JCHR Press Notice 05-06 No. 03

Session 2005-06                                                    20 July 2005



The Joint Committee on Human Rights is to begin an inquiry into implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture in the UK.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) requires states, including the UK, to prohibit, and to take steps to prevent and deter, acts of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.  CAT also requires states party to it to report every four years to the UN Committee Against Torture, detailing the state's compliance with the treaty. 

The UK's fourth periodic report under the Convention was considered by the Committee Against Torture in November last year, and its Concluding Observations on UK compliance with the treaty were issued the same month.  The Concluding Observations noted a number of positive developments, including judicial limitations on state immunity for torture, and the UK's ratification of the Optional Protocol to CAT allowing for inspection of detention facilities.  They also raised a number of concerns regarding the compliance of UK law and practice with the Convention, and made recommendations for change.  

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), in the last Parliament, undertook a series of inquiries into the government's response to concluding observations of the UN treaty bodies, as a means of scrutinising UK compliance with its human rights obligations under UN treaties. 

This inquiry will review the recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture made last year, and the steps taken by government in response to them.  It will consider whether and how the UK's obligations under CAT could be more effectively met.

A copy of the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee can be found at: http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/3bb35be99d933e27c1256f780039b9cb?Opendocument

The Committee would welcome submissions from any individual or organisation  giving views on the criticisms and recommendations made by the UN Committee, and on the Government's response to them. The JCHR's inquiry is limited by its terms of reference, which confine it to considering "matters relating to human rights in the United Kingdom".  Where activity outside the UK has a bearing on actions within the jurisdiction, however, it may be relevant to the inquiry.  

Submissions should be addressed to Nick Walker, Commons Clerk of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Committee Office, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA.  Electronic submission is acceptable to meet the closing date, but a signed hard copy should also be sent.  In any event, witnesses are asked wherever possible to accompany hard copy by an electronic version, preferably in Word  format, and e-mailed to jchr@parliament.uk. Submissions should arrive by Friday 30 September 2005; evidence submitted later may not be able to be taken into account in the Committee's deliberations.

Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed or circulated by the Committee at any stage.  You may publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee.  Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract parliamentary privilege.

In the last Parliament, the Joint Committee on Human Rights conducted inquiries and published reports on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Tenth Report of Session 2002-03, The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, HL Paper 117, HC 81); the UN Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (Twenty-first Report of Session 2003-04, The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, HL Paper 183, HC 1188 ); and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Fourteenth Report of Session 2004-05, Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, HL Paper 88, HC 471).