U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1998 - United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is a longstanding constitutional monarchy with a democratic, parliamentary government. A lower legislative chamber (the House of Commons), the center of parliamentary power, is elected in periodic multiparty elections. An upper chamber (the House of Lords), with power to revise and delay implementation of laws, is made up of hereditary and life peers and senior clergy of the established Church of England. There is an independent judiciary, but Parliament may overrule its decisions through legislation. Throughout the United Kingdom, police forces are responsive to, and under the effective control of, civilian officials. Since 1996 the intelligence agency MI-5 has had the authority to act in support of other law enforcement agencies in the prevention and detection of serious domestic crime. In some areas of Northern Ireland, because of the continuing threat of terrorist and other violence, army units operated to reinforce the Northern Ireland police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Although the security forces generally respected human rights and the rule of law, members of the police force committed some human rights abuses. A highly developed, diversified, market-based economy provides most residents with a high standard of living. Certain geographic areas, particularly older industrial areas including Northern Ireland, suffer from higher than average unemployment rates. In addition, unemployment tends to be higher among some demographic groups, such as youth and racial minorities. The Government provides comprehensive social welfare services, including a national health system, housing and family benefits, and heavily subsidized higher education. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, but there were problems in some areas. Police occasionally abused detainees. Prison overcrowding remains a problem, and the number of prisoner suicides rose to 83 in 1998. The Government continued to take steps to combat violence against women. Societal discrimination against women, nonwhite minorities, and the Traveller community are problems. In November the Government passed the Human Rights Act of 1998, which incorporates articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into British law. It requires all public bodies to act in a manner compatible with the ECHR and allows citizens to take cases involving of ECHR provisions to British courts for resolution. On April 10, Good Friday, representatives of the major political parties of Northern Ireland agreed to new political and constitutional arrangements for Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement, the culmination of almost 2 years of negotiations, was approved in a May 22 referendum by 71 percent of the voters in Northern Ireland. Constitutionally, the agreement provides that Northern Ireland is to remain a part of the United Kingdom unless a majority of its people decide otherwise. The agreement set up the framework for a devolved Northern Ireland assembly, elections for which were held on June 22. It also provided for north-south and British-Irish councils to enhance cross-border consultation and cooperation. The Good Friday Agreement was given legislative form by Parliament in the Northern Ireland Act of 1998. The Good Friday Agreement/Northern Ireland Act contains a number of specific human rights provisions. The Standing Advisory Commission on Rights (SACHR) was replaced by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The Northern Ireland Fair Employment Commission, Equal Opportunities Commission, Commission for Racial Equality, and Disability Council will all become constituent bodies of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland when the Northern Ireland Act is implemented formally in the spring of 1999. An independent Police Commission envisaged by the agreement was established in June and is scheduled to present a report in mid-1999 on the future of policing in Northern Ireland. Some paramilitary dissident groups in Northern Ireland engaged in acts of violence aimed at disrupting the peace process. Paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland were believed to be responsible for 55 deaths, 210 shootings, and 126 bombings during the year. Both republican and loyalist paramilitary groups continued to engage in "punishment" attacks. Churches and religious organizations in Northern Ireland were the object of 25 sectarian attacks through July. A May 29 Parades Commission decision to reroute a July 5 Orange Order parade away from the Garvaghy road in a nationalist area of Portadown led to serious and widespread public disturbances throughout Northern Ireland. The ensuing standoff led to rioting and was linked to the deaths of three young boys in a sectarian bombing attack on a suburban house near Ballymoney. In support of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government in September began to release prisoners affiliated with paramilitary organizations whose political representatives were party to the peace process and that maintain a complete and unequivocal cease-fire. About 230 paramilitary prisoners, from both republican and loyalist organizations, were paroled by yearâs end, with parole for some 200 more to follow by May 2000. Several British Army units in Northern Ireland have been withdrawn, leaving the Armyâs presence at its lowest level since the 1970âs, around 15,000 troops.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings by the Government. In January police shot and killed James Ashley of East Sussex during a raid on his apartment. Ashley was thought to be responsible for drug trafficking and a stabbing in Hastings. In May the independent Police Complaints Authority ruled that there was no evidence linking Ashley to the stabbing. Eight members of the Sussex police subsequently were suspended on full pay. The Prison Service reported 133 deaths in custody during the year, of which 83 were self-inflicted, 45 were due to natural causes, 4 were considered homicide, and one remained under investigation. The Prison Service has implemented policy changes in an attempt to curb the rise in prisoner suicides. Changes include evaluating prisoners upon entry and, depending upon the level of risk, providing counseling or placing prisoners in easily monitored cells. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Prison Reform Trust endorsed the measures taken by the prison service. A June Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) review of the case of Nigerian asylum seeker Shiji Lapite, who died in December 1994 after a struggle with police in north London, resulted in a determination that insufficient evidence existed to prosecute any officer for Lapite's death. A 1996 inquest into the case had determined the killing to be unlawful. Earlier in the year, three officers were charged with manslaughter for causing the death by asphyxiation of Irishman Richard O'Brien in 1994. The officers were awaiting trials, which were scheduled for June 1999. On September 2, the Government released Scots guardsmen Mark Wright and Jim Fisher, who were convicted of the September 1992 killing of Peter McBride, a young Catholic man from Belfast. Mcbride had been stopped by a military patrol and was shot as he ran from the patrol. The soldiers claimed that they believed that the bag McBride carried contained explosives. The Police Complaints Authority completed a report on the death of Dairmud O'Neill that has not yet been published. O'Neill was killed in 1996 when police raided his London apartment during a counterterrorism operation. Human rights groups charge that O'Neill, who subsequently was found to be unarmed, was denied needed immediate medical treatment by police. In 1997 the CPS agreed to review the case of Derek Treadaway, whom police officers suffocated to unconsciousness with plastic bags in 1992. In February it found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. The case of Ibrahima Sey, who died at the Illford police station in 1996 after being sprayed by tear gas, was rereferred following an inquest's finding of unlawful killing. On review, the court decided not to prosecute. In 1998 a court ruled that there would be no new inquest into the death of Brian Douglas. Douglas, an Afro-Caribbean man, suffered a fractured skull after a confrontation with two baton-equipped police officers. In March 1997 his family had won the right to challenge an inquest jury's decision that his 1995 death was due to misadventure. In April the CPS decided that no prosecution would occur as a result of Dermot McShaneâs death. McShane was killed during the 1996 disturbances in Londonderry when he was run over by an armored personnel carrier. No information was available on the status of the case of Jim McDonnell, who died in 1996 in Northern Irelandâs Maghberry prison (fellow prisoners charged that he was beaten by prison staff) or the retrial of the police officer charged with the 1996 killing of David Ewen. In January the Government established a new judicial inquiry into the events of January 30, 1972--"Bloody Sunday"--when 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators in Londonderry were killed by British soldiers, but for which no member of the security forces was held accountable. The decision was made as a result of new ballistic evidence and eyewitness accounts. The inquiry began its preliminary hearings. A full inquiry is scheduled to begin in the spring of 1999 with a report to follow at some point in 2000. Despite declarations of cease-fires by the main paramilitary groups, killings by both republican and loyalist groups in Northern Ireland continued, although the number of incidents diminished. Republican paramilitary groups include the Provisional Irish republican Army (PIRA), the "Real" IRA, the Continuity IRA (CIRA), and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). Loyalist paramilitary groups include the Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF), the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), and the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). The