Findings and recommendations from the Committee for the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT)

An advance, unedited copy of the findings and recommendations, the Concluding Observations, is now available at https://togetherscotland.org.uk/media/1300/cat_c_gbr_co_6_34954_e-1.pdf

Alongside some positive comments, the Convention’s Committee has mentioned some serious concerns and made a series of recommendations to the UK government about implementing the Convention effectively. Evidence submitted to the Committee and the Committee’s findings demonstrate clearly that, despite government denials, the UK is far from free of concerning examples of inhumane and degrading treatment, even of torture.

The Committee has chosen not to address two key parts of NSUN’s submission:  levels of destitution caused by austerity measures and inhuman treatment arising from the use of mental health legislation based on coercion. Whilst this is disappointing, we realised that the Committee does not have a current focus on these issues. We raised them as a way of hopefully beginning to broaden the human rights approach of both the Convention itself and of Convention Committee members.

Important recommendations which have been made by the Committee include:

  • Incorporating the Convention into UK law; although the government has ratified the Convention, it has not yet enshrined the Convention as a whole in domestic law
  • Ensuring that the government remains signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and does not repeal, nor (negatively) change the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1988; although government delegates in Geneva affirmed that Brexit will not affect the government’s commitment to the ECHR and HRA, the Committee is concerned because of contrary statements by other state officials
  • Instituting an absolute prohibition against torture, regardless of whether a defendant claims to have lawful authority, or justification for drawing on torture
  • Prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into the numerous allegations of ill treatment in places such as immigration removal centres, prisons and youth custody settings, including the 1,070 allegations of child sexual abuse made between 2019 and 2017; avoiding prolonged detentions of people who identify themselves as stateless; adequate statistics and significantly improved approaches to asylum seekers who have experienced torture in their own countries and/or are at risk of it
  • Giving National Preventative Mechanisms clear legal powers and adequate resources
  • Further efforts to deal with overcrowding, poor conditions, violence, homicides and self-harm in prisons and the overrepresentation in them of men and women from black and minority ethnic communities
  • Decisive and effective action about allegations of UK abuse, or complicity in abuse, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland
  • Providing redress, compensation and rehabilitation services for children abused in Northern Ireland residential homes between 1922 and 1995; setting urgently in hand an impartial and effective investigation into its Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes; ensuring that abortions and post-abortion healthcare are legal for women and girls in Northern Ireland who would experience severe pain and suffering if their pregnancy continued
  • Addressing concerns that prosecutions and conviction rates for sexual and gender-based violence are small in number, despite the increasing number of offences against women in particular
  • Further action to deal with trafficking and the abuse and ill treatment of migrant workers
  • Strengthened action to address increased hate crime, in particular racist, xenophobic, anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-disabled and anti-transgender hate crimes.

Dorothy Gould