Amnesty International Report 2005 - United Kingdom
|Publication Date||25 May 2005|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2005 - United Kingdom , 25 May 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/429b27e1b.html [accessed 20 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Covering events from January - December 2004
The UK's highest court ruled that indefinite detention without trial of non-deportable foreign "suspected international terrorists" discriminated against them unjustifiably and was unlawful. Another court held that "evidence" obtained by torture of a third party would be inadmissible only if it had been directly procured by UK agents or if they had connived in its procurement. The authorities sought to circumvent their obligations under international and domestic human rights law in respect of the conduct of UK armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Self-inflicted deaths, self-harm, overcrowding and detention conditions in prisons were of major concern. Public inquiries into cases of alleged collusion by security forces in killings in Northern Ireland were announced. However, the authorities further delayed the establishment of an inquiry into the killing of Patrick Finucane.
Internment in the UK
Eleven foreign nationals continued to be interned under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA) – legislation adopted after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA. Most had been detained for more than three years in high-security facilities under severely restricted regimes. A 12th person, an Algerian former torture victim, was "released" in April under strict bail conditions amounting to house arrest.
- In March the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled that the authorities' case for detaining a Libyan man as a "suspected international terrorist" under the ATCSA was "not established", and that some of their assertions had been "clearly misleading", "inaccurate", and "unreasonable". He was the sole person to win an appeal against certification as a "suspected international terrorist" under the ATCSA.
In August the Court of Appeal of England and Wales concluded that the ATCSA permitted (indeed required) the admission of "evidence" procured by torture of a third party, provided that the torture was not committed or connived at by UK officials. Permission to appeal against the ruling was pending at the end of 2004.
In October, 12 senior doctors concluded that all the ATCSA internees they had examined had suffered serious damage to their health. They stated that the indefinite nature of their detention had been a major factor in the deterioration of their mental health and that of their spouses. In November, two internees were transferred to a high-security psychiatric hospital because of the effects of internment on their mental health.
In November, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) expressed concern about: potentially indefinite detention under the ATCSA; the strict detention regime under which some internees were held at Belmarsh prison; and the interpretation of domestic legislation as preventing the use of evidence obtained through torture only if UK officials were complicit.
In December the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords ruled by a majority of eight to one that indefinite detention without charge or trial of non-deportable foreign "suspected international terrorists" under the ATCSA unjustifiably discriminated against them, and was, therefore, unlawful. AI had intervened in writing in these proceedings.
- In December the application of Mahmoud Abu Rideh, a Palestinian refugee and torture victim, to be released on bail from detention under the ATCSA was adjourned indefinitely. At the end of 2004, he continued to be held in a high-security psychiatric hospital.
The UK authorities continued to play a duplicitous role in the detention – without any legal basis – of UK residents and nationals in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in US custody. UK intelligence officers had taken advantage of the legal limbo and the coercive detention conditions at Guantánamo Bay to conduct interrogations and to extract information to use in proceedings under the ATCSA.
- In March Ruhal Ahmed, Tarek Dergoul, Jamal Udeen, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, UK nationals held at Guantánamo Bay since early 2002, were returned to the UK where they were freed without charges.
In June the UK authorities acknowledged for the first time that some detainees interrogated by UK intelligence personnel had complained about their treatment, but refused to provide any further details.
At the end of 2004, four UK nationals and at least five UK residents remained in US custody at Guantánamo Bay. These included Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi national legally resident in the UK, and Jamil Al-Banna, a Jordanian national with refugee status in the UK. The UK authorities may have played some part in their unlawful rendering to US custody, and refused to make representations on their behalf to the US authorities.
UK armed forces in Iraq
There were allegations of unlawful killings, torture, ill-treatment and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by UK forces at the time when the UK was recognized as an occupying power in Iraq (see Iraq entry). The UK authorities tried to circumvent domestic and international human rights obligations by asserting that human rights law did not bind UK armed forces in Iraq. AI urged the authorities to establish a civilian-led mechanism to investigate all allegations of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law by UK armed forces.
In November the CAT expressed concern at the UK's assertion that certain provisions of the UN Convention against Torture could not be applied to actions of the UK in Afghanistan and Iraq. The CAT stated that the Convention applied to all areas under the de facto control of the UK authorities.
- Baha Dawood Salem al-Maliki was among eight Iraqi hotel workers arrested and reportedly beaten in September 2003 by UK soldiers in Basra, Iraq. Three days later Baha al-Maliki's father was handed his son's body, severely bruised and covered in blood. Another detainee, Kefah Taha, was admitted to hospital in a critical condition. In December, a domestic court ruled in a case concerning the deaths of Iraqi civilians in incidents involving UK troops while the UK was an occupying power in Iraq. The court held that – in limited circumstances – both domestic and international human rights law could apply to UK forces during the occupation of Iraq, and that there had not yet been an adequate inquiry into the death of Baha al-Maliki.
Collusion and political killings
- In March, in a case with profoundly detrimental implications for human rights and the rule of law, the Law Lords held that the authorities were not obliged under the Human Rights Act 1998 to conduct an "effective and independent" investigation into the 1982 killing of Gervaise McKerr by members of a special "anti-terrorist" unit of the Royal Ulster Constabulary because it had occurred before the Act's entry into force in 2000.
