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Eighty civil society groups reveal UK failure to meet anti-torture obligations

07 May 2019

Today and tomorrow in Geneva, the UK will face scrutiny for its record on torture and ill-treatment at home and abroad, as the UN Committee against Torture reviews compliance with its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

The UK ratified the UNCAT in 1988. Its purpose is to prevent the use of torture and other ill-treatment. States that have signed up to the Convention against Torture are required to report to the UN on their progress towards implementing the treaty every four years. On 7 and 8 May 2019, the UK will be reviewed by the UN Committee against Torture as part of its sixth periodic review.

Nearly 80 UK civil society groups and experts have submitted evidence to the Committee, revealing wide-ranging failures by the UK to meet its international obligations to prevent torture and ill-treatment.

This significant body of evidence has been compiled in a civil society report by REDRESS alongside Liberty, Freedom from Torture, Children’s Rights Alliance for England (Just for Kids Law), Children in Wales, and Disability Rights UK.

An increasing number of people are being detained under the Mental Health Act, with a 36% rise in the number of detentions since 2010.

Serious concerns also remain about ill-treatment in health care settings. A 2018 survey of 1,544 staff across 92 English care homes found significant evidence of abusive and neglectful behaviour.

In addition:

  • England and Wales continue to have the highest level of child incarceration in Western Europe;
  • the UK remains the only country in Europe where there is no time limit on immigration detention;
  • ongoing deficiencies in police investigations of domestic abuse also remain, at a time when there has been an increase of 23% in domestic abuse related crimes from last year;
  • the number of recorded hate crimes has more than doubled in the past five years, in part due to the terrorist attacks in 2017 and instances of xenophobic, divisive and anti-immigrant rhetoric of the EU referendum.

The civil society report stresses the need for a cross-government policy response that is capable of involving the many different parts of the UK administration to tackle torture and ill-treatment at home.

Director of Policy and Development at Disability Rights UK Sue Bott said:

 “The report shows that torture remains an issue in some state funded services which disabled people are forced to rely on. Rigorous training for health and social care staff in the Convention Against Torture, and relevant UK legislation including the Mental Capacity Act, would go some way to changing the way disabled people are treated.”

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Committee, said:

“In our own report to the Committee against Torture, amongst other recommendations, we have called on the UK government to introduce a 28-day limit on immigration detention and improve mental health services in the community to reduce the need for people to be detained.  

Improving Britain’s record on torture and ill-treatment is essential if we are to ensure that everyone can realise their right to live without fear of inhumane treatment or risk being punished.”

The civil society report -The UK's Implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - is available @ https://redress.org