December 27, 1997, murder of LVF leader Billy Wright in the high-security Maze prison sparked a series of violent incidents during the early part of the year. In October INLA members Christopher McWilliams, John Kennaway, and John Glennon, all serving sentences in the Maze prison, were given life sentences for Wrightâs murder. On January 10, Catholic Terry Enright was killed in a drive-by shooting as he worked as a doorman at a central Belfast nightclub. On January 18, Catholic Fergal McCusker was shot in the head in County Londonderry. The LVF was blamed for both attacks. On January 19, the INLA killed Protestant Jim Guiney at his shop at Kingsway in Dunmurry. The same day, Catholic taxi driver Larry Brennan was killed while sitting in his car in Belfast. On January 21, Catholic Benedict Hughes was killed in the Sandy Row area of Belfast. The UFF claimed responsibility for both the Hughes and Brennan killings. The LVF was responsible for the January 23 killing of Catholic gas worker Liam Conway and the January 24 killing of Catholic taxi driver John McColgan. On February 9, Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD), an alleged Provisional IRA cover organization, was blamed for the death of Brendan Campbell, a Belfast drug dealer. On February 10, Protestant Robert Dougan, a loyalist with links to the UFF, was killed as he waited to pick up a friend in Dunmurry. On February 18, the body of Catholic Kevin Conway was found; he had been killed with his hands bound in a County Antrim farmhouse. The RUC suspected that a republican group carried out the killing. On March 3, two gunmen killed Protestant Philip Allen and Catholic Damien Trainor in a bar in Poyntzpass, County Armagh. The LVF was blamed for the attack on the two friends. On March 15, David Keys, one of four men charged with the attack on Trainor and Phillips, was killed in the LVF Section of the Maze prison. Keys was found hanged in what police initially thought was a suicide. Later, the RUC determined that he was killed because he was about to cooperate with the RUC investigation into the Allen-Trainor murders. Two LVF prisoners were charged with his murder. On March 27, Cyril Stewart, a former RUC officer, was murdered outside a supermarket in County Armagh by the INLA. On April 24, Catholic Adrian Lamph was killed in Portadown, County Armagh. Catholic Ciaran Heffron was killed on April 26 in Crumlin, County Antrim. Both killings were blamed on the LVF. On June 22, a British soldier, Corporal Gary Fenton, was killed after being hit by a truck at an army checkpoint in South Armagh. On July 11, Jason, Mark, and Richard Quinn, three brothers all under the age of 10 died after their house in Ballymoney, County Antrim, was the target of an arson attack. RUC investigators arrested a man with loyalist ties in connection with the murders. On July 19, Catholic Andy Kearney was dragged out of his home in north Belfast and shot in both legs; he subsequently bled to death. The RUC considered the killing a revenge attack directed and carried out by a Belfast PIRA figure. In October RUC Constable Frank O'Reilly died from head injuries received the previous month when a blast bomb was thrown at police during loyalist rioting in Portadown. O'Reilly and other police officers came under attack during protests against the authorities' refusal to allow Orangemen to walk along Garvaghy Road. In December the court of appeal overturned the conviction of Danny McNamee after hearing new evidence in the case of the IRA Hyde Park bombing in which four soldiers died in 1982. McNamee was freed in November under the Good Friday Agreement after having served 11 years of a 25-year sentence. McNamee's conviction was based in part on limited fingerprint evidence, which according to his counsel was the result of his work at an electronics factory. Prosecuting authorities withheld fingerprint evidence of the involvement of another person, a convicted IRA bomb-maker. While ruling that this withholding of evidence made his conviction unsound, the judges said there was still strong evidence he had been involved in the bombing. On October 31, two gunmen in north Belfast killed Brian Service, a 35-year-old Catholic. The "Red Hand Defenders," a little-known renegade loyalist group, claimed responsibility. The Real IRA, a splinter republican group, took responsibility for the August 15 car bombing in Omagh, County Tyrone, which killed 29 persons, including children, and injured several hundred more. The bombing was condemned by every political party in Northern Ireland, including Sinn Fein, and caused widespread revulsion throughout the community. Police indicated that the attackers deliberately planted the car bomb in an area where there would be a large number of people. After Omagh the Government, in close coordination with the Republic of Ireland (see Sections 1.d. and 1.e.), passed the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act. The 1989 killing of Patrick Finucane, counsel to many IRA suspects, remained a disputed case. In a civil suit, Finucaneâs widow alleged government negligence in his wrongful death, and the unresolved status of the case has been interpreted by a number of human rights organizations as evidence of collusion between government officials and loyalist paramilitary groups. In April in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission that resulted from an October 1997 visit to Northern Ireland, the United Nations (U.N.) Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers called on the Government to reopen the Finucane case under the Commissions of Inquiry Act. The U.N. report stated that precedent for a reexamination was established by the reopening of the Bloody Sunday case. The Government ruled out such an inquiry, stating that there was no justification to reopen the case in the absence of new evidence. Coroners do not have the power to compel those suspected of involvement in extrajudicial killing to testify at inquests, and the relatives of the deceased receive no advance disclosure of evidence. In Northern Ireland, coroners are permitted to inquire only into "how"--that is "by what means"--the deceased died, rather than into the broad circumstances of death. Human rights groups argue that this narrow definition shields wrongdoers, including soldiers and police officers, and unnecessarily keeps family members from learning the truth of the circumstances regarding their relative's death. Former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London in October under a warrant issued by a Spanish judge that sought his extradition to Spain to stand trial for the torture and murder of over 3,000 people during his time in office. The High Court's ruling that Pinochet had sovereign immunity from arrest was overturned by the Law Lords in November in a 3 to 2 verdict, in which they concluded that there should be no immunity for crimes against humanity. Extradition proceedings began in December. However, the Law Lords set aside their decision in December when Pinochet's lawyers contended that one of the judges who ruled against Pinochet failed to disclose his substantial links to Amnesty International, which was represented in the case. A rehearing of the appeal was to begin in January 1999.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. Investigations continued into at least 14 terrorist-perpetrated disappearances that date back to 1972, although there is no longer a dedicated investigative team. The victims, usually members of the security forces, suspected informers, or petty criminals are thought to have been murdered and buried in secret locations. Throughout the year there were indications that the IRA would disclose the locations of remains of persons abducted and killed by its members. However, by yearâs end no disclosures leading to the recovery of remains were made.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law forbids torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; however, police occasionally abused detainees. Human rights organizations report that such abuse, while not widespread, is a matter of serious concern. The NGO Inquest states that injuries and illnesses result more often from neglect or misdiagnosis than from physical attack, although there have been incidents of police brutality (see Sections 1.a. and 5). Detainees who claim physical mistreatment have the right to an immediate medical examination. A trial judge must examine such a claim. Confessions obtained by abusive treatment are not admissible in court, and judges can exclude even voluntary confessions. Complaints of sexual harassment and some criminal conduct within the London metropolitan police force continued. Police officials initiated investigations in several hundred cases and remain committed to rooting abusive treatment and corruption out of the police force. The Police Complaints Authority issued a report in December cautioning the police that the use of longer and heavier U.S.