Lawless v. Ireland

2022-11-17 / English / London Review of Books

Published in the London Review of Books.

The​ European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg delivered its first judgment on 1 July 1961. Gerard Richard Lawless had been arrested four years earlier while attempting to travel from Ireland to Great Britain. Under a 1940 amendment to the Irish Offences against the State Act (1939), a government minister could order the detention without trial of any particular person … engaged in activities which, in his opinion, are prejudicial to the public peace and order or to the security of the state’. The Irish government brought these powers into force on 8 July 1957, during the period of IRA attacks known as the Irish Border Campaign. On 11 July, Lawless was arrested on suspicion of being a member of the IRA. The next day, the Irish minister of justice, Oscar Traynor, ordered his detention.

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