Hooding is the placing of a hood over the entire head of a prisoner. One legal scholar considers the hooding of prisoners to be a violation of international law, specifically the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, which demand that persons in the power of occupying forces be treated humanely. Hooding is potentially dangerous, especially when a prisoner's hands are also bound. It is considered to be an act of torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 when its primary purpose is sensory deprivation
Sensory deprivation
Sensory deprivation or perceptual isolation is the deliberate reduction or removal of stimuli from one or more of the senses. Simple devices such as blindfolds or hoods and earmuffs can cut off sight and hearing respectively, while more complex devices can also cut off the sense of smell, touch,...

 during interrogation
Interrogation is interviewing as commonly employed by officers of the police, military, and Intelligence agencies with the goal of extracting a confession or obtaining information. Subjects of interrogation are often the suspects, victims, or witnesses of a crime...

; it causes "disorientation, isolation, and dread." According to the International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...

, hooding is used to prevent people from seeing and to disorient them, and also to prevent them from breathing freely. Hooding is sometimes used in conjunction with beatings to increase anxiety as to when and where the blows will fall. Hooding also allows the interrogators to remain anonymous and thus to act with impunity. Moreover, if a group of prisoners is hooded, the interrogator can play them off against each other by pretending, for instance, that some of them are cooperating, which the prisoners will be unable to verify.

In 1997, the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Committee Against Torture had concluded that hooding constituted torture, a position it reiterated in 2004 after the committee's special rapporteur had "received information on certain methods that have been condoned and used to secure information from suspected terrorists."

Hooding is a common prelude to execution.

Modern history

In the first half of the twentieth century, hooding was rarely used. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 used it especially in the Breendonk
Breendonk is a small town in Belgium, population 3,000, halfway between Brussels and Antwerp.Its name stems from the medieval Bredene Dunc which translates as "wide mound" or "a dry spot in the marshes."...

 prison in Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

. It became more popular after World War II as a means of "stealthy torture," since it makes public testimony more difficult: the victim can testify only with difficulty as to who did what to them. In the 1950s, hooding was used in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 and French Algeria
French Algeria
French Algeria lasted from 1830 to 1962, under a variety of governmental systems. From 1848 until independence, the whole Mediterranean region of Algeria was administered as an integral part of France, much like Corsica and Réunion are to this day. The vast arid interior of Algeria, like the rest...

; in the 1960s, in Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 and Franco's
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, in the 1970s, in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, and Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

; and since then in a great number of countries.

In some cases, hooding was accompanied by white noise
White noise
White noise is a random signal with a flat power spectral density. In other words, the signal contains equal power within a fixed bandwidth at any center frequency...

, such as in Northern Ireland; such techniques used by British troops followed up on research done in Canada under the direction of Donald O. Hebb, where "sensory isolation" combined with white noise was found to cause extreme disorientation.


According to a 1976 military directive, issued during the Dirty War
Dirty War
The Dirty War was a period of state-sponsored violence in Argentina from 1976 until 1983. Victims of the violence included several thousand left-wing activists, including trade unionists, students, journalists, Marxists, Peronist guerrillas and alleged sympathizers, either proved or suspected...

: "In cases of detained leaders, hooding the head is recommended together with tying the wrists at the end of a stick, which would be placed on the shoulders." Hooding prisoners was widespread in Argentina in the 1970s; a particularly severe application was having pregnant prisoners give birth while hooded. After the 1989 attack on La Tablada Regiment
1989 attack on La Tablada Regiment
The 1989 attack on La Tablada Regiment was an assault on the military barracks located in La Tablada, in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, by 40 members of Movimiento Todos por la Patria , headed by former ERP leader Enrique Gorriarán Merlo. 39 people were killed and 60 injured when the...

, during the presidency of Raúl Alfonsín
Raúl Alfonsín
Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín was an Argentine lawyer, politician and statesman, who served as the President of Argentina from December 10, 1983, to July 8, 1989. Alfonsín was the first democratically-elected president of Argentina following the military government known as the National Reorganization...

, the military reacted violently and again hooded prisoners; its methods were called "an immediate return to the methodology used during the dictatorship."


Battalion 3-16, the unit of the Honduran
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

 army which carried out assassinations and tortured political opponents in the 1980s, was trained by interrogators from the CIA and from Argentina, and made up in part of graduates of the School of the Americas
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation , formerly the United States Army School of the Americas is a United States Department of Defense educational and training facility at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia in the United States...

. Hooding was taught to Battalion 3-16 by Argentineans, who used a hood made of rubber called la capucha, which induced suffocation.

Israel and territories

In Israel, Shin Bet, the Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i internal security service
Intelligence agency
An intelligence agency is a governmental agency that is devoted to information gathering for purposes of national security and defence. Means of information gathering may include espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis, cooperation with other institutions, and evaluation of public...