-style batons resulted in an increased number of complaints. The report urged the police to draw up new training programs to bring baton use in line with British practices. Corporal punishment remains on the statute books in several Caribbean dependent territories, although it is rarely practiced. The Government continued to ask the governments of dependent territories to bring their laws in line with those of the United Kingdom. The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, who assumed the responsibilities of the Independent Commissioner for Police Complaints, supervises police investigations of complaints in Northern Ireland filed against the police, or referred to the Commission by the RUC Chief Constable, the Police Authority, or the Northern Ireland Secretary of State. The Ombudsman automatically supervises cases involving death or serious injury, and can direct the Chief Constable to bring charges against police officers. The Commission reported that through August it had received 1,987 complaints. Of the 1,579 cases processed (some pending from previous years), investigations led to informal disciplinary action in 42 cases and to formal charges in 10 cases. On June 3, the Government established the Independent Commission on Policing with a mandate to evaluate the future policing structures and arrangements in Northern Ireland. The Commission's goal is to recommend proposals ensuring that the police service in Northern Ireland enjoys widespread support from the community as a whole. Both sides of the community generally recognized the experience and impartiality of the members of the Commission, which is to issue its report in mid-1999. In 1993 the Northern Ireland Secretary named an Independent Assessor of Military Complaints to deal with complaints of abuses committed by the army. The Independent Assessor is responsible for coordinating investigations into abuses. During the first 7 months of 1998, 51 formal and 530 informal complaints were received, primarily for harassment or abuse. In 1992 the Government appointed a senior barrister as Independent Commissioner for Holding Centers in Northern Ireland, with the authority to make irregular, unannounced visits to any holding center, observe interrogations, and interview detainees. There were 176 visits to the 3 Northern Ireland holding centers in 1997 by the Commissioner and his deputy. Through the end of July, 72 visits had taken place. The number of allegations, generally for verbal harassment or "technical assault," has dropped substantially. Police in Northern Ireland continued to use plastic bullets, particularly in connection with violence that erupted during the summer marching season (see Section 2.d.). RUC reports indicated that 837 plastic bullets were fired in the first 2 weeks of July, compared with 2,510 in the same period in 1997. According to RUC rules, plastic bullets should be aimed at the lower half of the body; serious head and upper body injuries nevertheless resulted from plastic bullet use during the year. Plastic bullet use in Northern Ireland is severely criticized by human rights monitors, although the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1984 that using them to quell serious riots did not contravene the European Convention on Human Rights. The U.N. Committee Against Torture, the European Parliament, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, and other NGO'S have called for a ban on their use. The Government has said that alternatives have been considered but that most options have been found to be either more dangerous or inaccurate. By yearâs end no results were announced from a nationwide policy review of plastic bullet use that was commissioned by the Government in September 1997. Both human rights groups and the Independent Commissioner for Holding Centers for Northern Ireland repeatedly recommended the closing of the Castlereagh Detention Center, which remains open despite persistent complaints of police impropriety in the interrogation process. In February video recording equipment was introduced in interrogation sessions in all three Northern Ireland holding centers. Groups representing prisoners cite the video equipment as a significant deterrent to police impropriety. Human rights groups continue to call for audio recording to be introduced. The Government published a draft code of practice for audio recording in October and invited public response by December, as a prelude to legislation. Through the end of September, the armed forces registered a total of 415 formal complaints. Of these, 263 were sexual complaints, 94 were racial complaints, and 58 were for bullying or other harassment. A complaint procedure was fully implemented in October 1997. Service personnel also have the right to submit complaints to employment tribunals. In March the services entered into a 5-year partnership agreement with the Commission on Racial Equality (CRE) to promote racial equality practices. Paramilitary groups opposed to the peace process in Northern Ireland continued violent campaigns targeting buildings and economic centers, as well as police, the military, and civilians. In addition to the deadly attack on Omagh and other killings (see Section 1.a.), numerous other bombings and attacks damaged property and caused injuries but did not lead to a loss of life. These incidents included bombings in Enniskillen, Moira, Markethill, Portadown, Banbridge, Belfast, Londonderry, and Carrickfergus. Mortar attacks were conducted in Newry and against RUC stations in Armagh. In June persons allegedly associated with the Real IRA were arrested in London and in the Republic of Ireland for possession of bomb-related devices when police foiled a planned attack. Both loyalist and republican terrorists in Northern Ireland continued to carry out "punishment" attacks. These often were carried out to settle scores within paramilitary groups, and loyalists often, but not exclusively, targeted members who broke ranks. However, such vigilante attacks also were targeted against so-called "antisocial activities," such as drug dealing, particularly by the republicans and were used to extend paramilitary control and influence in the wider community. The attackers beat their victims with iron pipes, baseball bats, sledgehammers, and spiked clubs; dropped concrete blocks on exposed limbs; impaled persons on fence spikes; and shot victims in the knees and legs. During 1998 the RUC recorded 86 loyalist assaults, 34 loyalist shootings/kneecappings, 50 republican assaults, and 38 republican shootings/kneecappings. The corresponding figures in 1997 were 72 loyalist assaults, 48 loyalist shootings, 78 republican assaults, and 24 republican shootings, respectively. However, the statistics may not fully describe the extent of these attacks, since some victims are reluctant to approach the police. Prison conditions generally met minimum international standards, but both the Prison Service and the NGO Prison Reform Trust have identified overcrowding as a serious issue. According to the Prison Service, prisons in England and Wales are at 108 percent of capacity. Local prisons, which tend to be old and small, are typically the most overcrowded. The Government, in its comprehensive spending review released in July, recognized the Prison Service's reports and allocated increased funding for prison maintenance and construction. Separate and distinct prison regimes exist for Northern Ireland and Scotland, administered through the Northern Ireland office and the Scottish Office. To reduce overcrowding, the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998, which was passed in July, contains provisions for the early release of prisoners who participate in the electronic tagging program. Prisoners serving sentences between 3 months and 4 years may be released up to 2 months early if they consent to wear an electronic location indicator for the remainder of their sentences. Human rights groups were particularly critical of special security units (SSU's) used to hold those persons deemed to pose an exceptional risk of escape. SSU inmates are not told how long they are to be held in SSU's, nor are they involved in annual reviews of their detentions or informed when such a review is taking place. Citing small group isolation, the lack of adequate exercise, work, educational opportunities, and natural daylight, as well as strict enforcement of noncontact visits through a glass barrier, human rights groups have condemned SSU imprisonment as violating international standards. A 1996 government inquiry concluded that prolonged incarceration could lead to mental illness. Only three prisoners remain in a solitary SSU at Whitemoor Prison, the only remaining facility that uses SSUâs. The Prison Service is in the process of reviewing its policy on the holding of women under the age of 18: its report is due early in 1999. Young women are being housed in prison facilities separate from older women until the policy review is concluded. New Hall and Holloway prisons are developing young offender units that are to deal with the unique concerns presented by the incarceration of young women. New, more restrictive guidelines concerning the use of restraints on pregnant women were introduced by the Prison Service in July, in part because of the settlement of a 1995 case in which pregnant prisoner Annette Walker was restrained while in labor. A civil suit brought against the prison service by Walker was settled out of court in June. Faced with a large increase in the number of asylum seekers, the Government housed approximately half of immigration detainees in regular prisons, where they were normally held separately from convicted prisoners. According to human rights groups, 28 regular prisons house some immigration detainees. The chief inspector for prisons for England and Wales repeatedly has called upon the Home Office to establish specific guidelines for the treatment of asylum seekers in detention centers and prisons, as no such guidelines currently exist. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other groups also cited a lack of specialized skills among regular prison officials in dealing with immigration detainees. The UNHCR regularly visits detention centers and has excellent relations with the Government and detention center officials; however, it criticizes the Government's "expectation of noncompliance" by asylum seekers. The Prison Service stated that 18 prisoners convicted of terrorist-related offenses were transferred from prisons in England and Northern Ireland to the custody of the Republic of Ireland during the year. Only one prisoner convicted of terrorist offenses remains in prison in England. His requests for repatriation to the Republic of Ireland or transfer to Northern Ireland are under consideration. In March the Home Secretary decided not to extradite to Germany and released suspected terrorist Roisin McAliskey, who was arrested in 1996 in connection with an IRA attack in Osnabruck, Germany. The Home Secretary based his decision on the state of McAliskey's health. McAliskey's doctors believe that she developed osteoporosis while in prison as well as suffering mental trauma (she had been held in an SSU for 6 months while pregnant). The Government permits human rights monitors to visit prisons and immigration detention centers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The authorities can and often do make arrests or detain suspects without judicial warrants, especially in Northern Ireland, when they believe that they have reasonable cause to suspect wrongdoing. