THE FACTS I. Description of the applicants and presentation of their applications 1. The seven applicants are: Gerard Donnelly, age 29 years (No. 5577/72), Gerard Bradley, age 20 years (No. 5578/72), Edward Duffy, age 17 years (No 5579/72), all resident in Belfast; John Carlin, age 24 years, resident in Londonderry (No 5580/72); Francis McBride, age 26 years, of Rasharkin, County Antrim (No 5581/72); Anthony Kelly, age 20 years (No 5582/72); and Thomas Kearns, age 29 years (No 5583/72); both resident in Newry, County Down, in Northern Ireland. All seven applicants are citizens of the United Kingdom. When lodging their applications all applicants were held in custody. The applicants Donnelly, Bradley and Duffy were subsequently released, but the applicant Duffy is at present again in custody. The applicants have made their applications jointly through their legal representatives Mr C. Kevin Boyle, Barrister-at-law and a lecturer at Queen's University, Belfast and Mr Hurst Hannum, A.B., J.D. of Belfast. II. Summary of the applicants' original complaint and claim 2. The applicants stated that on various days during April and May 1972 they were taken into custody by members of the British Army or the Royal Ulster constabulary (RUC), security forces responsible to the respondent Government, and subjected to interrogation, during which time they were the victims of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention. 3. The following allegations were made with regard to the particular applicants: (a) Applicants Donnelly, Bradley and Duffy stated that they had been arrested together about midnight on 20 April 1972 by soldiers of the British Army. They had been held at a military post for eighteen hours during which time they had been separately interrogated and had been the victims of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of Special Branch Officers of the RUC and the British soldiers. Each of them had signed statements which each alleged had been made under duress. The applicants had been charged with various offenses the following day, 21 April 1972, on the basis of these statements. Each of them had been remanded to a military hospital for medical treatment for the injuries inflicted on him during interrogation. Each applicant submitted to the Commission a signed statement giving a detailed description of the ill-treatment to which he alleged that he had been subjected. All of them claimed that they had been repeatedly beaten on the head and body and kicked in the genitals. Applicant Donnelly also alleged that he had been given electric shocks in the genitals. Medical reports were submitted in respect of each applicant indicating the injuries which had been found at an examination on 22 April 1972. The reports were accompanied by photographs. (b) Applicant McBride stated that he had been arrested on the afternoon of 13 April 1972 by members of the RUC. He had been taken to various places while in custody for a period of two days, during which time he had been interrogated and had been the victim of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of officers of the RUC. The applicant had signed a statement which he alleged he made under duress and had been charged with an offence on the basis of this statement on 13 April 1972. The applicant submitted to the Commission a signed statement describing how he had been repeatedly beaten. He also stated that he had been given tea to drink which made him feel dizzy. (c) Applicant Carlin stated that he had been arrested on the evening of 25 April 1972 by members of the RUC. He had been taken to various places while in custody for a period of three days and during this time he had been interrogated and had been the victim of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of members of the RUC. This applicant alleged that he had been made to sign a statement under duress that he had not been ill-treated by the police. He had refused to sign other statements implicating him in offenses. In a statement the applicant described the alleged ill-treatment which included beatings and kicking. He also submitted a report on a medical examination carried out on 2 May 1972. (d) Applicant Kelly stated that he had been arrested on the evening of 29 April 1972 by soldiers of the British Army. He had been beaten by the soldiers, then taken to a police station and had been in custody for a period of two days, during which time he had been interrogated and had been the victim of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of officers of the RUC. This applicant reported suffering hallucinations while in custody and submitted medical evidence in support which indicated that drugs had been administered to him with the purpose of having him admit to offenses. He had signed a statement which he alleged had been made under duress. The applicant had been charged with an offence on the basis of this statement on 1 May 1972. This applicant submitted a signed statement describing the alleged ill-treatment and a report of medical examinations carried out on 1 and 4 May 1972. (e) The allegations in respect of the applicant Kearns were made in similar terms to those used with regard to Kelly. No personal statement was submitted in respect of this applicant. A medical report was filed concerning the results of a medical examination carried out on 1 May 1972. The report concluded that the applicant had been given amphetamines deliberately to cause an anxiety state. 4. The seven applicants jointly submitted that the "practices and procedures to which they and each of them were subjected are in flagrant breach of Article 1 and Article 3 of the said Convention and constitute part of a systematic administrative pattern which permits and encourages brutality and is incompatible with the said Convention". 5. In support of their allegations the applicants submitted a number of documents including copies of the Compton and Parker Reports and a report published in March 1972 by Amnesty International. In particular, the applicants referred to 157 specific cases of alleged ill-treatment. These cases wee taken from the following sources: the Compton and Amnesty reports, a booklet prepared by the Association for Legal Justice in Northern Ireland entitled "The Mailed Fist", a booklet prepared by Father Denis Faul and Father Raymond Murray entitled "British Army and Special Branch RUC Brutalities", statements taken by the Association for Legal Justice and from certain newspaper reports. The applicants also made extensive arguments intended to show that the applications should not be rejected for failure to satisfy the rule of exhaustion of domestic remedies in Article 26 of the Convention. 6. The applicants asked the Commission, inter alia, to "Commence as soon as possible a full investigation of the allegations made in the present application as well as of the system of interrogation currently employed by security forces under the control of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland, with the purpose of determining whether or not such specific acts and administrative practices are incompatible with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms." In addition, the applicants requested that the Convention should issue a temporary injunction. However, in view of the Commission's decision of 14 July 1972 to the effect that it did not have the power, consistent with its functions under the Convention, to meet this request, the applicants do not pursue this request and have made no further observations in this respect. III. Submissions of the parties A. As to the facts and relevant provisions of United Kingdom law 7. In their written observations and oral submissions on admissibility the respondent Government strongly denied that there had been in Northern Ireland, at any time relevant to these applications, any administrative practice of ill-treatment or other conduct which might contravene Article 3 of the Convention or any official tolerance of such conduct. The respondent Government further stated that they did not admit that the applicants had been treated in the manner alleged or that they had been treated in any way amounting to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. 