Ireland bids to reopen British army `torture` case

The Irish government will ask the European Court to reopen a landmark case that alleged the British army tortured Irish prisoners during the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, Dublin said on Tuesday.

Dublin: The Irish government will ask the European Court to reopen a landmark case that alleged the British army tortured Irish prisoners during the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, Dublin said on Tuesday.

The decision to pursue the so-called "Hooded Men" case was taken due to legal advice and thousands of newly released documents, Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said.

"On the basis of the new material uncovered, it will be contended that the ill-treatment suffered by the hooded men should be recognised as torture," Flanagan said.

The 14 men were interned, detained without trial, in 1971 during "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland and were taken to a secret location later confirmed to be an army base.

Hoods were put over their heads, and they were thrown out of helicopters after being told they were hundreds of feet in the air. In fact they were just a few feet from the ground.

They were beaten, forced to stand against the wall for long periods in stress positions, deprived of food, drink and sleep and subjected to noise.

None was convicted of a crime.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1978 that the group`s experience constituted inhuman and degrading treatment, but was not torture.

However, new information was uncovered in a television documentary "The Torture Files" by Irish national broadcaster RTE aired in June.

Using evidence from archives in London, the documentary claimed the British government knew and authorised the interrogation tactics.

The British defence ministry has denied that it authorised torture.

Liam Shannon, one of the hooded men, welcomed the decision to request a new judgement.

"We`re absolutely delighted by this," Shannon said.

"We`ve waited 43 years and we want to thank everyone involved, our legal team and all the researchers who turned up the relevant information in order that we could make a case."

Rights group Amnesty International, which had championed the men`s case and pressured Dublin to act, said that the British government "withheld from the European Court what it knew" about the case.

"Ireland`s decision today bravely flies the flag for human rights and the universal and unconditional prohibition of torture," said Colm O`Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland.

Some 3,000 people were killed in the three decades of sectarian bombings and shootings in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles", but a shaky peace has prevailed since a landmark agreement in 1998.

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