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 allows police officers to stop and search vehicles and pedestrians if a police officer of at least superintendent rank (or a chief inspector if no superintendent is available) "reasonably believes" it is expedient to do so to prevent acts of violence. The authorization is limited to a 24-hour period, but is renewable under certain circumstances. The 1991 Northern Ireland Emergency Provisions Act (EPA) permits a soldier on duty, a member of the Royal Irish Regiment, or a police officer, to arrest and detain for up to 4 hours "a person who he has reasonable grounds to suspect is committing or is about to commit any offense." The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA) allows the police to arrest without a warrant anywhere in the UK persons they have reason to suspect of being involved in terrorism. The authorities may detain such persons (even those under the age of 18) for up to 48 hours without legal representation or judicial review. Suspects may be interrogated during this time, and confessions obtained may be used in subsequent court proceedings. Under the PTA, detainees are granted the right to have lawyers present during interrogation in England or Wales, but not in Northern Ireland. Detention without charge may be extended up to a further 5 days on the authority of the Home Secretary, or in Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Extensive PTA detention powers were held in breach of the ECHR, which led to a derogation by the Government in 1988 (see Section 1.e.). The PTA is the most reviewed piece of legislation in the United Kingdom. It expires every 2 years and, due to the changing security situation, is amended or altered to account for those changes. Provisions for indefinite internment without trial were eliminated in the 1998 reauthorization of the PTA. Nevertheless, critics charge that the annual review is superficial. In England, Scotland, and Wales suspects arrested without warrants must be released within 24 hours (or 36 hours if a serious offense is involved) unless brought before a magistrates' court. The court may authorize extension of detention by 36 hours, and on further application by another 24 hours, versus the 48-hour scheme extant in Northern Ireland (see Section 1.e.). Defendants awaiting trial have a statutory right to bail unless there is a risk that they would abscond, commit an offense, interfere with witnesses, or otherwise obstruct the course of justice, or unless they were on bail when the alleged offense was committed. Defendants who are remanded in custody are protected by statutory custody time limits, which restrict the period for which they can be held while awaiting trial to a maximum of 182 days, unless the court grants an extension. As of December 31, a total of 23,853 defendants were awaiting trial, 25.4 percent in custody. Of those in custody, 84.4 percent had been awaiting trial for less than 24 weeks, while 3.3 percent had been waiting longer than 48 weeks. These statistics are slightly lower than the comparable 1997 statistics. The Crime and Disorder Act (1998) passed in July includes measures which aim to reduce delays in criminal proceedings by introducing procedural reforms and making better provision for limiting the time allowed for the prosecution of cases. The High Court ruled in July that the Home Secretary has the power to detain prisoners past the expiration of their maximum time limits if the Home Secretary believes the prisoner is likely to commit a serious offense if released. The law gives administrative detention power to immigration officers. There is no time limit to such detention and no right to have it reviewed by a court. At any given time, up to 800 asylum seekers are detained (approximately 2 percent of all asylum seekers), either in immigration detention centers, regular prisons (where they are held separately from convicted prisoners), or occasionally police cells if for no more than 48 hours and pending removal from the UK or transfer to another accommodation (see Section 1.c.). Of the detainees, 35 percent are held for less than 1 month, 20 percent for 1 to 2 months, 34 percent for 2 to 6 months, 9 percent for 6 to 12 months, and 2 percent for over 12 months. Unlike those accused of criminal offenses, asylum seekers are given no written statement about why they were detained, although the practice is to provide them with updates on the status of their claims and the time required for their adjudication. Asylum seekers do not have an automatic right to apply for bail, and bail application, which can be made to immigration appellate authorities, requires a relatively high level of surety. The Home Office states that detention is authorized only where there are good grounds to anticipate noncompliance with the terms of temporary admission, and that the practice does not affect more than approximately 1.5 percent of asylum seekers at any given time. The Government does not practice exile (also see Section 2.d.). Terrorist organizations continued to threaten individuals and families to compel them to leave Northern Ireland.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is independent and provides citizens with a generally fair and efficient judicial process. The UK has several levels of courts. The vast majority of criminal cases are heard by magistratesâ courts, which are managed by locally based committees. Their decisions may be appealed to the Crown Court, which also hears criminal cases requiring a jury trial, or to the High Court. Crown Court convictions may be appealed to the Court of Appeal, which may in turn refer cases involving points of law to the House of Lords. The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (which consists of senior judges and is functionally distinct from the legislative arm) is the final court of appeal. In 1997 the Government established the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which operates as an additional appellate body to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It considers cases after the judicial appeals process has been exhausted and where there is significant new evidence that casts doubt on the conviction. In Scotland similar appeals may be made to the Scottish office. The law provides for a fair trial, and the authorities respect and enforce the law in this regard. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the right to question witnesses against them, and the right to appeal to successively higher courts. In November the Government passed the Human Rights Act of 1998. The Human Rights Act incorporated Articles 2-12, 14, and 16-18 of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. Under the Human Rights Act all public bodies must act in a manner compatible with the convention. The act also allows British citizens to take alleged violations of the convention into British courts. In November 1988, the European Court of Human Rights held that the United Kingdom had violated Article 5(3) of the convention, dealing with prompt resolution of a case after arrest or detention. As a result, in December 1988 the United Kingdom submitted a derogation of Article 5(3). This derogation also applies to the Human Rights Act. Nongovernmental organizations repeatedly criticize the Government about the derogation. The Human Rights Act is to take effect in the year 2000, after courts have had an opportunity to become familiar with the European convention. In September, during a special session of Parliament called in the wake of the Omagh bombing, the Government passed the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act. Under the new legislation, the testimony of a senior police officer may be introduced as prima facie evidence of a suspect's membership in a proscribed terrorist organization. The Act also introduces provisions criminalizing a conspiracy conducted within the United Kingdom to commit terrorist acts outside the country. The act also allows for the seizure of property of a person convicted of membership offenses under the act, if used in furtherance of the activities of the organization. Human rights organizations have expressed concern that the act violates certain fundamental rights, such as the right to silence and the rights to freedom of expression and association. Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, judges have the power to instruct juries that they may draw an inference of guilt from a defendant's refusal to answer questions during interrogation or trial, although no conviction can be based solely on such an inference. Human rights groups and the U.N. Human Rights Committee sharply criticize this provision, which they consider an abrogation of the right against self-incrimination. A similar provision is in effect in Northern Ireland. Indigent defenders have the right to free counsel of their choice, with some exceptions. Criminal proceedings must be held in public except those in juvenile court and those involving public decency or security. In a trial under the Official Secrets Act, the judge may order the court closed, but sentencing must be public. In Northern Ireland, special "emergency" restrictions affect due process. Under the Northern Ireland Emergency Provisions Act of 1991 (EPA), trials for certain terrorist-related offenses are automatically tried in "Diplock courts" without a jury unless they are specifically "scheduled out" to ordinary jury courts. Diplock courts were established to avoid cases being heard by juries that might make decisions along sectarian lines, as well as to protect jurors from intimidation by terrorists. If judges decide to convict, they must justify the decision in a document that becomes part of the court record. An appellate court may overturn the decision on either factual or legal grounds. Through June, 34 persons had been tried in Diplock courts; 33 either pled or were found guilty. The Diplock courts have been