8. As regards the facts which the Government considered relevant to admissibility, it was submitted as follows: (a) The applicants Bradley, Duffy and Donnelly were arrested on 21 April 1972; they were subsequently charged with causing an explosion on 13 November 1971, and Duffy and Donnelly were also charged with causing a further explosion on 30 March 1972. The three applicants appeared at Belfast Custody Court on 22 April 1972. At Belfast Magistrates Court, on 6 June 1972, no evidence was offered against the applicants and they were released from custody. On 16 May 1972 (while they were still in custody) the three applicants commenced proceedings against the Crown, the Chief Constable and a member of the RUC by issuing writs of summons. They claimed damages for personal injuries and loss sustained by them by reason of assault and battery and trespass. None of the applicants had taken any further step to pursue these actions. At the hearing on 22 April 1972, complaints were made that the applicants had been subjected to ill-treatment whilst they were in custody; these were investigated under Sec 13 of the Police Act (Northern Ireland) 1970. As a result of these investigations, two Detective Constables were charged with causing grievous bodily harm to the applicants. In addition a soldier was charged with causing actual bodily harm to Duffy. The case against them was tried before the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and a jury. On 16 March 1973 the jury returned verdicts of not guilty and all three defendants were acquitted. (b) The applicant McBride was arrested on 13 April 1972 and was subsequently charged with murder. He was remanded in custody and returned for trial in October 1972 on charges of the murder of a woman, the attempted murder of a police constable and offenses under the Explosive Substances Act. At the trial the applicant pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. On 28 April 1972 complaints were received concerning allegations of ill-treatment whilst he was in custody. These complaints were currently under investigation. (c) The applicants Kelly and Kearns were arrested on 29 April 1972 and were both charged with conspiracy to murder and illegal possession of firearms. Both were remanded in custody, and were returned for trial for the October assizes. At their first trial the jury failed to reach an agreement. When they were again put on trial, the applicants pleaded guilty to certain offenses. On 8 May 1972 complaints were received concerning allegations by them of ill-treatment while they were in custody. These complaints were currently under investigation. 9. As regards the relevant provisions of United Kingdom law the respondent Government first submitted that a person who claimed that he had been ill-treated while in custody might, under the common law, bring an action for damages, which, as a general rule, would be an action for assault (this expression being used here to include battery), against the person or persons allegedly responsible for the assault. In certain circumstances an action for negligence might be available where an action for assault would not lie. The Crown was vicariously liable, by virtue of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947, in respect of tortious acts of its servants committed in the course of their duties. Thus, if a person was ill-treated by a Crown servant (including a soldier), he had a right of action either against the soldier allegedly responsible or against the Crown. A right of action lay against the Crown even where it was not possible to identify an individual soldier with sufficient precision to enable proceedings to be instituted against him. When it was alleged that ill-treatment or injury had been caused by a police officer (ie a member of the RUC), the Chief Constable of the RUC might be sued under Section 14 of the Police Act (Northern Ireland) 1970, which provided that proceedings might be brought against the Chief Constable in respect of torts committed by members of the police force in the exercise, or purported exercise, of their functions. An assault might also constitute a criminal offence for which an alleged wrongdoer might be prosecuted either at the instance of the Crown or at that of an injured party, for a variety of offenses depending on the seriousness of the assault. Moreover, a person who sustained an injury which was directly attributable to a criminal offence, might bring an action in a county court for compensation under the Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) Act (Northern Ireland) 1968. It was not necessary to identify the wrongdoer provided it appeared on the balance of probabilities that the injury resulted from a criminal act, nor was it necessary for the persons responsible for the injury to have been prosecuted for a criminal offence in respect of it. The court had jurisdiction to award compensation whatever the amount claimed. 10. Where a complaint was made by a member of the public against a member of the police force, the Chief Constable of the RUC was required, by Section 13 of the Police Act (Northern Ireland) 1970, forthwith to record the complaint and cause it to be investigated. Where a complaint was made against a member of the armed forces (which amounted to an allegation of a criminal offence) involving a civilian, it was the responsibility of the civil authorities, not the army authorities, to investigate the complaint and the Director of Public Prosecutions decided what legal action, if any, was required. But a Commanding Officer might impose a disciplinary penalty, should he consider that a soldier's misbehaviour, although not amounting to a criminal offence, had been a breach of army discipline. 11. By virtue of the rules made under the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953, an untried prisoner (by which term was meant a person detained pending trial) should, at his request, be allowed to see his legal adviser. Such visits should not be in the hearing of any officer or other person nor, so far as was consistent with security and the interests of justice, in the sight of any such person, unless the prisoner or his legal adviser so desired. Untried prisoners might commence legal proceedings after obtaining the permission of the Governor of the prison; such permission was invariably given if the reasons for commencing legal proceedings were themselves given. Similar arrangements applied in the case of internees and detainees. 12. In their submissions the applicants did not dispute the Government's above submissions. They pointed out, however, that, while certain members of the security forces had been prosecuted as a result of complaints made by the applicants Bradley, Duffy and Donnelly, complaints of the other applicants were described as being merely under investigation. The applicants also emphasised that the question whether any particular applicant was charged or convicted of any particular offence had no bearing on the substantive allegations in a complaint under Article 3 of the Convention. B. As to the admissibility of the applications - Questions under Article 27 (1) and (2) 13. In their written observations the respondent Government referred to the statement in the original application that the applicants were bringing the applications "on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated". Furthermore, the Government stated that the application was directed exclusively to questions of compatibility with the Convention of an alleged administrative practice. The respondent Government submitted that an application under Article 25 of such a nature and with such an object was inadmissible under Article 27. In particular, they submitted that, insofar as the application purported to be made in respect of persons other than the seven named applicants, it was incompatible with the Convention within the meaning of Article 27 (2); it was also anonymous within the meaning of Article 27 (1) (a) as it was made otherwise than by or on behalf of a person claiming to be a victim of a violation of the Convention. In addition, since the application apparently complained exclusively of alleged general practices and sought an investigation to the compatibility of such practices, the application, being an individual application, was as a whole incompatible with the Convention within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph (2). In support of this submission the Government referred to the Commission's case-law according to which the Commission was not competent to examine in abstracto the question whether domestic legislation was incompatible with the Convention, but could only examine the compatibility of such legislation as it affected the applicant. Reference was also made to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the De Becker Case. The Government argued that this case-law was equally applicable to an application which sought to obtain a determination of the compatibility of certain alleged practices. 14. At the hearing these submissions were developed further on behalf of the Government. It was then submitted that the applicants were, in fact, putting two separate claims before the Commission. The first claim was for a determination whether their individual rights under Article 3 of the Convention had been separately violated. Subject to the conditions in Article 26, such a claim was compatible with the Convention. The second claim was a request for a determination whether there had been a series of acts allegedly forming an administrative practice. In the Government's submission, the latter claim was incompatible with the provisions of the Convention in an application under Article 25. The Commission had no competence to examine such a claim regardless of the question whether it was made alone or together with a claim that individual rights had been violated. The Government submitted that it was clear, both from the text of the Convention itself and from the Commission's and the Court's case-law, that an individual could not raise before the Commission the question of the compatibility with the Convention of legislation or an administrative practice in general. Such a general claim could only be considered in an application under Article 24 of the Convention. In an application under Article 25 the Commission was only competent to examine the compatibility of legislation insofar as it had actually impinged on the applicant. If no application of a statute was involved, an individual could only complain of a particular action which affected him and the Commission had no power to consider whether there were other actions which might form an administrative practice. 