- In February Justice Peter Cory, a retired Canadian Supreme Court judge, publicly confirmed that he had recommended four separate public inquiries into alleged collusion by security forces in the killings of Patrick Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright. In April, the authorities finally published Justice Cory's reports, and announced the establishment of public inquiries in three cases, but not that of Patrick Finucane. The three inquiries had not started by the end of 2004.
- In September, Kenneth Barrett, a former Loyalist paramilitary, was convicted of the 1989 murder of Patrick Finucane. Shortly thereafter, the authorities announced that an inquiry into the Finucane case would be established on the basis of new legislation to take account of "national security". Concern remained over how public the announced inquiry would be and the possible use of "national security" to prevent the full exposure of state collusion in Patrick Finucane's killing.
Abuses by non-state actors
Despite a significant decrease, high levels of paramilitary violence continued, particularly by Loyalist groups. Three killings were attributed to members of Loyalist groups and one to members of Republican groups during 2004. There were on average two shootings and two to three assault victims every week.
The Independent Monitoring Commission reported that members of Loyalist paramilitary organizations were responsible for a series of violent racist attacks in Belfast. According to the Police Service of Northern Ireland the number of racist and homophobic incidents recorded had more than doubled from 226 and 35 respectively in 2002/03, to 453 and 71 in 2003/04. In December, however, the authorities reported that the rate of increase in racist attacks was slowing down.
A parliamentary committee found that more people than ever were held in custody and for longer periods. It found that many of them should not have been there, in particular the mentally ill. It expressed concern about overcrowding, unsatisfactory detention conditions and the extreme paucity of prosecutions of police and prison officers involved in custodial deaths. It concluded that the authorities were failing "properly to protect the lives of vulnerable people in the state's care". It found that "someone is either killed, kills themselves or dies in otherwise questionable circumstances every other day" in prison. It expressed deep concern at the number of people dying in custody and at the rate of self-harm incidents, especially among women.
Official statistics showed that there were more than 100 self-inflicted deaths in prisons during 2004. Fourteen or 15 were women. Although women comprised only five to six per cent of the prison population, they accounted for 13 to 15 per cent of self-inflicted deaths.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales issued some highly critical reports following her visits to a number of institutions. Among other things, she raised concerns about risks to inmates' safety, unsatisfactory regimes for women, and poor detention conditions. The Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland reported that overcrowding had worsened and that in some facilities sanitary conditions were grossly inadequate.
- In November a public inquiry opened into the killing of Zahid Mubarek by his cellmate, a known racist, at Feltham Young Offenders Institution in March 2000.
Deaths in police custody
- In April a television broadcast showed Christopher Alder choking to death on the floor of Queen's Gardens police station in Hull while handcuffed, in 1998. In December, four of the five police officers involved in his death retired on ill-health grounds. A review of the case by the independent police complaints commission was ongoing at the end of 2004. The Alder family demanded an independent public inquiry.
- In November the verdict of unlawful killing returned by a jury in October 2003 following the inquest into the death of Roger Sylvester in January 1999 was quashed.
- In October an inquest jury returned an unlawful killing verdict following a second inquest into the 1999 fatal police shooting of Harry Stanley. Although the prosecuting authorities were still considering whether to charge the officers involved, in December they were allowed to return to work on "non-operational duties".
- In December an inquest jury returned a lawful killing verdict following an inquest into the fatal police shooting of Derek Bennett in 2001.
Army deaths in disputed circumstances
In November the CAT expressed concern about "reports of incidents of bullying followed by self-harm and suicide in the armed forces, and the need for full public inquiry into these incidents and adequate preventive measures".
- In December, the authorities appointed a human rights lawyer to review four deaths of young soldiers at Deepcut Barracks.
Freedom of expression
- In February the prosecution dropped charges against Katharine Gun, a former government employee accused of leaking an e-mail on US plans to eavesdrop on UN Security Council members in the run-up to the Iraq war. The prosecution stated that there was no reasonable prospect of securing a conviction.
- In December the Court of Appeal of England and Wales upheld the judgement in a case concerning three coachloads of anti-war protesters who were stopped from reaching the Royal Air Force base at Fairford – used by US B52 bombers to fly to Iraq – and forcibly returned to London in March 2003. The court found that detaining Jane Laporte to forcibly return her to London was unlawful and violated her right to liberty under the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the court found that preventing the coaches from reaching Fairford was lawful, and that, as a result, the police had not violated Jane Laporte's right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Legislation further restricted the right to appeal against a refusal to grant asylum, replacing the two-tier immigration appeals system with a single tier. The authorities' initial decision-making on asylum claims was frequently inadequate. Restrictions on public funds for immigration and asylum work left many asylum applicants without expert legal advice and representation.
In May the Court of Appeal of England and Wales ruled that legislation allowing the authorities to deny any support to adult asylum-seekers could not be reconciled with the UK's international human rights obligations.
AI country visits
AI delegates observed judicial hearings pertaining to internment proceedings under the ATCSA, the prosecution of Katharine Gun, and proceedings in Northern Ireland arising from the killing of Patrick Finucane.