Supreme Court: Hooded men case commences

Supreme Court challenge to a court ruling that stated an independent investigation should take place into the treatment of the group of internees known as the ‘Hooded Men’ is to begin hearing opening submissions.

The PSNI appealed the 2019 ‘Hooded Men’ torture case, challenging a previous ruling that an investigation into their treatment should now proceed.

Today, the UK Supreme Court will hear the PSNI Chief Constable’s challenge to an Appeal Court judgment in favour of the ‘Hooded Men’.

There were originally 14 men, who in a 1971 round-up of hundreds of people during internment, were taken from their homes hooded, and brought by helicopter to an army base.

There, in units specially designed for the purpose, they were put through so-called ‘deep interrogation’, using five techniques of sensory deprivation notoriously used before and since in a number of conflicts worldwide.

This included them being subjected to controlled, extreme deprivation, forced to spend long hours standing with their arms stretched out and their fingers touching the wall, whilst loudspeakers transmitted high decibel levels of ‘white noise’ into their cells, and deprived of sleep, food, and water as they were kept hooded over two days.

Some of the men were thrown from helicopters while close to the ground after being told they were hundreds of feet in the air.

Codenamed Operation Calaba, it involved the British Joint Services Interrogation Wing, with the then RUC Special Branch.

In a 2019 2-1 vote, the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled that interrogation techniques used against the ‘Hooded Men’ amounted to torture.

Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan said: “The treatment to which [petitioners] were subject would if it occurred today properly be characterized as torture.”

The Chief Constable Simon Byrne said at the time: “Firstly I wish to acknowledge the distress this case has caused to many people over many years.

“I note today’s judgment and we will take time to consider the fullness of its implications and our next steps”.

The PSNI later confirmed they would be appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Ahead of today’s hearing, Francis McGuigan, who was one of the detained men, said: “I hope the Supreme Court will not only say there should be an investigation to identify and hold to account those who were responsible for authorising and carrying out torture on us, but also that the PSNI are not independent and must not conduct it.

“Truth and justice must prevail. This case doesn’t just matter for me as a ‘Hooded Man’, it is important for every torture victim past, present and future”.

Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International, which has backed the men’s case, said: “All eyes should be on this challenge, which will be hugely significant to torture victims across the world and the ongoing unresolved issue of legacy of the Troubles.

“It should concern us all that the PSNI continue to argue against an independent, effective investigation into state-sanctioned torture”.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law added: “As the Lord Chief Justice has previously made clear, ‘there is a real danger that the rule of law is undermined if that extends to protecting Ministers from investigation in respect of criminal offences possibly committed by them’. For the same reasons, we intend to vigorously defend the Chief Constable’s appeal before the Supreme Court.”

Source: Belfast Telegraph

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