15. If, notwithstanding the above submissions, consideration were to be given to the issue of compatibility raised in the application, the Government submitted in their written observations that this application was in terms and essence the same as a matter which was already under examination by the Commission in application No 5310/71 (the Government of Ireland v. the Government of the United Kingdom). This followed from the fact that application No 5310/71 had been declared admissible on 1 October 1972, inter alia, insofar as it related to "the allegation that the treatment of persons in custody, in particular the methods of interrogation of such persons constitutes an administrative practice in breach of Article 3 of the Convention" (Collection of Decisions, Vol. 41, pp. 3, 91). Having regard to the applicants' observations at the hearing the Government in their final submissions on this point asked the Commission to reject the application in accordance with Article 27 (1) (b) of the Convention insofar as the applicants were claiming that the methods of interrogation presently used in Northern Ireland, since the abandonment of the five interrogation techniques referred to in the Compton Report, constituted an administrative practice which was incompatible with the Convention. 16. As regards the applicants' reference to Article 1 of the Convention, the Government submitted in their written observations that no question on the merits could arise in respect of an allegation of a contravention of Article 1 separate from an allegation of a contravention of one of the rights and freedoms defined in Section I in the Convention. The Commission should therefore reject any such complaint on the grounds that it was incompatible with the Convention within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph (2). At the hearing the Government's representative took note of the fact that the applicants had renounced their intention to make a separate claim under Article 1 of the Convention. 17. In their written observations, the applicants denied that their application was anonymous and thus inadmissible under Article 27 (1) (a). It had been brought under Article 25 of the Convention by seven named individuals and evidence had been submitted on behalf of each of them that he was a victim of a violation of Article 3. The references to "persons similarly situated" in the original application primarily concerned the request for a temporary injunction pending a full hearing of the allegations. 18. The applicants also denied that they were requesting the Commission to examine in abstracto an administrative practice alleged to be incompatible with the Convention. Their claim was based on personal experiences and they had requested a decision that they had been subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention. In addition to such a determination of a violation the applicants sought to have the Commission protect them from further abuse of their rights by requiring that such practices in breach of the Convention be stopped. In order to ensure this protection the Commission should require the respondent Government to satisfy it that domestic law no longer facilitated or permitted such practices. The applicants envisaged particularly powers under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922 which allowed for arrest and detention for interrogation in depth for indefinite periods. The applicants argued that they were fully entitled to request from the Commission the relief set forth in paragraph 6 above. 19. The applicants further denied that their application was in terms and essence the same as a matter before the Commission. In particular, their application was submitted under Article 25 whereas application No 5310/71 was submitted under Article 24. The applicants had no connection, for the purpose of these proceedings, with the Government which had initiated the inter-State application, nor did they have any control in respect of that application which might be abandoned or settled pursuant to Article 28 of the Convention. The applicants were seeking individual remedies in their respective cases of their claim that they had been victims of a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. Furthermore, the applicants argued that the present application was not the same as a matter "which has already been examined" by the Commission, neither at the date of the introduction of the application, nor at the date of the submission of their observations. The applicants also pointed out that it was clear from the applicant Government's submissions in the inter-State case that they were not seeking relief in the name of any individual whereas the present application was seeking such relief. 20. The applicants accepted that, under the Commission's case-law, Article 1 did not create a separate enforceable right, but they argued that it did reinforce the observations of the respondent Government under Article 3 and that it underlined the competence of the Commission to receive complaints of denials or violations of rights under Article 3. 21. In their submissions at the hearing the applicants' representatives maintained the above submissions. They denied that they were raising, as had been submitted by the respondent Government, two separate and distinct issues before the Commission, namely the question of violation of the applicants' individual rights and an in abstracto or general claim. The applicants agreed that an individual was not competent to raise in abstracto a general issue before the Commission. However, the applicants sought to put in issue the existence of an administrative practice of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment only in relation to their claim that the direct application to each of them of this practice had violated their rights under Article 3 of the Convention. In this connection the applicants also referred to the Commission's decision on admissibility of 16 December 1972 of application No 5155/71 (Kjeldsen v. Denmark) where a complaint concerning legislation on compulsory sex education had been declared admissible although the legislation had not yet been applied to the particular applicants or their daughter. In the applicants' view this was, in a technical sense, a complaint about a future violation, and they argued that in this respect no distinction should be made between legislation and administrative practices. The applicants further argued that the competence of a State Party to the Convention to raise an issue of the compatibility of legislative measures and administrative practices could not detract from the power of an individual applicant under Article 25 to raise the issue of an administrative practice which directly affected him as a victim. The distinction under the Convention between the powers of a State and an individual would still be maintained because an individual application was subject to the requirements under Article 25 and Article 27. - Questions under Article 26 Submissions of the respondent Government 22. If the application were considered as a claim of a violation of the Convention by each of the seven individual applicants in respect of treatment he allegedly suffered himself, the respondent Government submitted in their written and oral observations that the application was inadmissible because each of the applicants had failed to exhaust the remedies available to him under domestic law. It was further submitted that the remedies described under Section IV A above were adequate and sufficient remedies in respect of the treatment of which the applicants complained and that these remedies were freely available to each applicant. Reference was made to the Commission's case-law according to which proceedings for damages for assault had been considered an effective and sufficient remedy in respect of allegations under Article 3 regarding ill-treatment by the police (eg application No 4225/69, Collection of Decisions, Vol.33, p. 34). 23. Moreover, such remedies had been and were being pursued against the Crown, the RUC and other authorities in Northern Ireland, including claims of the kind made by the applicants. In particular, Bradley, Duffy and Donnelly had commenced such proceedings and three persons had been prosecuted for criminal offenses arising out of the complaints by these three applicants. 