widely criticized by human rights groups, as well as various U.N. committees. The 1998 EPA, enacted in April, increased the number of scheduled offenses which may be assigned at the Attorney General's discretion, for trial by jury. This should reduce the number of cases considered by Diplock courts. The EPA does not exclude the use of uncorroborated confessions, which in Northern Ireland may, and have been, used as the sole basis for conviction. Additionally, the EPA permits police to prevent any suspected terrorist from contacting legal counsel for up to 48 hours after arrest under certain circumstances, at the request of a police officer with the minimum rank of superintendent. After a detainee has asked to see a lawyer and has done so, this period is renewable in subsequent 48-hour periods until the detainee is charged or released. Human rights groups have criticized these provisions, arguing that a detainee is most likely to need counsel in the first few hours; lack of counsel during that time makes false or coerced confessions and detainee abuse more likely. According to the Northern Ireland Office, through June 305 requests for access to lawyers were made, only 3 of which were delayed. The Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act of 1996 reduced defense lawyer's access to potential evidence held by the prosecution, including information as to how the evidence was collected. According to the Committee on the Administration of Justice, this practice may be contrary to U.N. guidelines on the role of prosecutors. Lawyers groups in Northern Ireland and elsewhere have expressed serious concern about threats of death and serious physical injury directed against defense lawyers by prison guards, relayed to them by their prisoner/clients. Solicitors continue to lodge complaints against the RUC but say that little is done to address their complaints. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Lawyers and Judges issued a report in March that called upon the Government to conduct independent and impartial investigations of all threats to legal counsel and, where there is a specific physical threat to a barrister, to provide the necessary protection, investigate the threats, and bring the guilty party to justice. The Special Rapporteur also recommended that lawyers lodge formal complaints, that the RUC organize training seminars for police officers, and that the Bar Council and the Law Society be more vocal in their defense of solicitors who have been subjected to harassment and intimidation, entering into dialogue with the RUC on how best to address the problem. There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Warrants normally are required for a police search of private premises. However, under the 1991 EPA members of the armed forces or police in Northern Ireland may enter and search "any premises for the purpose of arresting a person for an arrestable offense, but only if he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that the person being sought is on the premises." The Northern Ireland courts have interpreted the requirement for "reasonable" grounds broadly. In April the Government published a report on the treatment of enemy property in the UK during World War II. In June it appointed an independent advisor to set up a claims procedure for persons who had their assets confiscated and published on the Internet a list of 25,000 such persons and firms. The Government made available an initial $3.2 million (£2 million) fund for compensation of victims of Nazi persecution who lost their UK-based assets during the War. The fear of intercommunal violence has, over the years, lead to a pattern of increasingly segregated communities in Northern Ireland. Protestant and Catholic families have moved away from mixed or border neighborhoods. This pattern continued despite the Good Friday Agreement's hope for a more normal society. In Northern Ireland, paramilitary groups have attacked and threatened to attack the homes and families of police and politicians (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.).

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Strongly held common-law tradition, an independent press, and a democratic political system combine to secure freedom of speech and of the press. Viewpoints critical of the Government are well represented. The print media are dominated by a handful of national daily newspapers, all privately owned and independent (though often generally aligned with a political party). About half the electronic media are run by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which is funded by the Government but enjoys complete editorial independence. Corporations under renewable government license run the remainder. Press organizations and human rights groups continued to criticize the 1981 Contempt of Court Act, which allows courts to order a journalist to disclose a source if it is deemed to be in the interests of justice. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) of 1984 also contains provisions that compel journalists to give evidence in cases where police can prove it is necessary to their investigation. In March a Norwich Crown Court upheld, on the grounds that the information was already in the public domain, reporter Adrian Galvin's refusal to reveal his sources after police had requested that he reveal them under PACE. The Official Secrets Act, another law cited by journalists as unduly restrictive, prohibits the defense that the information is already in the public domain or that its publication is in the public interest. A December 1997 White Paper (a proposed policy paper drafted in preparation for legislation) on freedom of information asserted that the Government would introduce legislation that would allow widespread public access to official information and documents, require public organizations to regularly publicize data, and improve individual access to personal information. NGO's welcomed the White Paper but criticized certain provisions that would grant wide-ranging exemptions to the security services and law enforcement. The legislation is anticipated in 1999. The Data Protection Act, which covers the protection and disclosure of personal information in both electronic and paper form, was passed in July. Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the right of peaceful assembly, but that right is limited routinely where it would impose a cost on public convenience. The annual "marching season" in Northern Ireland posed significant problems for the Government as the right of assembly conflicted with the concerns of local residents in some communities who perceived the marches as the celebration of Protestant "triumphs" in historical battles. Tensions ran particularly high during several weeks in the summer, when some 100,000 members of the Orange Order and similar Protestant organizations staged traditional parades to celebrate their history and cultural identity. While few of the 3,100 parades held each year are contentious, about 40 have traditional routes that take them through Catholic neighborhoods, giving rise to tensions and occasional violence. Similar organizations in the nationalist community also march during the summer, although the smaller scale of those parades has presented law enforcement authorities with fewer difficulties. The Parades Commission (a five-member body appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that is designed to facilitate mediation of contentious parades) ruled that the July 5 Orange Order parade following a church service in Drumcree could not proceed down the Garvaghy road in a predominately nationalist area of Portadown. When the Orange Order insisted on its right to walk down the public road, hundreds of police officers and soldiers were mobilized to block the march and barricade the road. This led to a standoff between police and Orange Order supporters and to riots and over 400 attacks on RUC officers and families throughout Northern Ireland. Despite considerable pressure, the RUC upheld the Parades Commission decision and the rule of law. The standoff was linked to a July 11 arson attack in which three young boys were killed (see Section 1.a). On July 15, police raided the tent city that arose near the barricaded road and seized a number of weapons and explosive materials. Public revulsion against the deaths of the three young boys did much to convince Orange leaders to disperse the protesters. Although the massive loyalist protest in Drumcree ended, no resolution of the underlying issue had been reached by yearâs end. With Orange Order leaders insisting on their right to walk their traditional route and nationalist community leaders unwilling to consent to the unwanted parade, tensions continued in Portadown with sporadic outbreaks of rioting and sectarian violence. The Parades Commission allowed another contentious Orange Order parade to proceed down the lower Ormeau road in Belfast on July 13. Local resident groups organized a peaceful protest against the march. The Apprentice Boys, a loyalist organization, reached an agreement with residents' groups that allowed an August 8 march on the city walls of Derry to occur. Although the event was largely peaceful, minor scuffles arose between nationalist protesters and loyalist supporters, with the RUC in the middle endeavoring to keep the groups separated. The law provides for freedom of association, but that right is limited. Under the PTA, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland may proscribe any organization that is involved in, promotes, or encourages terrorism connected to Northern Ireland. Membership in proscribed paramilitary groups is punishable by up to 10 yearsâ imprisonment. Supporting paramilitary groups is also an imprisonable offense, as is wearing clothing that arouses a reasonable suspicion that the wearer belongs to or supports a proscribed organization. Human rights monitors, while acknowledging the deterrent effects of proscription powers, argue for the repeal of this law because it violates the fundamental right of freedom of association and an individual's right to express personal opinions and beliefs.

