Many people have already rejected any religious basis to deciding how we live together in society, so perhaps the only basis left that might be shared is ‘the golden rule’ – treat others as you would have them treat you.
People in Western democracies have recently begun to boast of a ‘human rights approach’ to ethical matters in society – the ‘human rights approach’ has become generally accepted [even though there is a debate about whether human rights might ever apply to unborn humans]. We mostly agree that human rights must be indivisible – all violations of human rights must matter.
Journalists who work in television, radio and the press tell us that a necessary part of our lives in common is the uncovering of lies and hypocrisy in our political leaders and parties, and in those who would govern us. They might add that persons prominent in society are also subject to journalistic scrutiny on behalf of the rest of us. The work of journalists informs a great deal of our daily lives as they hold people accountable to various standards of behaviour using leaked information and joining dots invisible to the rest of us.
Armed with only these most basic principles, I turn my mind to the ongoing case of ‘the hooded men’ as they have been termed for some years – those who were arrested in Northern Ireland in the security forces’ sweep before the introduction of internment without trial in August 1971.
Internment didn’t appear out of nowhere – it is legal under international law in certain circumstances and was considered necessary to attempt to halt illegal violence on the streets, including murders and maimings of citizens and security forces by paramilitaries who had zero respect for human rights and who were willing and able to murder anyone willing to testify against them in trials in normal courts of law.
The ‘hooded men’ were certainly subjected to ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ – this judgment was handed down by the European Court of Human Rights after extensive hearings in Stavanger in Norway in a case instigated by the Irish Government against the British Government. The British Government duly made sizeable financial compensation arrangements available to the men. I should say that I was sixteen in August 1971 and was close to one of the ‘hooded men’ and followed his case in detail for many years, right up to the moment of writing this post.
The question that interests me is the following: if one or more of ‘the hooded men’ were themselves paramilitary members or leaders – whether of the Official IRA or the Provisional IRA – and they were organising, militating and even participating in bombings and murders of both security forces and civilians, including tortures, disappearances and extra-judicial murders of men, women and boys – and giving their full support then and since to paramilitary violence – does their status not change to Human Rights’ Offenders – similar to the way in which participants in Nazism and in some Latin American military dictatorships were viewed by international governments during the past 60 years?
It’s been the practice in a number of countries, including America, to strip persons suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity of both citizenship and other rights, and to deport them back to their countries of origin to face trials, even if they were of advanced age.
Spanish judges such as Baltazar Garzón famously used the ‘doctrine of universal jurisdiction’ to lawfully prosecute before Spanish courts human rights offenders in Latin American military juntas, including famously 82-year-old Augusto Pinochet whose extradition he sought from London to face trial in Spain.
I return to my question: If one or more of the “hooded men” were members or leaders of the IRA involved in murder and bombing, willingly breaching the Human Rights of both civilians and members of the security forces, are they morally entitled to make claims to overarching Human Rights law which they otherwise repudiate when in the IRA?
Are they entitled to financial compensation whose amount is not related to their own war on Human Rights? Are they entitled to go about without facing the searching journalistic enquiry which others in public view are forced to undergo?
I am aware – along with many others – that at least one of ‘the hooded men’ was a senior IRA commander before his arrest and interrogation. I am aware – along with many others – that many of the witnesses called to testify in Stavanger in Norway were themselves active IRA members when they were called to Stavanger to testify, themselves engaging in violence that breached the Human Rights of many citizens.
What does it say about the integrity and honesty of the nationalist/republican human rights’ ‘narrative’ when so many people who know so much about one or more of the hooded men’s anti-Human Rights activities remain silent?
What does it say of many nationalist lawyers, journalists and others in so-called human rights’ groups – such as the wholly partisan Pat Finucane Centre and Amnesty International – who know so much more about human rights violations practiced by one or more of the ‘hooded men’ that they remain silent also?
We already live openly with the Biggest Lies of senior IRA leaders – now absorbed into the Sinn Féin cash cow – who have lied to us all for years and whose record on Human Rights would – if it were known – put them in the dock of the International Criminal Court at The Hague and in prison cells for the rest of their lives.
Many people in the nationalist community, in journalism, in law, in the Catholic church, in Sinn Féin, in the Pat Finucane Centre – know so much more about Human Rights violations attaching to persons prominent in our community – what does it say about the catholic nationalist community that they remain silent about these persons’ long records of Human Rights atrocities as we minutely dissect Britain’s human rights’ record over the hooded men?
Catholic priests in clerical garb – whose bishops formerly preached against IRA atrocities – now give the appearance of openly endorsing Sinn Féin/IRA candidates with highly questionable human rights’ records and endorse books launched about them and their bishops say nothing. Protestant ministers do likewise.
Individuals within the ranks of ‘the hooded men’ – if they have integrity – should come clean about their anti-Human Rights activities while in the IRA – about perhaps their current support for armed struggle in opposition to Human Rights – then we would all be better informed and able to better judge our approach to what may clearly be a partisan Human Rights’ case.
We need a wider debate within nationalism/republicanism about the cover up of the IRA’s appalling record on human rights which has had no investigation by Human Rights activists in Amnesty International, in the Pat Finucane Centre or even in the Irish Government.
The cancer at the heart of Northern nationalism – Big Lies and re-writing history – has even now put a putrid partisan poison in the very heart of Human Rights.
How did we end up in a situation more generally – apart from the ‘hooded men’ situation – where Human Rights offenders – IRA paramilitaries – not only avoid any scrutiny, but we harbour them and their lies?
Are we not all complicit therefore in Human Rights atrocities by our silence?
For an article about the IRA’s use of torture, see here.
For an article about the IRA’s use of child soldiers, see here.
For an article about the IRA’s deliberate murders of civilians, see here.
For an article about the IRA and Human Rights, see here.
For an article about the IRA’s attitude to Truth, see here.
For an article about the IRA and Catholic Priests, see here.
For an article about whether IRA volunteers were POW’s or Terrorists, see here.