24. The main written submissions by the respondent Government in reply to the applicants' arguments that domestic remedies were not effective or adequate may be summarised as follows: - remedies were available against the Crown and the Chief Constable of the RUC, even if the actual assailants were unknown to the applicant, and the position was therefore different from the one referred to in the Second Cyprus Case which had been invoked by the applicants (Yearbook, Vol. 2, p. 186); - the argument that any remedy for damages would not have any preventive effect and could not protect individuals from future ill-treatment was not relevant in an application under Article 25 of the Convention as an applicant was required to exhaust the remedies available to him in respect of the precise violation alleged; - the argument that, because of the alleged lack of interrogation guidelines, the respondent Government's practices could not be adequately questioned or examined was equally irrelevant in a claim under Article 25. 25. The Government maintained that the findings of the Commission in the decisions on admissibility in the First Cyprus Case (Yearbook, Vol. 2, pp. 182, 284) and the First Greek Case that "the rule requiring the exhaustion of domestic remedies does not apply where an application raises, as a general issue, the compatibility with the Convention of 'legislative measures and administrative practices'" (Yearbook, Vol. 11, pp. 730, 770) was inapplicable to an application under Article 25. This rule was only excluded in an application raising a general issue which the Commission examined distinct from its effect on individuals. It was not open to an applicant under Article 25 to prefer a claim of such a nature and with such an object. 26. The Government accepted that an alleged administrative practice could be considered by the Commission in relation to the effectiveness of domestic remedies. However, such a practice could only be relevant to the extent it was established that the particular practice impeded the effectiveness of the particular remedy open to the applicant. In the Government's view none of the applicants had shown that, as a result of any practice as to the conduct of interrogation, he had been impeded in his access to the domestic remedies available. The applicant's contention that Article 26 did not apply to this application was therefore misconceived and ill-founded. 27. If the Commission nonetheless were to consider the allegations of an administrative practice, the Government submitted that the applicants had not discharged the burden of proving the existence, at any time relevant to the application, of any such practice. The Government denied that there was or had been at any relevant time such a practice of ill-treatment or other conduct which might contravene Article 3 or, in particular, that there was any official tolerance of any ill-treatment or conduct. Furthermore: - as announced by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on 2 March 1972, the five techniques used as an aid to interrogation examined by the Compton and Parker Committees had been discontinued. It was denied that any of these techniques violated Article 3. No other techniques had been authorised. The applicants' suggestion that "beating, torture, humiliation" had been or were authorised was untrue. Interrogation in depth without the use of the abandoned techniques continued but meant only extensive and searching questioning of suspects; - to guard against ill-treatment during interrogation the Attorney General had issued instructions that interrogation must only be conducted in accordance with the law and he had warned the security forces that, if there was evidence of assault or intimidation, those responsible would be prosecuted; - whenever complaints had been made that the security forces had acted in a way which might be said to contravene Article 3 of the Convention, the Government had acted promptly to investigate the complaints. 28. At the hearing the respondent Government developed these arguments in greater detail in the light of the applicants' written and oral submissions. As regards the applicants' argument that Article 26 of the Convention did not apply to the present applications because they raised an issue of an administrative practice, the Government now also referred to the Commission's decisions on the admissibility of the Second Greek Case (Yearbook, Vol. 3, pp. 122, 132) and the Ireland v. the United Kingdom Case (Collection of Decisions, Vol. 41, pp. 3, 84). In the Government's view it was clear from these decisions that the exception to Article 26 of the Convention invoked by the applicants could not be applied to an application under Article 25, in which no general issue of compatibility could be raised. Moreover, the Commission had held in the latter decision that, even in an application under Article 24 where such a general issue could be raised, the domestic remedies' rule applied where the State also complained of the violation of the rights of individuals. It must follow a fortiori that, in an Article 25 application, in which an applicant was only entitled to complain of a violation of his individual rights, his complaint could only be admitted if he had exhausted domestic remedies. 29. The Government maintained that adequate and effective remedies were available and had not been exhausted by any of the applicants. The Government then replied to the various arguments made by the applicants to show that there were no such remedies. It was first recalled that remedies were available against the Crown or the Chief Constable of the RUC even if the individual assailant could not be identified. Moreover, the Commission had previously held that in general an action for damages was a sufficient remedy for physical assault. The Government then referred to the applicants' argument that an award for compensation was not a remedy as they were not seeking compensation but protection for themselves and others from brutality which they thought they might suffer in the future. The answer to this argument was that Article 25 only entitled an applicant to complain of violations of which he was a victim and gave him no right to be protected from something which had not yet happened. The Government further maintained that the absence of interrogation guidelines to which the applicants had referred was irrelevant to the question of remedies. Such guidelines could only direct soldiers or policemen to interrogate people in accordance with the law and could not affect the right of action for assault or battery. It was true that, as stated by the applicants, "a person's international human rights were not justiciable under internal British law". However, although the acts of which the applicants complained might well infringe international human rights, they would also constitute an infringement of rights under domestic law for which there was a domestic remedy. It could not affect the effectiveness of the remedy if the domestic law placed the act in the category of acts infringing domestic law rather than acts infringing international law. It was also true that the existence of legislation or administrative practice incompatible with the Convention could not be raised before a Court in the United Kingdom. This did not, however, mean that no effective remedy was available for a violation of rights of which the applicants were entitled to complain to the Commission, since under Article 25 individuals could not complain of the compatibility of an administrative practice in general. Their right under Article 3 of the Convention was a right not to be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment and the Government repeated that, if there was a violation of this right, a domestic remedy was available. 30. The Government also denied that there was any evidence of an administrative practice in Northern Ireland which would prevent the effective pursuit of domestic remedies. In this connection, the Government recalled that the Commission had held in the Ireland v. the United Kingdom case that an applicant who sought to exclude the application of the domestic remedies' rule on the ground of the existence of an administrative practice was required to establish the existence of such practice by means of substantial evidence. (Collection of Decisions, Vol. 41, pp. 3, 85). In the Government's submission the applicants had produced no substantial evidence to show that they were being deterred from pursuing the remedies available to them by reason of harassment by the security forces or of fear of continuing incarceration. In fact such remedies were being pursued by individuals against agents of the respondent Government. In this connection, the Government submitted information as to proceedings taken during the period between 9 August 1971 (when internment was introduced) and the present day. The figure submitted showed, inter alia that civil actions for maltreatment and false arrest and imprisonment and been brought by 152 persons. Of these cases 31 had already been settled or decided and 40 cases had been commenced while the plaintiff was in custody. Legal aid had been granted in 16 cases. There had also been 83 actions alleging false arrest and imprisonment. Of these seven had been settled or decided and seven commenced while the plaintiff was in custody. As regards prosecutions against members of the security forces for assault or other offenses of a similar nature, 30 cases had been decided. Of these eight had resulted in convictions: four on indictment (ie tried before a judge and jury) and four in the magistrate's court (sitting without a jury). In 12 cases the defendants had pleaded guilty and in 10 cases the defendants had been acquitted. There were 17 further cases pending. In 49 cases (and possibly in a few more recent cases) the Director of Public Prosecutions had directed that no prosecutions should be brought. In this context the Government also gave information as to the sentences imposed. 