Ireland: ‘Troubles-era’ human rights dispute with United Kingdom reaches judgement day

An international human rights dispute between the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom reaches judgement day tomorrow.

The European Court of Human Rights 20 March-scheduled ruling in the case Ireland v. the United Kingdom (no. 5310/71), concerns Ireland’s request to revise a 1978 judgment so as to find that a group of men suffered torture at the hands of the British authorities during the troubles in Northern Ireland.

The men were detained under emergency powers in 1971. They were subjected to five interrogation techniques of being made to stand in a strained, spread-eagled position against a wall; being deprived of food and sleep; being hooded; and being subjected to white noise.

The court in 1978 found that the men’s treatment had amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, but not torture. Ireland alleges that new evidence has come to light, namely formerly classified documents that have been released into the United Kingdom’s public archives, which if known at the time would have led to a finding of torture as well.

Ireland has made its revision request under Rule 80 of the Rules of Court. It allows a party to make such a request “in the event of the discovery of a fact which might by its nature have a decisive influence and which, when a judgment was delivered, was unknown to the court and could not reasonably have been known to that party”.

The revision request and the original judgment are under Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment).

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