Thursday, June 9, 2016

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British Thwarting Hooded Men Torture Case

Jim McIlmurray, Case Coordinator for the Hooded Men who were tortured by the British Government, hits out at the by now standard delaying tactics from the British government and its judiciary in the North.

There is now a deliberate policy of delaying tactics being employed by both the British government and the judiciary in the North of Ireland regarding our case.

In June 2014 we requested the Chief constable investigate a case of torture in 1971 and produced evidence from British government files obtained under the freedom of information act.

On 3 July 2014, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris told the North of Ireland Policing Board that the PSNI would conduct an investigation into the allegations of torture.

In October 2014, we were notified by the PSNI, in a summary fashion, that the investigation had been concluded and that no evidence was found indicating that the UK government had authorised torture.

We immediately instructed our legal team to take the case before a judge and seek a juridical review.

We opened a case against the Secretary of State Teresa Villiers, the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton and the Justice minister David Ford for failing to order a full inquiry.

On the 4th of June 2015 we attended the Belfast High Court and Judge Seamus Treacy granted us a Juridical Review hearing and stated it would open on the 30th of November 2015.

Days before the November 2015 hearing was due to take place, their barristers went to court seeking an adjournment and it was granted and we were then given the date of the 7th of December 2015.

Days before the 7th of December hearing was to take place, Barristers for the government went back to court and were again granted an adjournment until the 6th of January 2016.

On the 6th of January 2016 we attended court to hear Tony McGleenan QC, for the Secretary of State and Chief Constable request yet another delay and to our amazement Judge Paul Maguire ruled that the case could be delayed for a further 11 weeks to accommodate the Northern Ireland Office as they said they needed this extra time in order to examine relevant documents which they agreed they would share with us.

Those documents never arrived with us.

So the initial case of seeking a juridical review turned into a case of having to take them back to court for full disclosure of the documents.

They had successfully turned the case for a request for a review into one of disclosure tying up court time and attempting to frustrate us.

We had to then take them to court on the 24th of March 2016 to seek disclosure of the documents they had held back from us.

Hugh Southey QC, Blinne Ni Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers and Adam Straw of Doughty Street represent us in the judicial review and are instructed by Darragh Mackin of Belfast firm KRW Law.

Yet again we failed to have a firm date set for a full hearing into the case.

We returned to court on the 6th of April 2016 seeking full disclosure.

Theresa Villiers gave a television interview outside her constituency offices in England on the 24th of March stating she had fully complied with our request, yet the documents that we hold show she didn’t, as minutes to several government meetings are missing from the documents they handed over.

She withheld information on briefings given to government ministers before the men were interrogated.

A lawyer representing the government said it believed it has disclosed all relevant documents.

The one issue that is not clear at present is what the content of the briefings were, and therefore it's important to determine what actually was authorised, what they actually knew when they did authorise the techniques.

One thing that is clear, is that what they did authorise was torture.

Justice Paul Maguire, urged the Northern Ireland Office to comply and warned that he would adjudicate if they could not do so.

The judge told our legal team to write to the secretary of state setting out what material had not been disclosed, and why it is relevant to the case and to do so within two weeks and if we were not happy with her response, to come back to the court to seek an order instructing the secretary of state to hand the material over.

We were told by the judge he would see us back in court in four weeks. That was on the 6th of April.

This is the 9th of June and we still haven’t received one sheet of paper from Theresa Villiers let alone a file.

We have requested the courts to give us a date to go back to court, but the only response we have is, Judge Paul Maguire is on what seems like an endless holiday and Tony McGleenan QC, for the Secretary of State and Chief Constable is busy on other cases.

It is now time the public be made aware of the hypocrisy of the British government when they speak of justice, human rights, transparency and openness. Theresa Villiers is clearly now in contempt of court.

We want the British government compelled to establish an independent investigation.

Our demand is for a statutory investigation into the use of torture by British security forces, including the RUC, during the period of internment and after and that this investigation must comply with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The PSNI is not able to conduct such an investigation independently and that the British government has an on-going duty to discharge its obligations toward The Hooded Men.

Believe me, the fight to expose the wrongs committed against The Hooded Men will continue until truth and justice will out, make no mistake of that.

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