they suffered torture, but vowed to continue their fight for justice.

They also described the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights as a "missed opportunity".

Speaking at a press conference in Belfast city centre, Francie McGuigan said: "We are far, far, far from giving up."

The Hooded Men 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.

Mr McGuigan added: "While any one of us have breath left in our bodies we will fight it and we will keep on fighting it.

"With the exception of two, the rest of us are now over 70 and I don't see a weakness in our determination yet."

He said the onus was now on the Irish Government to appeal.

"At this stage the European Court has missed a great opportunity to try to stamp out torture beit here in Ireland or any corner of the world.

"Torture must be stopped no matter where or by whom, it must be stopped throughout the world and the European Court have the responsibility of doing that.

"I think there is a strong onus on the Irish Government to take this appeal and push it for all it's worth," added Mr McGuigan.

Liam Shannon said the judgment was "flawed".

He said: "The European Court had an opportunity to outlaw torture all over the world and they have missed the opportunity. What a disgrace of a thing to happen."

Joe Clarke, who suffers from flashbacks, said: "We are dismayed as to how they came to this decision.

"But, we just have to keep fighting on.

"I am the youngest and I will certainly keep going until we eventually get justice. We need justice, not just for ourselves but for everyone around the world."

Daragh Mackin, a solicitor from KRW Law who has been representing the Hooded Men, said: "In circumstances where the Belfast High Court, the London Supreme Court has ruled that these techniques are torture, it is difficult to comprehend how the European Court has missed this opportunity.

"It is deeply regretful that we are left with only the consideration that it is procedural gymnastics that have allowed for this ruling to continue and for this grave injustice that the Hooded Men suffer and continue to suffer."

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Meanwhile, Amnesty International, which has supported the Hooded Men, also described the ruling as disappointing.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty's Northern Ireland campaigns manager said: "The 'Hooded Men' have been denied justice for too long.

"The UK Government must now urgently conduct an independent and effective investigation into what happened, and prosecute any state agents involved in sanctioning or carrying out these violations at the time.

"This case underscores the need for a comprehensive means of dealing with historic human rights violations and abuses in Northern Ireland."