c. Freedom of Religion

Governmental policy and general practice ensure freedom of religion for traditional and nontraditional worshippers. Despite the existence of state religions (the Anglican Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland), members of all faiths and denominations enjoy freedom of worship. Discrimination on religious or political grounds is outlawed specifically in Northern Ireland, although not in the rest of the country. Those who believe that their freedom to worship has been abrogated have the right to appeal to the courts for relief. Although not enforced, blasphemy with respect to Christian beliefs is still technically illegal. Several religious organizations, in association with the Commission for Racial Equality, are attempting to either abolish the law or expand it to protect all faiths. By law government schools must hold an act of nondenominational Christian worship each day. Teachersâ organizations have criticized the practice and called for a government review of the practice.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens enjoy freedom of movement within the country and in foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. In 1997 the Home Secretary revoked all exclusion orders preventing individuals linked to terrorism in Northern Ireland from traveling to Great Britain. When the Prevention of Terrorism Act was renewed in 1998, it did not include provisions for exclusion orders. However, the Home Secretary has the power to activate dormant statutes implementing exclusion orders at any time. In May the Government granted all citizens of its Caribbean dependent territory of Monsterrat, approximately 11,000 people, permission to remain in Britain indefinitely. Approximately 3,500 Montserratians have moved to the country since the volcano crisis there in 1996. The Government cooperates closely with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. First asylum is provided under a temporary protection process started in 1992. As of June 30, the Government had received 18,525 applications for first asylum, a 22 percent increase over the same period in 1997. Under the first asylum program, successful applicants are given 6 monthsâ "leave to enter the country" on arrival. They then can apply for an automatic 3¸-year extension of their stay and may apply for refugee status at any time. Such applications are considered in accordance with the criteria set out in the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Some asylum seekers are detained while the Government reviews their cases (see Section 1.d.); some are detained in regular prisons (see Section 1.c.). The Asylum and Immigration Act of 1996 broadened the right of appeal for failed asylum seekers, introduced provisions to deter abusive asylum applicants and illegal entrants, and imposed restrictions on people subject to immigration control taking up employment and seeking housing and social security benefits. Of decisions taken on asylum applications in 1998, as of the end of June, 16.9 percent were to recognize the applicant as a refugee and grant asylum and 11.5 percent were granted "exceptional leave to remain," although the applicants were refused asylum. The remainder were denied. The Government issued a White Paper in July that proposed methods to deal with the large backlog of asylum seekers as well as the reform of asylum and citizenship legislation. At the time of release of the White Paper, 52,000 asylum applications had yet to be reviewed for initial decision. Of those, 10,000 were over 5 years old. Also awaiting governmental action were 32,000 immigration appeals and 96,000 citizenship applications. There were no reports that persons were forced to return to countries where they feared persecution.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens have the right to change their government and freely exercise that right. The Government is formed on the basis of a majority of seats in the House of Commons, which are contested in elections held at intervals not longer than 5 years. Participation in the political process is open to all persons and parties. All citizens 18 years of age and older may vote. As in the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland has city and district councils, but with fewer powers. England and Wales also have county councils. Northern Ireland elected a devolved assembly in June which is to assume powers in 1999 as the peace process proceeds. Scotland and Wales are to elect devolved bodies (Parliament for Scotland, Assembly for Wales) in 1999 that are to assume control over matters of regional importance such as education, health, and some economic matters. The Scottish Parliament will have limited power to raise taxes; the Welsh Assembly is not to have such power. Foreign affairs and defense will continue to be the responsibility of the central Government. In May voters in greater London passed a referendum establishing an elected council and mayor, which are to be elected in 1999. British dependent territories have small populations (about 160,000 persons in total), with appointed governors or administrators assisted by executive councils (usually appointed), and legislative assemblies or councils (partly elected). Women and minorities face no legal constraints on voting or holding office. Women constitute 18 percent of the House of Commons and nearly 8 percent of the House of Lords. Seventeen members of minority ethnic groups serve in Parliament.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A wide variety of human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights issues and cases. Government officials are cooperative and responsive to their views. In 1973 the government established a Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights to monitor human rights in Northern Ireland but has adopted few of its security-related recommendations. The Good Friday Agreement provides for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission to replace the SACHR; human rights NGOâs have criticized the new bodyâs lack of investigative powers. A number of international nongovernmental human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, are based in the UK. The Government cooperates fully with international inquiries into alleged violations of human rights.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Race Relations Act of 1976 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, nationality, or national or ethnic origin, and outlaws incitement to racial hatred; these protections were extended to Northern Ireland in 1997. Human rights groups claim that Travellers, nomadic populations consisting of Roma, Irish, and "new" Travellers, estimated to number some 100,000 persons, experience marginalization, educational discrimination, and police and societal harassment greater than that of the settled population. U.N. Committees on both the Rights of the Child and the Elimination of Racial Discrimination have expressed similar concerns. Discrimination on the grounds of religious or political opinion is specifically outlawed in Northern Ireland but not in Great Britain. Discrimination on the basis of religion only is illegal in Great Britain when its effect is to discriminate against a member of a minority ethnic group. The Government respects and enforces all antidiscrimination laws, which concentrate on employment and the supply of goods and services.


