Parliamentarians say: “allow torture survivors to sue foreign torturers in UK”
The UK Government should create an exception to the state immunity rule which currently prevents torture survivors pursuing foreign torturers for damages in UK courts. This is one of the important conclusions of the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) in its Report released today, “Closing the Impunity Gap: UK law on genocide (and related crimes) and redress for torture victims.”
The JCHR said that existing universal criminal jurisdiction to prosecute those alleged to have committed torture abroad should be matched by laws allowing civil claims to be brought in the UK. Victims of torture are entitled under international law to seek reparations, and the Government should legislate to make this possible. The JCHR therefore called on the Government to support the Torture (Damages) Bill passed in the House of Lords last year, which is currently in the House of Commons.
“We welcome the JCHR’s recommendations and hope the Government will implement them.”, said REDRESS’ UK Legal Advisor Kevin Laue. “REDRESS has strongly campaigned for this Bill, and will continue to do so until the law is changed,” he said.
The Report also calls on the Government to reform the law so that the possibility to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is backdated to the dates when the crimes were recognised as such in international law. At present these crimes cannot be prosecuted in the UK if they took place before 2001 when the UK passed the International Criminal Court Act. REDRESS supports the JCHR’s call to remove this impunity gap – the UK should not be a safe haven.
REDRESS, the international human rights organisation with a mandate to help torture survivors obtain justice, has consistently campaigned for the Torture (Damages) Bill, and more details about the Bill can be obtained from our website at http://www.redress.org/torture_bill.html