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angle-left null 1978 - Court's first inter-state judgment
Event's background
European Court of Human Rights
18 January 1978

Court's first inter-state judgment

France France

The case of Ireland versus the United Kingdom was the first brought by one member state against another and concerned the threshold at which ‘cruel and unusual treatment’ becomes torture.


The case arose from the time of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland when loyalist Protestants who supported a union with the UK were pitted against the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which believed the island of Ireland should be united. Violence was wide-spread and escalating, and the British government responded by bringing in special measures to detain and intern terrorists. Interrogation techniques included depriving prisoners of sleep, food or drink, subjecting them to continuous noise, keeping a bag over their heads at all times apart from interrogation and making them stand in an uncomfortable position for hours at a time. The Irish government objected and said these practices violated human rights. The Court agreed that they constituted inhuman and degrading treatment, but felt that they were not serious enough to amount to torture. Read the text of the judgment: case of Ireland v. The United Kingdom​​​​​​​.