31. The Government rejected the applicants' suggestion that there had been any official tolerance of maltreatment such as alleged and they again referred to the instructions issued by the Attorney General as to the way persons in custody should be treated. Moreover, the above-mentioned prosecutions against members of the security forces showed that there was no such tolerance on the part of the United Kingdom authorities. The Government also rejected the suggestions that the prosecution against the three members of the security forces suspected of assault upon the applicants Donnelly, Bradley and Duffy had not been pressed with due vigour. The fact was that these persons had been properly tried according to the regular course of criminal procedure and acquitted by the jury. It was true that Mr Duffy had been arrested in the course of the trial after he had given his evidence-in-chief. The reason was, however, that Mr Duffy was suspected of having abducted two men at gunpoint in February 1973. At the time of the trial, the police had been unable to find Mr Duffy and they were afraid that he would not return the next day to complete his evidence. 32. The Government also commented on the particular details given by the applicants in support of their allegations that they were harassed or had been frightened of what would happen to them if they pursued any remedies. In fact, MM. Donnelly, Bradley and Duffy had commenced proceedings which they, in their own submission, had not yet pursued only because they were awaiting the outcome of the trial. Particulars of alleged harassment had only been given with regard to these three applicants. The Government were unable to agree with certain of these allegations. In particular as regards Mr Duffy, the Government pointed out that he had been arrested and convicted of certain offenses in August 1972 and that he was now awaiting trial on more serious charges. 33. In reply to the applicants' suggestions that the Commission should, if necessary, join the question of exhaustion of domestic remedies to the merits of the application, the respondent Government submitted that the situation in the present case was unlike the situation in previous cases where the Commission had adopted such a course. In the previous cases the issue under Article 26 of the Convention had been practically identical with one of the substantive issued raised by the applicants. The Government claimed that there was no such connection in the present case and that, if the case were to proceed to an examination of the merits, there would no longer be any issue of an administrative practice. Moreover, the Government asked the Commission, bearing in mind the circumstances out of which this case arose, to hesitate before taking a course which might involve the parties in an investigation of the merits which in the ultimate issue would prove to be unwarranted. Submissions of the applicants 34. In their written observations the applicants denied that their application was inadmissible on the ground that they had failed to exhaust the domestic remedies available to them. In the first place, the applicants argued that the exception to the domestic remedies's rule relating to administrative practices in the context of Article 3, elaborated by the Commission in the First Cyprus and First Greek Cases, was not limited to applications under Article 24. The Commission might, in an application by an individual, examine the existence of "administrative practices" as part of the determination of whether the applicant's rights had been denied him. In its discretion, the Commission might choose to postpone a decision on this point until the merits. 35. The applicants submitted that, provided they were victims of violations of Article 3 and claimed that the violation resulted directly from the administrative practice complained of, there was no barrier to prevent them putting in issue the existence of an administrative pattern as part of their application. The applicants therefore asserted that, given the existence of an administrative pattern of torture and brutality which allegedly existed in Northern Ireland and under the jurisprudence of the Cyprus and Greek cases, Article 26 was inapplicable and thus no barrier to their application. 36. In the alternative, should the Commission take the view that the decision in the Cyprus and Greek cases was not applicable to the applications under Article 25 of the Convention, the applicants urged that the arguments which led to the creation of the exception were equally valid in an application under Article 25. It was clear that, whether the complaint was an individual or a State, no adequate and effective domestic remedy could exist where there was a continuing administrative pattern of violation of the Convention. The situation complained of remained the same, whether the complainant was an individual or a State Party to the Convention and whether or not an individual complainant might later be financially compensated for his physical injuries. The emphasis given to the inviolability of Article 3 rights in the Convention lead to the conclusion that the broadest possible scope must be given to the Commission to examine alleged violations of these fundamental rights. 37. In the further alternative, should the Commission accept the respondent Government's argument that an administrative pattern must be shown to affect the obligation regarding domestic remedies open to the individual applicants, the applicants submitted that such had in fact been the case. According to the respondent Government's own figures in their written observations, half of the formal complaints alleging physical ill-treatment by security forces had not been pursued. It was evident that the existence of a widespread pattern of torture and brutality would necessarily intimidate those who might wish to complain about the treatment they had received. The situation in Northern Ireland at the time of this application, and at present, remained one where emergency measures had been invoked, where over 20,000 members of the British Army were present, and where powers of detention without trial or under special trial procedures were still operative. All of the circumstances created an atmosphere where complainants must be assumed to have serious hesitation in pursuing any action against the Government. In the context of the present application, four of the applicants had been in continuous custody throughout all the stages of the application. The three applicants not in such custody, particularly Mr Duffy, had complained of continuing harassment by the security forces. In the applicants' submission it was very possible that this harassment and the continuing incarceration of the other four applicants was intended as a warning to others who might wish to pursue legal remedies against agents of the respondent Government. 38. In the future alternative, the applicants submitted that, in the light of the remedy which they sought of the Commission, no adequate or effective domestic relief existed. 39. The applicants submitted that Article 3 of the Convention was by its nature of special concern to the Commission. Its prohibition was absolute and it could not be derogated from in any circumstances. The physical and psychological scars of torture, brutality, and humiliation were not easily erased, nor were they confined only to those who had themselves undergone physical mistreatment. Where torture was widespread, it would have a chilling effect on all members of society, and it would inhibit the full exercise of political rights as well as violate the rights of those actually brutalised. If the applicants' experiences had been isolated cases of security forces' brutality without the tacit approval of higher officials, the applicants might be prepared to accept the argument that the existence of domestic legislation would be adequate to protect their rights. Where it was alleged, however, that the experiences of the applicants were merely one part of a larger pattern of brutality and torture directed against a political minority, the Government responsible for such activities should not be allowed to continue to violate Article 3 of the Convention and at the same time argue that, as long as compensation was available, such violations could not be examined by the Commission. While three prosecutions had been initiated by the respondent Government this did not touch the question of the encouragement or toleration of brutality that must have existed at higher levels in the chain of command. 40. Specific acts of torture might be illegal under the domestic law of assault, for example, but the question of whether or not a person's international human rights had been violated was not justiciable under internal British law. The existence of legislation or an administrative practice incompatible with the Convention could not be raised in the courts of the United Kingdom. 