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The Hooded Men - Survivors of the Five Techniques in Ireland

The Five Techniques

The Five Techniques have a long and controversial history. They were initially developed and used by the United Kingdom during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. However, they have since been used by the United States, Israel and many other countries as interrogation techniques which have caused irreparable harm and even death, as in the case of Baha Mousa. The United Nations, European Union and UK Supreme Court have all ruled that the Five Techniques are Torture or at least cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.  

Northern Ireland

The Five Techniques were first used in Northern Ireland in 1971 as part of Operation Demetrius – the mass arrest and internment (imprisonment without trial) of people suspected of involvement with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Out of those arrested, fourteen were subjected to a programme of "deep interrogation" using the five techniques. This took place at Shackleton Barracks, a secret interrogation centre in Northern Ireland. For seven days, when not being interrogated, the detainees were kept hooded and handcuffed in a cold cell and subjected to a continuous loud hissing noise. Here they were forced to stand in a stress position for many hours and were deprived of sleep, food and drink. They were also repeatedly beaten, and some reported being kicked in the genitals, having their heads banged against walls and being threatened with injections. The effect was prolonged pain, physical and mental exhaustion, severe anxiety, depression, hallucinations, disorientation and repeated loss of consciousness. It also resulted in long-term psychological trauma. The fourteen became known as "the Hooded Men" and were the only detainees in Northern Ireland subjected to all five techniques together.

An Investigation into the Five Techniques - click the image to view the Investigation by RTE

European Human Rights trials

In 1976 the European Commission of Human Rights heard a case from Ireland against the United Kingdom on the use of the Five Techniques (among other things). The Commission unanimously decided that the Five Techniques constituted a practice of inhuman treatment and torture.

The matter was then referred to the European Court of Human Rights in 1978. The court ruled that while the Five Techniques constituted inhuman and degrading treatment, it did not constitute a practice of torture. However, the vote was not unanimous.

In 2014, after new information was uncovered that showed the decision to use the five techniques in Northern Ireland in 1971–1972 had been taken by ministers, the Irish Government asked the European Court of Human Rights to review its judgement. In 2018, the Court declined.

United Nations and UK Supreme Court

In 1997, the United Nations Committee against Torture made a report concerning certain interrogation techniques used by Israel under the "Landau rules". These techniques were mainly made up of the Five Techniques and were found to be breaches of Art 1 of the Convention Against Torture. 

In 2014, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) decided not to investigate the treatment of the Hooded men any further. This matter was appealed to the United Kingdom Supreme Court (UKSC).












In 2021, the UKSC ruled in the Hooded men's favour by declaring that the Five Techniques are a form of torture by standards of 2021.

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