REDRESS calls for enactment of new torture damages bill

REDRESS, the international human rights organisation with a mandate to assist torture survivors to obtain justice, today called for the speedy enactment of the Torture (Damages) Bill, a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by the Lord Archer of Sandwell QC.

The Bill would enable torture survivors to bring a claim for compensation in British courts, and was triggered by the failed attempts of Sulaiman Al-Adsani, dual British/Kuwaiti citizen tortured in Kuwait and four British citizens (Ron Jones, Sandy Mitchell, Bill Sampson and Les Walker), tortured in Saudi Arabia to seek justice for torture in UK courts.

Twenty years after the Convention against Torture came into force, justice for torture remains an illusory prospect, even though it is recognised as one of the worst crimes. Much more needs to be done to enable survivors to assert their rights,” said Carla Ferstman, the Director of REDRESS.

Torture isn’t like breaking an arm in a car accident or falling down a flight of stairs – it is a calculated act carried out by state officials, intending to harm and degrade,” she said.  “Owing to the devastating impact torture has on the human personality, the effects can be life-long, especially if the victim is prevented from seeking and obtaining redress.  This is why this Bill is so important; it is about enabling torture survivors to do something for themselves.  It gives them the chance to argue their case and hopefully receive a public acknowledgement and compensation for torture as a result.

REDRESS’ call is echoed by torture survivors based in the UK:

  • Sulaiman Al-Adsani calls state immunity, “the number one barrier in any international case that involves torture.”
  • Ron Jones says that his main concern now is, “that the British Government has done nothing constructive to help me get compensation.  In fact they intervened in my case in the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords to ensure that torture could not be exempted form the State Immunity Act.”
  • Les Walker says he wants the Bill be passed as: “I do not want anybody to have to undergo the type of treatment we where made to endure by our torturers for any reason whatsoever, including so called homeland protection.”
  • Patson Muzuwa, tortured in Zimbabwe, says, “If this becomes law it will be one of the best developments because it will make people accountable, and this has happened to very few so far.  It is the way forward to protect people in future from abuse in their own countries.”

Further information on the Bill is available online, search for ‘Torture (Damages) Bill’ under the publications database.

  • The Torture (Damages) Bill
  • The Explanatory Notes
  • Briefing Paper
  • Call for Evidence
  • See REDRESS’ Statement in solidarity with torture survivors on occasion of 26 June – International Day in Support of Victims of Torture