Statistical and other evidence indicates that domestic violence constitutes nearly half of reported violent crime against women. In a recent home office survey, 23 percent of women said they had suffered domestic violence--including pushing or grabbing as well as more serious assaults--at some time in their adult lives. Surveys also indicate that domestic violence is the least likely violent crime to be reported to the police. The law provides for injunctive relief, personal protection orders, and protective exclusion orders (similar to restraining orders) for women who are victims of violence. The Government provides shelters, counseling, and other assistance for battery or rape and offers free legal aid to battered women who are economically reliant on their abusers. The Government actively prosecutes perpetrators of domestic violence. Section 33 of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act abolished the requirement that judges warn juries that a victim's testimony alone should not be adequate for a rape conviction. The Protection from Harassment Act of 1997 provides for prison sentences of up to 5 years for convicted stalkers. However, thus far the act has been used primarily to prosecute harassers of judges and political officials, although provisions for the protection of women exist. Criminal action for sexual harassment cases must be prosecuted under assault legislation since no law specifically prohibits sexual harassment. Women's groups have complained that civil suits concerning sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender sometimes take up to 3¸ years to appear before an industrial tribunal. The law provides for equal opportunity between the sexes, but women experience some discrimination in practice. The 1975 Sex Discrimination Act, as amended in 1986, prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination in training, housing, and provision of goods and services, as well as in employment. Women have equal rights regarding property and divorce. According to the Government's Equal Opportunities Commission (which supports persons who bring discrimination cases before industrial tribunals and courts and produces guidelines on good practice for employers), there has been significant progress towards equal opportunity for women since the Commission was established in 1975. However, according to the Commission women earn approximately 20 percent less than their male counterparts in similar positions. NGOâs indicated that progress towards equality of pay for equal work was the single largest problem confronting women, citing only an 8 percent increase in relative pay in the past 25 years. Women's issues within the Government are represented at the cabinet level by the Minister for Women, who has established a small steering group to provide a dialogue with women, in addition to working with the established Women's National Commission, an umbrella forum of women's organizations that presents women's views to the government.


The Government demonstrates its strong commitment to children's rights and welfare through its systems of public education and medical care. The Government provides free, compulsory education up to age 16, and then to age 18 if the student so desires. While there is no pattern of societal abuse directed against children, indications are, despite a lack of reliable data, that child abuse is nevertheless a problem. Police are continuing investigations of over 200 children's homes nationwide. Over the past 8 years criminal charges have been brought against over 50 care workers. Various laws covering England and Wales stipulate that children have the right to apply for court orders, to give or withhold consent for medical treatment (for those capable of making an informed decision), to make complaints to the relevant local authority, to have their ethnic, linguistic, and religious background considered in decisions affecting them, to have reasonable contact with their families (usually applied in a circumstance where there has been abuse), and in general to be consulted regarding their desires. In September the European Court of Human Rights found in favor of a 14-year-old boy who claimed that his stepfather beat him repeatedly between the ages of 5 and 8. The unanimous judgment held that the beatings violated the boy's right to protection from "torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The British jury acquitted the child's stepfather on the grounds that the beatings constituted "reasonable chastisement." The Government, while deciding not to abolish corporal punishment, accepted that it should change the law and is drafting a consultation document on physical punishment. In July the School Standards and Framework Act of 1998 extended the ban on corporal punishment in state schools to private schools and nursery schools. Child welfare groups have called for the outlawing of all corporal punishment of children. Under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, police can arrest and detain children for up to 7 days.

People With Disabilities

The 1995 People with Disabilities Discrimination Act outlaws discrimination against disabled persons in the provision of access to public facilities by employers of more than 20 workers, service providers (apart from those providing education or running transport vehicles), and anyone selling or renting property. The 1993 Education Act imposes specific duties on local education authorities to make provision for the special educational needs of disabled children. Disabled rights groups continued to complain that the Government declines to create an enforcement body for the Discrimination Act. Rights Now, a consortium of over 50 independent organizations campaigning for laws to end discrimination on the grounds of disability, reported that employers were 6 times more likely to turn down a disabled person for a job interview than a nondisabled applicant with the same qualifications. Rights Now also reported that there are 400,00 to 450,000 people in need of wheelchair-accessible homes, but that only 80,000 such homes are available. Although wheelchair accessibility at voting sites improved since the 1992 elections when 88 per cent of the polling stations were inaccessible to physically disabled voters, 81 per cent of the 1997 sites posed two or more access problems (e.g., no wheelchair ramps, or voting booths that were too high) for wheelchair-bound voters. Government regulations require that all new buildings meet the access requirements of all persons with impaired mobility. In 1992 the Government promulgated similar regulations for sensory-impaired persons, and regulations require that all taxis be wheelchair accessible by 2000. However, while generally improved, access to many buildings remains inadequate. Many buildings and train stations are so old that they do not have elevators. According to the NGO Scope, 94 percent of polling stations in the 1997 election had one or more disability access problems. Religious MinoritiesDespite government efforts and the lowering of the overall unemployment rate in Northern Ireland, the unemployment rate for Catholic men remained nearly twice that of Protestant men. The Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act of 1989, as amended, aims to end even unintentional or indirect discrimination in the workplace, and a fair employment tribunal adjudicates complaints. All public-sector employers and all private firms with over 10 workers must report annually to the Fair Employment Commission on the religious composition of their work force and must review their employment practices at least once every 3 years. Noncompliance can bring criminal penalties and the loss of government contracts. Victims of employment discrimination may sue for damages. Although critics of the act asserted that its targets and timetables are too imprecise, most leaders of the Catholic community regard it as a positive step. In the March publication of its White Paper, "Partnership for Equality," the Government set out its responses to the 1997 SACHR report on fair employment legislation. The Government accepted about two-thirds of SACHR'S recommendations and added others. Proposed legislation aims to ensure equality of opportunity for Catholics and Protestants, for men and women, and for people of different races, disability, and sexual orientation. It provides for oversight and enforcement by the new Equality Commission. There have been improvements in fair housing, education, and provision of goods and services; although, other than Northern Ireland, no specific legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. While the active recruitment of Catholics by the Northern Ireland civil service produced rough proportionality in overall numbers, the service acknowledges that Catholics remain significantly underrepresented in its senior grades. Service-wide employment cutbacks thus far have hampered efforts to overcome the imbalance. Government efforts to increase the recruitment of Catholics into the police force (currently 92 percent Protestant) and related security jobs in Northern Ireland have been hampered by IRA killings and death threats, as well as by widespread antipathy in the Catholic community to the security forces. Despite recruitment efforts, the percentage of Catholic officers in the police force has not changed significantly. However, following the Good Friday Agreement, there was a surge in applications to the RUC by Catholics. Of the 3,200 applications, 23 percent were received from Catholics, up from 15 percent in previous years. In the aftermath of the Drumcree standoff, a number of Catholic churches were the target of arson attacks, and a number of Orange halls were targeted in sectarian reprisals. According to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain declined in 1997 for the fourth consecutive year. A Jewish communal monitoring body recorded 218 anti-Semitic incidents, representing a 5 percent decrease on the 1996 figure of 228. The overall reduction was ascribed to more effective policing, more criminal prosecutions, and a more determined attitude on the part of the Jewish community.