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Lawless v. Republic of Ireland (Lawless Case)

European Court of Human Rights
[1961] European Court of Human Rights, Ser. A. no. 1


The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was seeking independence from the United Kingdom and had engaged in a number of violent acts in both the Republic of Ireland (defendant) and Northern Ireland to achieve that purpose. Gerard Lawless (plaintiff) was one of several members of the IRA that the Irish government arrested and placed in an internment camp without trial. The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Convention) provided for basic human rights, including the right to a trial. However, the Convention allowed derogation from those rights in a time of war or public emergency. Lawless brought a case before the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the Irish government violated his fundamental rights under the Convention. The Irish government stated that its detention without trial of many IRA members was necessary “to secure the preservation of public peace and order.”

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning

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