41. While it was true that such a situation might be the subject of complaint and referred to the Commission through an inter-State application, the rights of an individual and the protection provided by the Convention could not be made to depend solely on the good offices of another nation. The applicants were themselves victims of the administrative pattern or brutality and torture about which they were complaining. Due to the special status of Article 3 in the scheme of the Convention and due to the difficulties referred to above in obtaining adequate relief for a widespread pattern of violation, they submitted that it was proper, and entirely compatible with the provisions of the Convention, for them to seek a determination by the Commission of the question whether or not such acts and administrative practices violated Article 3 of the Convention, as well as a determination of the question whether their individual rights were violated as a result of treatment meted out to them in furtherance of such administrative practice. In their view only such relief would provide the applicants with an adequate and effective remedy. 42. At the hearing the applicants' representatives maintained these submissions. The applicants claimed that, because they were victims of violations of Article 3 of the Convention and because the injuries inflicted on them in breach of that Article took place within a system of interrogation and officially tolerated torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, they were not bound to exhaust domestic remedies before seeking relief before the Commission. The applicants argued that they suffered their injuries as part of a systematic, repeated and official interrogation procedure known as interrogation in depth, whereby acts of physical beatings, psychological intimidation and sensory deprivation through the administration of drugs were either officially authorised, condoned or tolerated at various levels in the chain of command. 43. The applicants admitted that, in normal circumstances, an isolated incident of police brutality could only be brought before the Commission where the domestic remedies had been exhausted. However, the situation was entirely different where, as in the present case, police officers and security forces were guilty of systematic brutality as part of a policy of extracting information or obtaining confessions in order to achieve convictions; furthermore, this had to be seen against the background of an official policy which included the mass arrest of political suspects and the exercise of emergency powers of arrest allowing unlimited detention and interrogation. The applicants alleged that the circumstances of their arrest and interrogation showed several common features. In particular, they claimed that the purpose of their interrogation and treatment was to obtain a confession. With the exception of Mr Carlin, they all signed statements which they later repudiated as having been obtained as a result of physical or psychological pressure. In support of their allegation that their ill-treatment formed part of an administrative pattern the applicants referred to the statements and other evidence filed with their application. In their view this evidence established the existence of an administrative pattern by showing both a repetition of acts and official tolerance of such acts. 44. The applicants maintained that the exception to the domestic remedies' rule in applications in respect of legislative measures and administrative practices applied to applications under Article 25 of the Convention as well as to those under Article 24 of the Convention. In the applicants' opinion there was no support in the Commission's case-law for the contention that this exception should be confined to applications under Article 24, although it was true that the Commission had not previously held that it applied also to an Article 25 application. 45. In terms of relief the applicants sought from the Commission that it both enquired into the administrative practice alleged and declared that their experiences were violations of Article 3. Further, they sought from the Commission such protection as would ensure that their rights could be protected in the future from violation which would in fact continue if the administrative practice alleged did not cease. The process of providing such relief made it necessary for the Commission to consider the compatibility with the Convention of the administrative practices relating to interrogation in Northern Ireland. It might be objected that, to hold that Article 26 did not apply to an application under Article 25 where the individual alleged that he was the victim of an administrative practice, would render Article 26 an ineffective first barrier to the Commission's jurisdiction and expose it to a flood of claims from people who had not exhausted domestic remedies. However, the combined effect of the normal application of Article 26, of the requirements of Article 25 and the powers given to the Commission to reject applications under Article 27 were powerful controls available to the Commission on claims brought under Article 25. To hold that the exception to Article 26 developed in inter-State cases also applied to applications under Article 25 would not in any way affect the intent and purposes of the limitations and conditions with regard to the right of individual petition. Moreover, to hold that the exception did not apply would run counter to the purpose of the Convention which was to provide full protection not to States but to individuals. In the applicants' submission, to hold that Article 26 applied differently to States and individuals would be contrary to normal rules of interpretation of treaties generally and found no support in the decisions of the Convention, the language of the Convention or the travaux préparatoires to it. 46. In this connection, the applicants also referred to the decision on admissibility in the Ireland v United Kingdom case (Collection of Decisions, Vol. 41, pp. 3, 86) where the existence of an administrative practice with regard to the interrogation techniques practised by the security forces in Northern Ireland had been considered. In that case the Commission held that the so-called Compton techniques amounted to an administrative practice. In the applicants' submission it would be unreasonable if such an administrative pattern could not be questioned by an individual applicant. 47. As regards the burden of proof, the applicants submitted that no such burden rested on them at the admissibility stage with respect to their claim that they personally were victims of violations of the Convention. It was true, however, that the Commission's case-law required, in relation to Article 26, the existence of legislative measures or an administrative practice to be shown by substantial evidence. The applicants argued that, where under Article 25 such a measure or practice was alleged by an individual, the burden of proof ought more properly to be on a lower level, namely, in the presentation of a prima facie case. However, the applicants claimed that they had, in any event, produced such substantial evidence as was required. 48. In their oral submissions the applicants' representatives also developed the applicants' arguments that, even if Article 26 could not be excluded on the above ground, domestic remedies were not adequate and effective in the circumstances of this case. It was submitted that the concept of adequacy meant that there must not only be some remedy available to the applicants, but also an appropriate remedy which was capable of redressing their specific grievances. In order to judge the appropriateness it was necessary to examine the nature of the applicants' claim and whether the relief requested was available to them. The applicants argued that they were entitled to seek relief by way of declaration that they had been subjected to treatment in breach of Article 3 as part of and administrative practice. However, the only remedies indicated by the respondent Government were directed either to compensation to the victims for their injuries or to the prosecution of those responsible for causing the injuries. The applicants submitted that criminal prosecution could not provide an adequate remedy because the applicants had no control over the initiation of such proceedings and any private prosecution might be quashed by the Public Prosecutor. Moreover, the inherent difficulties of identification and proof in such criminal prosecutions would render them a rather haphazard method at best. In this connection, the applicants also referred to the alleged official toleration of violations of Article 3 of the Convention at a relatively high level of administration and to the collaboration in concealment of such violations at a lower level in the security forces. 49. As regards compensation, the applicants conceded that the civil actions referred to by the respondent Government would constitute adequate remedies for isolated cases of police brutality. However, in the present case there were consistent, widespread acts of brutality and torture, and merely awarding damages to a few individuals would have no ameliorative effect on the practice itself. 