The Republic of Ireland v The United Kingdom: ECHR 18 Jan 1978

The UK lodged a derogation with the Court as regards its human rights obligations in Northern Ireland because of the need to control terroist activity. The Government of Ireland intervened. From August 1971 until December 1975 the UK authorities exercised a series of ‘extrajudicial’ powers of arrest, detention and internment in Northern Ireland. The case concerned the Irish Government’s complaint about the scope and implementation of those measures and in particular the practice of psychological interrogation techniques (wall standing, hooding, subjection to noise and deprivation of sleep, food and drink) during the preventive detention of those detained in connection with acts of terrorism.
Held: The IRA had for a number of years represented ‘a particularly far-reaching and acute danger for the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom, the institutions of the six counties and the lives of the province’s inhabitants’. However, the Court found the methods to have caused intense physical and mental suffering. The article 15 test was accordingly not discussed, but the Court made valuable observations about its role where the application of the article is challenged: ‘(a) The role of the Court. The limits on the Court’s powers of review are particularly apparent where Article 15 is concerned. It falls in the first place to each Contracting State, with its responsibility for ‘the life of [its] nation’, to determine whether that life is threatened by a ‘public emergency’ and, if so, how far it is necessary to go in attempting to overcome the emergency. By reason of their direct and continuous contact with the pressing needs of the moment, the national authorities are in principle in a better position than the international judge to decide both on the presence of such an emergency and on the nature and scope of derogations necessary to avert it. In this matter, Article 15(1) leaves those authorities a wide margin of appreciation. Nevertheless, the States do not enjoy an unlimited power in this respect. The Court, which, with the Commission, is responsible for ensuring the observance of the States’ engagements (Art. 19), is empowered to rule on whether the States have gone beyond the ‘extent strictly required by the exigencies’ of the crisis. The domestic margin of appreciation is thus accompanied by a European supervision.’ Torture is a strong word. In human rights instruments only deliberate inhuman treatment causing very serious and cruel suffering ranks as torture. Ill-treatment must attain a minimum level of severity if it is to fall within the scope of Article 3. The assessment of this minimum is relative; it depends on all the circumstances of the case, such as the duration of the treatment, its physical and mental effects and, in some cases, the sex, age and state of health of the victim.’
ECHR Judgment : Revision rejected : Third Section

G Balladore Pallieri P
5310/71, Series A no 25, p 65, [1978] ECHR 1, (1978) 2 EHRR 25, [2018] ECHR 247
Worldlii, Bailii, Bailii
European Convention on Human Rights 815
Human Rights
Cited by:
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Sivakumar HL 20-Mar-2003
The appellant sought asylum. He had fled Sri Lanka. He was a Tamil and feared torture if he returned. His application had been rejected because the consequences flowed from his suspected involvement in terrorism, and that was not a Convention . .
CitedOsman v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-Oct-1998
Police’s Complete Immunity was Too Wide
(Grand Chamber) A male teacher developed an obsession with a male pupil. He changed his name by deed poll to the pupil’s surname. He was required to teach at another school. The pupil’s family’s property was subjected to numerous acts of vandalism, . .
CitedLorse and Others v The Netherlands ECHR 4-Feb-2003
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Violation of Art. 3 with regard to the first applicant ; No violation of Art. 3 with regard to the other applicants ; No violation of Art. 8 ; No violation of Art. 13 . .
CitedA v Secretary of State for the Home Department, and X v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Dec-2004
The applicants had been imprisoned and held without trial, being suspected of international terrorism. No criminal charges were intended to be brought. They were foreigners and free to return home if they wished, but feared for their lives if they . .
CitedAdam, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department; Limbuela v Same; Tesema v Same HL 3-Nov-2005
The applicants had each entered the UK with a view to seeking asylum, but having failed to seek asylum immediately, they had been refused any assistance, were not allowed to work and so had been left destitute. Each had claimed asylum on the day . .
CitedRegina v Bartle and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte; Regina v Evans and Similar (No 3) HL 24-Mar-1999
An application to extradite a former head of state for an offence which was not at the time an offence under English law would fail, but could proceed in respect of allegations of acts after that time. No immunity was intended for heads of state. . .
CitedGillan, Regina (on the Application of) v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Another HL 8-Mar-2006
The defendants said that the stop and search powers granted under the 2000 Act were too wide, and infringed their human rights. Each had been stopped when innocently attending demonstrations in London, and had been effectively detained for about . .
CitedMohamed, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 1) Admn 21-Aug-2008
The claimant had been detained by the US in Guantanamo Bay suspected of terrorist involvement. He sought to support his defence documents from the respondent which showed that the evidence to be relied on in the US courts had been obtained by . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Criminal Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.164875