World Report 2012 - European Union: United Kingdom

Rioting in early August in London, Manchester, Liverpool, and elsewhere across the UK, triggered by death of a man in north London shot by the police, led to five deaths and over 3,000 arrests, including hundreds of children. An investigation into the shooting was ongoing at this writing.

Penal reform groups and a former chief prosecutor expressed concern about the severity of sentencing in some riot-related cases, including of children. In October an appeals court upheld seven riot sentences, including the widely criticized four-year terms for inciting riot on Facebook, and reduced three others.

CERD urged the government in October to thoroughly investigate the underlying causes of the rioting, and ensure that policy responses do not disproportionately affect minorities.

A commission appointed in May to review the domestic Human Rights Act had yet to report at this writing. The act faced renewed criticism from the prime minister and home secretary.

Correspondence between the government of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and British intelligence discovered in Libya in September indicated British involvement in rendition to Libya, underscoring the need for an effective inquiry into UK complicity in rendition and overseas torture.

In August NGOs and victims' lawyers withdrew their cooperation with the government-established inquiry set up for that purpose on the grounds that government-imposed conditions announced in July, including limits on questioning witnesses and government control over disclosure, made an effective process impossible. At this writing the inquiry had yet to begin.

In July the ECtHR affirmed the extra-territorial application of the European Convention on Human Rights, ruling that the UK had both arbitrarily detained an Iraqi civilian for over three years in a British-run detention center in Iraq, and had failed to conduct independent and effective investigations into the deaths of five Iraqis apparently killed by British soldiers in Iraq.

In September a three-year public inquiry found a British military regiment responsible for the 2003 death in custody of Iraqi civilian Baha Mousa after being subject to inhuman and degrading treatment and sustaining multiple injuries. The inquiry recommended comprehensive steps against hooding and stress techniques in detention, as well as independent inspection of battlefield detention centers. Another inquiry into allegations that up to 20 men were tortured and murdered in British custody in southern Iraq in 2004 had yet to begin at this writing.

Four counterterrorism bills that the government tabled in February, May, and September were under parliamentary scrutiny at this writing. Terrorism pre-charge detention limits would be reduced from 28 to 14 days, but with the option of a new 28-day emergency power, drawing criticism from the parliamentary human rights committee.

Control orders would also be limited in severity and duration, but again with the option of restoration in exceptional circumstances. Inadequate judicial safeguards and the use of secret evidence remained. Terrorism stop and search without suspicion will also be permanently limited, although the risk of misuse remains.

Children continued to be detained with family members pending deportation despite a 2010 government pledge to end the practice.

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