Government ‘failing to implement’ conventions on torture

August 16, 2009 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

International conventions that give British courts criminal jurisdiction over crimes such as torture are not being fully implemented by the Government, a committee of MPs and peers has reported.

The Human Rights Joint Committee said that as a result there are inconsistencies and gaps in the law covering war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, genocide and hostage-taking.

“These gaps effectively provide impunity to international criminals, allowing them to visit and in some cases stay in the UK without fear of prosecution,” the committee said.

“The Government has also chosen not to give the courts jurisdiction to allow victims of torture to sue the foreign states who tortured or approved torture.

“The Torture (Damages) Bill would provide an exception to state immunity for torture and therefore allow torture victims to pursue their torturers for reparations, even if the torturers are states or states’ agents.”

The committee said the Government should ensure the full force of UK law is behind victims of international crimes.

“Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in internal armed conflicts should be criminal offences backdated to the dates when they were recognised as criminal offences in international law,” they reported.

“Suspects should be liable to arrest if found in the UK, regardless of whether or not they are technically resident here.

“The Government should create an exception to the state immunity rule for torture, just as it has done for property and employment disputes involving foreign states.

“Whilst the UK has universal criminal jurisdiction to prosecute those alleged to have committed torture abroad, it has not legislated for equivalent civil jurisdiction – but it could.

“Victims of torture are entitled to seek reparations under international law.

“The Government should legislate to allow British torture victims to pursue torturing states for damages.

“The Torture (Damages) Bill would have this effect. The Government should therefore support it.”

Andrew Dismore MP, chair of the Joint Human Rights Committee, said the UK should lead the world in bringing international criminals to justice.

He added:

“The UK must not be a safe haven for evil.

“The message to those who have perpetrated the most heinous crimes imaginable must be clear: they are not welcome here – not to visit, not to live, not to holiday, shop, or get medical treatment.

“The UK should close these loopholes in the law.”

Click here to read the report.

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Entry filed under: Committees, Commons, Lords. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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