UK needs prompt action on human rights record, UN panel warns.
UN Committee Against Torture report recommends 40 separate measures to be taken before UK is given clean bill of health.
The British government’s human rights record since the attacks of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq is facing ferocious criticism from a United Nations panel, which warns that prompt action is needed to ensure the country meets its obligations under international law.
In a report published on Friday, the UN Committee against Torture recommends more than 40 separate measures which it says will need to be taken if the UK is to be given a clean bill of health.
While the committee has focused on the failure to hold to account those responsible for human rights abuses in the so-called war on terror, and for the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq, it also raises a series of other serious concerns over matters that include the controversial Justice and Security Act, the forced removal of failed asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, and the failure to hold a public inquiry into the state’s involvement in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
The report – which will doubtless make uncomfortable reading across Whitehall – contains the harshest criticism that the committee has yet made of a British government. It is the first substantial criticism since 1992, when the UK was told that were it not for the mistreatment of terrorism suspects in Northern Ireland, it would have been found to have “met in virtually every respect” its obligations under the UN convention against torture.
Its publication follows a two-day hearing in Geneva earlier this month, during which some committee members angrily accused the British government delegation of providing evasive answers to their questions about the UK’s human rights record in recent years.
While the committee’s report concentrates on human rights violations that predate the 2010 general election, it repeatedly expresses concern at the failure of the current government to take steps to hold those responsible to account.
Addressing the government’s decision to suspend the judge-led inquiry into British involvement in torture and rendition since 9/11, the committee recommended that it “establish without further delay an inquiry on alleged acts of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees held overseas committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of British officials”. The perpetrators identified by this inquiry should be “duly prosecuted and punished appropriately” and the victims compensated, the report says.