50. With regard to the effectiveness of the remedies concerned, the applicants claimed that the existence of the administrative practice of which they had offered substantial evidence was the primary factor in rendering any theoretically available remedy ineffective in Northern Ireland. In the prevailing circumstances many individuals did not have the courage to pursue legal remedies when they knew that they were liable to be harassed, probably arrested, and possibly beaten as a result. In this context the applicants described what they considered to be the pattern of intimidation followed by the security forces. They also referred to the 157 cases of alleged ill-treatment dealt with in the statements and other evidence filed with their application. The applicants also referred to certain more recent incidents, one of which involved the arrest by the army of Mr Hannum and an English journalist on the totally unfounded suspicion of being members of the IRA. Further reference was made to incidents, subsequent to the introduction of these applications, concerning the applicants Donnelly, Bradley and Duffy, ie the only applicants not to have been in continuous custody during this period. In particular, Mr Bradley's home has been raided on numerous occasions and finally rendered uninhabitable by the army in November 1972. All three applicants had been arrested at least once during the period June 1972 - March 1973. Mr Duffy had been arrested four times and Mr Donnelly had been photographed constantly by the security forces and forced to move to the Republic of Ireland. The applicants claimed that their experiences were typical of those suffered by many who made allegations of ill-treatment against the security forces. 51. The applicants also stressed that the lack of co-operation by members of the security forces in civil or criminal proceedings had been judicially noted. While it was true that a few soldiers had been prosecuted for assault in Northern Ireland, there had been a lack of enthusiasm in convicting and imposing realistic sentences on those who participated in the continuing violations of Article 3. With regard to the figures regarding legal proceedings presented at the hearing by the respondent Government, the applicants observed that the number of prosecutions had been extremely small in relation to the number of allegations made. As to the civil actions only 31 cases out of 152 had been decided. Of these 31 cases 29 had been settled out of court and this again raised the question whether it was possible for the Government to escape examination of its practices by simply paying those whom they had ill-treated. Moreover, the number of actions filed seemed in itself to indicate the existence of a pattern. According to the applicants there was no let-up in complaints being filed and this showed that these figures were irrelevant as regards the stopping of the administrative practice alleged. 52. The applicants commented in detail on the proceedings brought against three members of the security forces on charges of having assaulted the applicants Donnelly, Bradley and Duffy. The applicants maintained that this trial could not be cited as an example of vigorous prosecution or the efficiency of judicial remedies generally. It also evidenced the conspiracy of silence or concealment that existed among the security forces when an issue of this kind was raised. Moreover, as a result of the jury system in Northern Ireland, where only those who own property are entitled to sit on the jury panel, the jury was primarily, if not entirely, Loyalist or Protestant in composition. The applicants claimed that Loyalists and Protestants tended to be prejudiced against suspected terrorists and in favour of the security forces. Finally, the applicants maintained that the fact that Mr Duffy was arrested in the middle of the trial and appeared the next day in the custody of four police officers to complete his evidence, was an extremely prejudicial action which had no reasonable foundation. 53. The applicants stated that the civil proceedings instituted by MM Donnelly, Bradley and Duffy had not been pursued because they wanted to await the outcome of the criminal proceedings against the members of the security forces who had been prosecuted. As regards the other applicants it was admitted that there was no legal impediment to civil proceedings, but these applicants had taken the view that to bring a civil action would in fact provide a hopeless and ineffective remedy. Moreover, MM Kelly and Kearns had stated that they did not wish to pursue any civil proceedings until they were released from prison because they believed that such action would prejudice their chances for parole. THE LAW 1. The applicants have alleged that, following their arrest by the security forces in Northern Ireland, they were victims of violations of Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention, and that the injuries so suffered by them were part of an administrative practice authorising or condoning torture or degrading or inhuman treatment within the meaning of that Article. The respondent Government have denied that there has been in Northern Ireland, at any time relevant to the applications, any administrative practice of ill-treatment or other conduct which might contravene Article 3 (Art. 3). They have also denied that the applicants were treated in the manner alleged by them, or that they were otherwise treated in any way amounting to a violation of Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention. The respondent Government further have submitted that the Commission has no competence, under Article 25 (Art. 25) of the Convention, to examine the applications insofar as the applicants are complaining of the incompatibility with the Convention of an alleged administrative practice. As regards treatment allegedly suffered by each of the individual applicants, the respondent Government have submitted that the applications are inadmissible on the ground that the applicants have failed to exhaust the domestic remedies available to them as is required under Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention. If nevertheless, consideration were to be given by the Commission to the issue of compatibility raised in the applications, the respondent Government have then asked the Commission to reject the applications in accordance with Article 27 (1) (b) (Art. 27-1-b) of the Convention insofar as the applicants are claiming that the methods of interrogation presently used in Northern Ireland, since the abandonment of the five interrogation techniques referred to in the Compton Report, constitute an administrative practice which is incompatible with the Convention. Such complaints constitute the same matter as is already before the Commission in application No 5310/71 lodged by the Government of Ireland against the Government of the United Kingdom. The applicants have stated in reply that they are entitled to raise the issue of the compatibility with the Convention of an administrative practice insofar as it relates to their claim that the application of such practice to each of them has violated their rights under Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention. They have further submitted that Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention does not apply in the present case where prima facie evidence of an administrative practice in violation of the Convention had been produced. In the alternative, the applicants have argued, that no adequate or effective remedies are available to them under the law of Northern Ireland in view of the relief they seek from the Commission and of the particular circumstances prevailing in Northern Ireland. As regards the respondent Government's submissions under Article 27 (1) (b) (Art. 27-1-b) of the Convention, the applicants have denied that their applications are in either their terms or essence the same as a matter already before the Commission, namely application No. 5310/71. In particular, they have emphasised that their application has been lodged under Article 25 (Art. 25) whereas application No. 5310/71 was lodged under Article 24 (Art. 24) of the Convention and that, furthermore, the applicants in each case are different. Moreover, the applicants are seeking individual remedies in respect of their claim that they have themselves been victims of violations of Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention whereas the above inter-State case does not seek relief in the name of any individual. 