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Despite legal prohibitions against race discrimination, persons of African and Afro-Caribbean, South Asian, or Middle Eastern origin face occasional acts of societal violence and some discrimination. Incitement to racial hatred is a criminal offense punishable by a maximum of 2 yearsâ imprisonment. The Government strictly enforces the laws and regulations in this area. The NGO Statewatch released a report in July indicating that persons of African descent are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched by police in Great Britain than whites. Other minority groups are also slightly more likely to be stopped by police. The government-appointed but independent Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) provides guidelines on good practice, supports persons taking court action under the Race Relations Act of 1976, and may initiate its own court action. After investigating a complaint, the CRE may issue a notice requiring that the discrimination be stopped. The CRE then monitors the response to its notice for 5 years. In August 1997 the Government passed the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order of 1997, which for the first time gave specific legal protection to minority ethnic groups there, including the Traveller community. In January the Government ratified the Council of Europe Framework Convention for Protection of National Minorities, which entered into effect on May 1. By mid-1999 the Government must publish a report indicating what legislative and other measures were taken to implement the convention. Repeated claims of police misconduct in the case of Stephen Lawrence, a black youth stabbed to death in South London in 1993, led to an inquiry into actions taken by police in the investigation of Lawrence's murder. In testimony in the inquiry, police admitted that there were serious flaws in the investigation. When the inquiry called five white youths accused, but never convicted, of the murder, violent demonstrations began outside the London building housing the inquiry. London's police commissioner submitted a report to the inquiry outlining ways of improving police investigation and preventing racially motivated crime and plans for building an antiracist police service. A racial and violent crime taskforce, headed by the deputy assistant commissioner, was created to provide oversight of all racially motivated crime for the metropolitan police, develop operating standards for investigation and victim care, and develop appropriate training. At an October hearing of the Lawrence inquiry, the chief constable of the Manchester police acknowledged that his force was infected by institutional racism. The inquiry has completed taking testimony and is to issue a report assessing police responsibility in the case and possibly other policing concerns with respect to race in February 1999. In January 1997 Michael Menson, a black musician, was found wandering dazed, almost naked, and suffering from severe burns. Menson died of his wounds 2 weeks later. Police believed he had set himself on fire. Menson's family complained that the police failed to act on information Menson provided while in the hospital that he had been followed and attacked by four white men. In September an inquest jury decided that Menson was unlawfully killed. In November the metropolitan police announced that a team from the newly created race and violent crime unit would undertake a new investigation into Menson's death. In October the police commissioner agreed to launch a new investigation into the death of Ricky Reel, a young Asian found drowned in the Thames in 1997. Police concluded that he died accidentally, but his family believes he was the victim of a racial attack. In both cases, family members claimed that police failed to investigate the crimes properly.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Workers have the right to form and join unions, and the Government respects this right in practice. Unions participate freely in international organizations, and are free of government control. Like employers' associations, they must have their accounts certified by the government. Senior union officers must be elected by secret ballot. Additionally, the law mandates secret ballots before a strike call and prohibits unions from disciplining members who reject a legal strike call. The Labor Government's 1998 White Paper, "Fairness at Work" calls for the extension of protection to those campaigning for union recognition. No specific statutory "right to strike" exists, and voluntary cessation of work may be considered a breach of contract. A system of legal immunities from prosecution for unions engaged in lawful industrial action was narrowed by acts of Parliament in the 1980's. These acts exclude secondary strikes and actions judged to have political motives; unions encouraging such strikes are subject to fines and seizure of their assets. The legislation also tightly restricts the ability of unions to act against subsidiaries of prime employers with which they are in dispute when the subsidiaries are not party to the dispute and are the employers of record. In 1993 the Council of Europe (COE) determined that British labor law violated the European Social Charter by permitting an employer to dismiss all employees who take part in a strike and then, after 3 months, to rehire them selectively. The "Fairness at Work" White Paper includes measures to address this problem, and legislation is expected early in 1999. It is illegal to deny employment on the grounds that the applicant is not a union member. The Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act of 1993 set new procedural requirements for union strikes, dues collection, and membership rules. It also made it possible for private citizens, when deprived of goods or services due to strike action, to seek damages and to obtain assistance in this effort from the government. Following the 1993 Act, in 1995, the House of Lords upheld a provision of the Employment Protection Act of 1978, as amended by the Employment Act of 1988, which allowed employers to offer workers financial inducements to give up union representation. In 1996 the Committee of Experts of the International Labor Organization (ILO) found this law to be in substantial violation of Convention 98 on the right to organize and bargain collectively and asked the UK to amend its legislation. The Government's White Paper proposes to restrict employers from paying more to nonunion employees but is ambiguous on how and to what extent it would address such discrimination.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

While employers have no legal obligation to bargain with workersâ representatives, and labor-management contracts are not enforceable in the courts, collective bargaining is longstanding and widespread, covering about 40 percent of the work force. The Government's White Paper calls for employers to no longer legally be free to reject bargaining with workers' representatives. The White Paper also proposes requiring bargaining in workplaces where 40 percent of eligible members have voted for union representation (recognition would be automatic where a union already has a majority membership among the relevant work force). The British Trades Union Congress (TUC) continues to press the Government for a simple majority test. Similarly, while the White Paper would extend such provisions to any employer with more than 20 workers--a major diversion from the Confederation of British Industry's preferred threshold of 50 employees--the TUC continues to argue for a lower figure on the grounds that the proposed limit would still exclude up to a quarter of the private-sector workforce. Workers who believe themselves to be victims of antiunion discrimination may seek redress through industrial tribunals. Remedies available include payment of indemnities and reinstatement. Contrary to ILO Convention 98 (and a 1993 ILO complaint), employers lawfully may circulate blacklists of union members seeking employment. The Government's White Paper calls for this practice to be outlawed. The Labor Government remedied another ILO complaint by allowing employees at GCHQ, a government agency, to reestablish their bargaining unit. However, the Government has given no indication that it plans to reverse the previous government's restriction on the Prison Officers Association's right to strike. There are no export processing zones. However, the increased use of home-based and contract, "self-employed" workers following passage of the Employment Rights Act of 1996--which narrowly defined what constitutes an "employee"--bears many of the less desirable characteristics of an EPZ. For example, such workers lack many key benefits (e.g., vacation and sick pay, supplementary health coverage, pensions, tradesmen and workplace allowances, seniority benefits, as well as job security or severance pay) that regularly employed workers typically enjoy. They are not governed by working-hours directives. Hourly wages are difficult to calculate, and many home-based piece-workers are suspected of working for substantially less than other employees. The White Paper commits the Government to reexamine the employment terminology that governs the labor market.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor, including that performed by children, is prohibited and is not practiced, although the ILO has raised questions about the situation in privatized prisons.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

School attendance until age 16 is compulsory. Children under age 16 are not permitted to work in an industrial enterprise except as part of an educational course. Forced and bonded child labor is prohibited, and the Government effectively enforces this prohibition (see Section 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The first-ever minimum wage is to take effect in April 1999. At $5.90 (£3.60) an hour, it is expected to directly benefit the bottom 10 percent of the workforce. In fact, most in that category saw their wages rise by yearâs end, as a competitive labor market forced employers to introduce the new standard in advance of the effective date. And, indirectly, the anticipated wage floor has already started to push up the wages of other low-paid workers. The minimum wage will provide a family with a decent standard of living in all cities except London, where persistent labor and skills shortages have kept entry-level wages significantly higher. The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 stipulates that the health and safety of employees not be placed at risk. In practice the act is constantly being updated and modified. In 1998 the Government abolished the industrial use of "white" asbestos, bringing to a conclusion an evolutionary legal process to outlaw all asbestos in the workplace. A Health and Safety Commission effectively enforces regulations on these matters and may initiate criminal proceedings in appropriate cases. Workers' representatives actively monitor enforcement of the act. Workers can remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking loss of employment, as provided in the European Union framework directive on safety and health.

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.