Mr. Lawless, who had been a member of the Irish Republican Army, was detained without a trial for 5 months in a military detention camp in Ireland. The Minister of Justice ordered his detention under a special law, which gave government officials the ability to arrest and detain people suspected of being involved in subversive organisations, such as the Irish Republican Army.
The applicant complained that the Republic of Ireland violated his right to liberty and security by detaining him without a trial.
The court ruled on the issues raised by the applicant in three separate judgments.
The first two judgements of the court involved preliminary objections and application-related procedural issues.
In the third judgement the court examined Lawless’ challenge on the detention without trial in Ireland.
The Irish Government claimed that the detention measures were necessary to prevent offences against public peace and order and to prevent the maintaining of unauthorized armed forces. The court did determine that Articles 5 and 6 of the Convention provided no legal foundation for the detention without trial of the applicant.
At the same time, the facts of the case permitted a deviation from the Convention under Article 15 of the Convention. The Court specifically ruled that there was a public emergency that threatened the nation's life at the time, and it believed that the action made was strictly necessary under the circumstances and consistent with Ireland's other duties under international law.
The Court concluded, in the end, that the detention of individuals suspected of intending to take part in terrorist activities was required by the circumstances and subject to safeguards to prevent abuse, it was a measure strictly required by the situation under Article 15 of the Convention.
This is the first case in the European Court of Human Rights, the first judgement rendered by a foreign court involving the application of international human rights law and the first case brought against a nation.