2. The Commission first observes that, under Article 25 (Art. 25) of the Convention, it may only receive petitions from a person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals "claiming to be the victim of a violation by one of the High Contracting Parties of the rights set forth in this Convention". It follows that the Commission can only consider the present applications insofar as they have been brought by the seven applicants on their own behalf and the Commission cannot, within the framework of the present case, examine whether or not there had been a violation of the rights under the Convention of any other individuals. However, neither Article 25 (Art. 25), nor any other provisions in the Convention, inter alia Article 27 (1) (a) (Art. 27-1-a), prevent an individual applicant from raising before the Commission a complaint in respect of an alleged administrative practice in breach of the Convention provided that he brings prima facie evidence of such a practice and of his being a victim of it. 3. The Commission has further considered the respondent Government's objection based on Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention to the effect that the applicants have not exhausted the domestic remedies available to them. The Commission here recalls that it has, in a number of applications introduced under Article 24 (Art. 24) of the Convention, held that the rule requiring the exhaustion of domestic remedies does not apply where an application raises as a general issue, inter alia, the compatibility with Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention of an administrative practice (see decisions on admissibility in the First Cyprus Case, Yearbook, Vol. 2, pp. 182, 184, the First Greek Case, Yearbook, Vol. 13, pp. 122, 132-133, and the Northern Ireland inter-State case, Collection of Decisions, Vol. 41, pp. 3, 86-87). Furthermore, the Commission has defined the essential characteristics of an administrative practice as it is to be understood in relation to the application of the principle of exhaustion of domestic remedies in its Report on the First Greek Case (Vol. II, p. 12 and Yearbook, Vol. 12 bis (The Greek Case) p. 194). In particular, the Commission stated that where "there is a practice of non-observance of certain Convention provisions, the remedies prescribed will of necessity be side-stepped or rendered inadequate. Thus, if there was an administrative practice of torture or ill-treatment, judicial remedies prescribed would tend to be rendered ineffective by the difficulty of securing probative evidence, and administrative enquiries would either not be instituted, or if they were, would be likely to be half-hearted and incomplete". The Commission considers that, by similar reasoning, where an applicant under Article 25 (Art. 25) submits evidence, prima facie substantiating both the existence of an administrative practice of the nature described above, which he alleges to be contrary to Article 3, and his claim to be a victim of acts part of that practice, the domestic remedies' rule in Article 26 (Art. 26) does not apply to that part of his application. In the present case, the Commission has examined the allegations made by each of the applicants in the light of its previous decision of 1 October 1972 on the admissibility of application No 5310/71 introduced by the Government of Ireland against the Government of the United Kingdom. In that decision the Commission considered the applicant Government's allegations that persons in custody in Northern Ireland had been subjected to treatment which constituted torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment within the meaning of Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention and that such treatment constituted an administrative practice. The Commission found first that the employment of the five interrogation techniques referred to in the Compton Report constituted an "administrative practice" and that consequently the rule of exhaustion of domestic remedies did not apply to the applicant Government's allegations under Article 3 (Art. 3) in respect of them. Secondly, the Commission found that other forms of ill-treatment, were alleged as forming part of the admitted administrative practice of interrogation in depth, and that, therefore, the domestic remedies' rule could not be properly applied to those allegations. The Commission has also carried out a preliminary examination of the evidence submitted jointly on behalf of each of the present applicants, in particular the statements made by other persons in Northern Ireland claiming to be victims of ill-treatment at the hands of the security forces during the course of interrogation. Having in mind its decision referred to above of 1 October 1972, and taking into account the evidence submitted by the applicants jointly and by each of them individually, the Commission finds that the applicants have provided evidence which prima facie substantiates their allegations of the existence of an administrative practice in violation of Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention and of their being victims of that practice. It therefore follows that the domestic remedies' rule does not apply to this part of the present applications and the Commission finds that the applicants' complaint in this respect raises issues of law and fact whose determination should depend upon an examination of the merits of the case. 4. The Commission has next considered the applications insofar as they might raise the question whether each applicant was himself a victim of specific acts, as distinct from an administrative practice, in violation of Article 3 (Art. 3). The Commission observes that, in principle, the applicants must be required under Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention to exhaust the domestic remedies available to them under the law of Northern Ireland with regard to such acts. However, the Commission has frequently stated that the exhaustion of a given remedy ceases to be necessary if the applicant can show that, in the particular circumstances of his case, this remedy was unlikely to be effective and adequate in regard to the grievances in question (see eg the decision on admissibility of application No 4340/69, Simon-Herold v. Austria, Collection of Decisions, Vol. 39, pp. 18-33). In the present case, the question of the effectiveness of the remedies available to the applicants is, for the reasons set out above, closely linked with the alleged existence of an administrative practice in breach of Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention. In these circumstances, the Commission finds that the issue under Article 26 (Art. 26) cannot be examined without an examination of questions which concern the merits of the applicant's complaint concerning the alleged administrative practice. The Commission has already found that the determination of the part of the application relating to such administrative practice should depend upon an examination of the merits. Accordingly, the Commission finds it appropriate to join to the merits the issue under Article 26 (Art. 26) of the Convention relating to the applicants' allegations that each of them was a victim of specific acts in breach of Article 3 (Art. 3). 5. The Commission has also considered, in the light of the arguments of the parties, the question whether any part of the present applications should be rejected under Article 27 (1) (b) (Art. 27-1-b) of the Convention, which provides that the Commission shall not deal with any application submitted under Article 25 (Art. 25) which "... is substantially the same as a matter which has already been examined by the Commission ... and if it contains no relevant new information ...". The Commission, however, feels unable to accept the respondent Government's submission that, in view of application No 5310/71 lodged by the Government of Ireland against the United Kingdom, the present applications should, in part, be declared inadmissible on this ground. It is true that in the inter-State case similar issues under Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention have been raised and that the applicant Government in that case have referred to the treatment of five of the present applicants in support of their allegations under Article 3 (Art. 3). It is also true that an examination of the admissibility of the inter-State case has already taken place. However, following the Commission's decision to declare the relevant part of the inter-State case admissible, an examination of the merits in accordance with Article 28 (Art. 28) of the Convention still remained to be carried out. This examination is currently being undertaken with the aim of drawing up a report under Article 30 or Article 31 (Art. 30, 31) of the Convention. The relevant part of the inter-State case has therefore not yet been "examined" within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph (1), (b) (Art. 27-1-b) of the Convention. It follows that apart from the fact that the applicants are different in each case and their respective claims are also different, this complaint could still not be rejected under Article 27 (1) (b) (Art. 27-1-b) of the Convention. 6. Finally, the Commission points out that, at this stage of the proceedings, it has no competence to grant any "declarative relief" of the kind requested by the applicants, its only task at present being to decide on the question of the admissibility of the applications. For these reasons, the Commission 1. Declares ADMISSIBLE and retains, without in any way prejudging the merits of the case, the issue raised by the applicants that they were victims of an administrative practice in violation of Article 3 (Art. 3) of the Convention; 2. Joins to the merits any question relating to the remedies to be exhausted by each applicant as the alleged victim of specific acts, as distinct from an administrative practice, in violation of Article 3 (Art. 3).