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Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, U.N. Doc. A/51/44, paras. 58-65 (1996).



Convention Abbreviation: CAT


Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

C. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

58. The Committee considered the second periodic report of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and on the United Kingdom and its dependent Territories (CAT/C/25/Add.6) at its 234th and 235th meetings, on 17 November 1995 (CAT/C/SR.234 and 235), and has adopted the following conclusions and recommendations:

1. Introduction

59. The Committee thanks the Government of the United Kingdom for its comprehensive report, well-supported by annexed material. The Committee also wishes to acknowledge the breadth of the United Kingdom representatives and the way in which they encouraged a full and open dialogue between themselves and the Committee.

2. Positive aspects

60. The Committee is pleased to acknowledge the following positive aspects:

(a) An in-country right of appeal for all refused asylum-seekers;

(b) The use of tape recording for all interrogations by the police in England and Wales, many interrogations in Scotland, and for non-terrorist-related interrogations in Northern Ireland;

(c) The introduction of Codes of Practice applied to the interrogations of detainees in relation to terrorist activities in Northern Ireland;

(d) The appointment of an Independent Commissioner for Holding (Detention) Centres for Northern Ireland;

(e) The appointment of an Independent Accusor of Military Complaints procedures in Northern Ireland;

(f) The renewal of the prison infrastructure throughout the United Kingdom;

(g) The noticeable reduction of the level of violence of detainees in detention centres of Northern Ireland;

(h) The creation of an Independent Complaints Council to deal with complaints against the police in Hong Kong;

(i) The emphasis placed on education and training of police, prison and immigration officers;

(j) The appointment of a Prisons Ombudsman in 1994;

(k) The present practice of permitting detainees in Northern Ireland, in respect of terrorist-related offences, to consult in private counsel which is considered by the Committee as a shift in the right direction;

(l) The Committee notes that new Prison Rules have been drafted for Montserrat and that they will likely be enacted within a few months;

(m) The new suicide-prevention processes in the prison system;

(n) The Committee notes with pleasure that no case of torture appears to have come to light in the dependent Territories.

3. Factors and difficulties impeding the application
of the Convention

61. In Northern Ireland the maintenance of the emergency legislation and of separate detention or holding centres will inevitably continue to create conditions leading to breach of the Convention. This is particularly so because at present the practice of permitting legal counsel to consult with their clients at their interrogations is not yet permitted.

62. The Committee regrets that invocation of the Convention by individuals is not possible since the United Kingdom has not declared in favour of article 22 of the Convention. This appears unusual given that the United Kingdom has acceded to the jurisdiction of the European Commission of Human Rights.

63. In Hong Kong the warehousing of Vietnamese boat people in large detention centres may bring the Government into conflict with article 16 of the Convention.

4. Subjects of concern

64. The Committee is concerned about the following:

(a) The practice of vigorous interrogation of detainees under the emergency powers, which may sometimes breach the Convention;

(b) The method adopted in forcibly returning persons under deportation orders;

(c) The rate of suicide in prisons and places of detention;

(d) The renewal of emergency powers relating to Northern Ireland;

(e) The practice of the refoulement of asylum-seekers in circumstances that may breach article 3 of the Convention;

(f) The practice of the army in Northern Ireland of dispersing, with plastic bullets, what have been described by non-governmental organizations as peaceful demonstrations;

(g) The failure of the United Kingdom to declare in favour of article 22 both for itself and its overseas dependencies;

(h) The failure to provide for counsel to be present during interrogation in Northern Ireland for terrorist-related offences;

(i) The standards of detention of the Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong;

(j) The allegations of discrimination in the treatment of Black citizens in the United Kingdom by police and immigration authorities.

5. Recommendations

65. The Committee recommends that the Government of the United Kingdom take the following measures:

(a) Abolishing detention centres in Northern Ireland and the repealing the emergency legislation;

(b) Reviewing of practices related to deportation or refoulement where such practices may conflict with the State party's obligations under article 3 of the Convention;

(c) Re-educating and retraining police officers, particularly investigating police officers, in Northern Ireland as a further step in the peace process;

(d) Training immigration officers on how to manage violent prisoners with a minimum at risk of harm to all those involved;

(e) Extending the taping of interrogations to all cases and not merely those that do not involve terrorist-related activities and in any event to permit lawyers to be present at interrogations in all cases;

(f) Declaring in favour of article 22 of the Convention and specifically on behalf of Hong Kong and the other United Kingdom dependent Territories;

(g) Given the need for prisons, continuing the present policy of rebuilding in accordance with the most modern standards;

(h) Reviewing the policies favouring private policing with a view to properly regulating that activity;

(i) Reconsidering corporal punishment with a view to determining if it should be abolished in those dependencies that still retain it.


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