Antioch Law Journal



In McFeeley v. The United Kingdom, seven prisoners in the H-Block cells of Northern Ireland's Maze Prison filed an application against the government of the United Kingdom, hoping to attain political prisoner status under Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter the Convention).I The seven prisoners also alleged violations of Articles 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13 and 14 of the Convention. 2 The European Commission of Human Rights (hereinafter the Com- mission) declared most of the application inadmissible. The Commission found that granting special status to the prisoners was not within the specific protections granted by Article 9 of the Convention. The applicants achieved a degree of success, however, in that the Commission's report criticized the British government for not attempting to resolve the impasse that developed between prison officials and prisoners in the Maze Prison. The Commission stated that prison authorities were concerned solely with punishing the prisoners, and not with resolving the problems existing at the Maze Prison. This Comment will provide a historical overview of Irish history prior to the McFeeley decision and subsequent hunger strikes at the Maze Prison. The history of Ireland will be considered in evaluating the merits of the prisoners' claims that they are involved in a political struggle, and therefore entitled to special status as political prisoners. The decision will be further evaluated in terms of specific protections provided by the Convention. Discussion of the Commission's decision will focus on how denying full protection of the Convention to the prisoners helped sustain the stalemate that developed between prison authorities and prisoners interned in the H-Block cells of the Maze Prison.