, uses hooding systematically (more systematically than the IDF
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

), according to reports published by Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

, who interviewed Palestinian detainees who had been hooded for extensive periods (four to five days at a time throughout their detention). They complained about hoods being dirty, having difficulty breathing, and suffering from headaches and pain in their eyes. The object, according to Human Rights Watch, wasn't so much the inability of victims to recognize their torturers, but to increase "psychological and physical pressure." According to Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

's influential report Torture in the Eighties, hooding and other forms of ill-treatment became widespread again after the resignation of Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin
' was a politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944,...

 in 1984.

Israeli troops are accused of using hooding in prisons in for instance Tulkarm
Tulkarem or Tulkarm is a Palestinian city in the northern Samarian mountain range in the Tulkarm Governorate in the extreme northwestern West Bank adjacent to the Netanya and Haifa districts to the west, the Nablus and Jenin Districts to the east...

 (where 23-year old Mustafa Barakat died while in custody, most of which he spent hooded), Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

 (death of 17-year old Samir Omar) and Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

 (death of Ayman Nassar); many deaths in Israeli detention centers involved hooded prisoners, such as Husniyeh Abdel Qader, who "was held in solitary confinement with her hands cuffed behind her back and her head in a dirty bag during the first four days of her detention." In turn, Palestinian authorities in the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 were accused of the same practice in 1995, according to media reports and organizations such as B'Tselem
B'Tselem is an Israeli non-governmental organization . It calls itself "The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories"...


United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, hooding, one of the so-called "five techniques
Five techniques
The term five techniques refers to certain interrogation practices adopted by the Northern Ireland and British governments during Operation Demetrius in the early 1970s...

," was used as a means of interrogation during The Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

, the period of violent conflict in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 from 1966 to 1998, and notably so during Operation Demetrius
Operation Demetrius
Operation Demetrius began in Northern Ireland on the morning of Monday 9 August 1971. Operation Demetrius was launched by the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary and involved arresting and interning people accused of being paramilitary members...

. In the prison Long Kesh, now known as Maze
Maze (HM Prison)
Her Majesty's Prison Maze was a prison in Northern Ireland that was used to house paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles from mid-1971 to mid-2000....

, prisoners were subjected to hooding in 1971: "throughout their days and nights of interrogation torture, their heads were kept covered by thick, coarse cloth bags." Complaints quickly led the Heath government to order troops in 1971 "not to use hoods when interrogating prisoners." On behalf of fourteen of these, the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 filed suit against the British government at the European Commission of Human Rights
European Commission of Human Rights
European Commission of Human Rights was a special tribunal.From 1954 to the entry into force of Protocol 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, individuals did not have direct access to the European Court of Human Rights; they had to apply to the Commission, which if it found the case to be...

, which found in 1976 that the British had been guilty of torturing political dissidents. When, in March 1972, Direct rule
Direct Rule
Direct rule was the term given, during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, to the administration of Northern Ireland directly from Westminster, seat of United Kingdom government...

 was instated, the practice did not cease altogether, and at the end of 1972 the European Commission of Human Rights accepted a second case on behalf of victims of the practice. In March 1972, the Parker report had concluded that the five techniques were in fact illegal under British law; on the same day the report was published, Prime Minister Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

 announced in the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 that the techniques "will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation."

While the practice was thus officially banned since 1972, reports of its use by British troops appeared during the Iraq War. Hooding was discovered to have been applied in 2003 and 2004 to Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

i prisoners who were held by American troops
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

 and questioned by intelligence officers from the British Secret Intelligence Service
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

. Baha Mousa
Baha Mousa
Baha Mousa was an Iraqi man who was kicked and beaten to death while in British Army custody in Basra, Iraq in September 2003. The inquiry into his death heard that Mousa was hooded for almost 24 hours during his 36 hours of custody by the 1st Battalion of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and that...

, an Iraqi civilian, died in British custody after being hooded and beaten.

United States

Most notably in recent history, hooding has occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison
Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse
Beginning in 2004, human rights violations in the form of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, including torture, rape, sodomy, and homicide of prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to public attention...

 and at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. In 2003 already, Amnesty International had reported such abuse in a memorandum sent to Paul Bremer, then the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority
Coalition Provisional Authority
The Coalition Provisional Authority was established as a transitional government following the invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies, members of the Multi-National Force – Iraq which was formed to oust the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003...

Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...

 also protested the hooding of U.S. prisoners.

In cases of extraordinary rendition by the United States, suspects are usually hooded, apparently as part of "standard operating procedures." Sometimes, however, suspects are abused and interrogated as well. The famous photograph of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed taken not long after his capture, where he appears "dazed and glum," was taken moments after his hood was removed; he was hooded continuously throughout the first days after his arrest by commandos from the United States and Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...


Resistance to hooding is a standard element of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training undergone by elite US military.


According to a 1989 report by the Servicio Paz y Justicia Uruguay, hooding was the most common form of torture practiced in military and police centers in the 1970s.
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