Court ruling in the 'hooded men' case is a missed opportunity for justice

Freedom from Torture is disappointed by the decision of the European Court of Human Rights not to re-open the question of whether the notorious “five techniques” used by UK interrogators during the Northern Ireland “Troubles” – hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and water – amounted to torture.

Dr Juliet Cohen, Head of Doctors at Freedom from Torture and a world authority on the clinical and psychological effects of torture,said:

"For decades we have forensically documented and helped survivors of torture to recover from the long-term impacts of these practices.

For example, stress positions, where the detainee is ordered to stand, crouch or kneel in an uncomfortable position, sometimes with the addition of shackles or other restraints, are directly intended to cause pain. These positions create pain in muscles and joints within just a few minutes. Prolonged standing for many hours can have a serious impact on the circulatory system resulting in ankle swelling, skin blistering and tachycardia.

I have seen survivors of torture shaking with fear, suffering a psychotic breakdown and reliving their trauma – months and years after their ordeals of detention and torture. Torture is much more than listing the lesions caused by specific torture techniques – it is an attempt to destroy the person in mind and body.

Today’s decision is a missed opportunity to bring the jurisprudence into line with what we know as practitioners: these techniques can amount to torture when the whole context is taken into account."