World Human Rights Day: REDRESS launches new campaign for legislation to allow torture survivors to sue their tormentors through UK courts

REDRESS today calls on the public and Parliament to back new legislation allowing
residents tortured abroad to bring a claim for compensation in the UK against the individuals and
governments responsible.

REDRESS is delighted that Lord Archer of Sandwell QC has chosen to re-introduce his important
Torture (Damages) Bill in the House of Lords and urges the new coalition Government, Lords and
members of parliament to approve the proposed changes.

Kevin Laue, legal advisor, said: “This proposed legislation is an important step towards ending impunity for torturers and states that perpetuate it. The UK can take the lead in making clear to all governments whose systems tolerate torture that this will have consequences for them and their representatives.”

The Torture (Damages) Bill had its First Reading the House of Lords on 24 November 2010 and is
expected to go forward to a Second Reading in the New Year.

If enacted, it would allow survivors to make a claim for compensation in the courts of England and Wales if they were unable to do so in the country in which they were tortured. This is the second time it has been put before the Lords, where it was passed in 2008 but later failed to progress through the Commons.

Currently, a foreign torturer can be criminally prosecuted in the UK but victims mistreated abroad have
no right to bring a civil claim.

The previous Government argued that rules protecting foreign states and their officials from court action
(immunities) could not be suspended in the case of torture even though there are other exceptions, such
as for property and employment disputes, where UK courts can hear such claims. However,
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended the adoption of the Torture (Damages)
Bill in a report last year.

Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS, said today: “Survivors of torture have endured unimaginable suffering and they deserve the right to have that acknowledged in court, a civil court if necessary. It is part of the healing process and essential to justice.”

“This is the UK’s opportunity to show that it will not turn a blind eye to torture. Foreign officials who perpetrate this international crime can already be prosecuted if, they come here. The Torture (Damages) Bill seeks to make it possible to sue them even if they don’t. It’s time for the country to step forward and say ‘no, torture will not be tolerated’.”

For more information, please contact:
Kevin Laue, REDRESS: +44 (0)20 7793 1777; [email protected];