Commission welcomes report by Committee Against Torture

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has welcomed new recommendations published by a United Nations Committee to help Scotland improve its human rights record in relation to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The UN Committee Against Torture scrutinised the UK’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture, and has made a series of recommendations including:

  • maintaining the current level of human rights protection provided by the Human Rights Act and incorporation of the Convention into national law.

  • addressing prison conditions.

  • implementing a better integration of the Convention standards in areas such as health care.

  • strengthening victims’ right to effective remedy and reparation.

The recommendations in full are at this link.

The Commission submitted a report to the Committee to help inform its analysis of the  UK compliance with the Convention against Torture. The Commission called on the Committee to explore whether more can be done particularly in the context of health and social care, welfare reform, historic child abuse, immigration, some custody settings and corporal punishment.

The Committee’s recommendations reflect a range of concerns raised by the Commission, in particular, we welcome the recommendations that the UK:

  • incorporate the Convention in the domestic legal order and reconsider its position under article 22 of the Convention to accept the right of individual petition, and raise awareness of the Convention’s provisions among members of the judiciary and the public. 

  • ensure that restraint against children is used only as a last resort and exclusively to prevent harm to the child or others and ensure that children with mental disabilities shall in no case be detained in police custody but directed to appropriate health institutions.
    establish proper accountability mechanisms and standards in order to prevent ill-treatment of patients receiving health care services.

  • ensure that electrical discharge weapons (such as TASERs) are used exclusively in extreme and limited situations where there is a real and immediate threat to life or risk of serious injury, as a substitute for lethal weapons, and by trained law enforcement personnel only, and expressly prohibiting their use on children and pregnant women.

  • prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings, repealing all legal defences currently in place, and further promote positive non-violent forms of discipline via public campaigns as an alternative to corporal punishment.

  • set concrete targets to reduce the high level of imprisonment and overcrowding. The Committee recommended that the State party pay due attention to the recommendations of the Commission on Women Offenders in Scotland.

  • continue to provide bodies constituting the National Preventive Mechanism with sufficient human, material and financial resources to discharge their prevention mandate independently and effectively.

Diego Quiroz, Policy Officer at the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: “Scotland has demonstrated a steady development in human rights and it is essential that we continue to improve human rights standards in all contexts, including health and social care settings, and particularly for those living in poverty or in extremely difficult situations such as those faced by asylum seekers and children in detention.

"The Commission welcomes the Committee’s recommendations as an opportunity to identify gaps and good practices in order to work with the Scottish Government and public authorities to achieve greater compliance and progress on human rights in Scotland.”