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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                                

The United Kingdom (UK)

While prisons generally adhere to international guidelines, problems of overcrowding, violence, self-harm, and drugs in prisons have worsened in the 2010s.  [Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: UK

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in the UK.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: United Kingdom

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 11 August 2021]


The law prohibits such practices, but there were a few reports that government officials employed them.

Impunity was not a problem in the security forces. The Independent Office for Police Conduct, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons carried out investigations into complaints of abuses by security forces. The United Kingdom’s (UK’s) College of Policing incorporates human rights-oriented guidance on policing into its Authorized Professional Practice, the official source of policing practice.

The CPT’s report on its visit to Scotland expressed concern about the use of “long-term segregation” and recommended that “alternatives…should urgently be considered.”

UN rapporteur on torture ‘scared to find out more about our democracies’ after delving into Assange case

RT News [Russian Federation], 9 May 2020

[accessed 10 May 2020]

Discovering that the cruelty visited on Julian Assange by Western democracies had been premeditated has heightened the fear of learning more about how those democracies operate, the UN’s rapporteur on torture has admitted.

For years Nils Melzer has been researching on behalf of the UN just how vile and degrading the mistreatment of prisoners can become. But learning that states that are supposed to be champions of human rights can be as brutal as any other with people who cross them was quite a shock. The case that made Melzer reassess his beliefs is that of Julian Assange, who, he says, had signs of "prolonged psychological torture" while in the UK.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 15 May 2020]


While prisons generally adhere to international guidelines, problems of overcrowding, violence, self-harm, and drugs in prisons have worsened in the 2010s, and were noted by the chief inspector of prisons for England and Wales in his 2018–19 annual report. Conditions in some British prisons have earned recent scrutiny in Parliament. Prison chiefs were questioned over the living conditions in Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Liverpool after a 2018 surprise inspection recorded squalid living conditions.

Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on the United Kingdom

Executive Summary, 30 April 2020

[accessed 31 May 2020]

In May 2019, the CPT carried out a targeted follow-up visit to England to focus on the persistently high levels  of  violence  in  the  adult  and juvenile  prison  estates,  as  well  as  on  broader  concerns  regarding regimes, the use of  force, segregation and means  of restraint. The visit follows up on serious  concerns raised during the CPT’s April 2016 periodic visit to the United Kingdom; notably, the lack of safety for inmates and staff in prisons in England, prison violence spiralling out of control, poor regimes and chronic overcrowding.

Nevertheless, the ineluctable fact remains that the prison system is in deep crisis. During the 2019 visit, the CPT’s delegation found that the local male prisons visited remained violent, unsafe and overcrowded, with many inmates enduring restricted and isolating regimes and/or long periods of segregation. A similar state of affairs was also found in the two young offender institutions visited.

Lastly, a new and deeply concerning finding was the infliction of unjustified violence by staff on prisoners in two of the three prisons visited, namely Liverpool and Wormwood Scrubs. Of utmost concern was the evolution  of  an  informal  practice  of  “preventive  strikes”  (i.e.,  “preventively”  punching  compliant prisoners whom staff perceived might, at some point in the future, become a threat). The CPT recommends that the United Kingdom authorities explicitly prohibit the reprehensible practice of “preventive strikes” by prison officers on inmates and, more generally, undertake a proper investigation into all allegations of ill-treatment and ensure that prison staff understand why ill-treatment is unlawful and will result in severe disciplinary sanctions or criminal prosecution.

The CPT’s 2019 visit findings reinforce sustained criticism by civil society, Parliamentary Committees and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons regarding the overall lack of safety of the male adult prison estate. The CPT recognises that the measures taken by the authorities to date, as outlined in the report, represent a positive start but they remain insufficient to address the root causes of the current prison crisis. Deeper, more comprehensive, effective and adequately financed reforms that are sustainable in the long term are still urgently required.

Men ‘Beaten, Deprived of Sleep, Food and Water’ Not Tortured, Says New Ruling

Corallina Lopez Curzi, 21 March 2018

[accessed 25 March 2018]

At the peak period of the Troubles, a group of ‘high value’ prisoners were subjected to ‘deep interrogation’ – which means they were exposed to treatments aimed at causing intense physical and psychological pain. The idea was to coerce them into confessing, despite the overwhelming evidence that intelligence obtained by torture has no value whatsoever.

Amongst the deep interrogation methods employed by the British, ‘five techniques‘ in particular stood out: deprivation of sleep, deprivation of food and drink, stress positions, hooding and subjection to ‘white noise’. The men also claimed they were beaten.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/CR/33/3 (2004)

[accessed 12 March 2013]

4. The Committee expresses its concern at:

(a) remaining inconsistencies between the requirements of the Convention and the provisions of the State party's domestic law which, even after the passage of the Human Rights Act, have left continuing gaps; notably:

(i) article 15 of the Convention prohibits the use of evidence gained by torture wherever and by whomever obtained; notwithstanding the State party's assurance set out in paragraph 3 (g), supra, the State party's law has been interpreted to exclude the use of evidence extracted by torture only where the State party's officials were complicit; and

(ii) article 2 of the Convention provides that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification for torture; the text of Section 134(4) of the Criminal Justice Act however provides for a defence of "lawful authority, justification or excuse" to a charge of official intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, a defence which is not restricted by the Human Rights Act for conduct outside the State party, where the Human Rights Act does not apply; moreover, the text of section 134(5) of the Criminal Justice Act provides for a defence for conduct that is permitted under foreign law, even if unlawful under the State party's law;

(b) the State party's limited acceptance of the applicability of the Convention to the actions of its forces abroad, in particular its explanation that "those parts of the Convention which are applicable only in respect of territory under the jurisdiction of a State party cannot be applicable in relation to actions of the United Kingdom in Afghanistan and Iraq"; the Committee observes that the Convention protections extend to all territories under the jurisdiction of a State party and considers that this principle includes all areas under the de facto effective control of the State party's authorities;

(c) the incomplete factual and legal grounds advanced to the Committee justifying the derogations from the State party's international human rights obligations and requiring the emergency powers set out in Part IV of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001; similarly, with respect to Northern Ireland, the absence of precise information on the necessity for the continued emergency provisions for that jurisdiction contained in the Terrorism Act 2000;

(d) the State party's reported use of diplomatic assurances in the "refoulement" context in circumstances where its minimum standards for such assurances, including effective post-return monitoring arrangements and appropriate due process guarantees followed, are not wholly clear and thus cannot be assessed for compatibility with article 3 of the Convention;

(e) the State party's resort to potentially indefinite detention under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 of foreign nationals suspected of involvement in international terrorism and the strict regime applied in Belmarsh prison;

(f) the investigations carried out by the State party into a number of deaths by lethal force arising between the entry into force of the Convention in 1988 and the Human Rights Act in 2000 which have failed to fully meet its international obligations;

(g) reports of unsatisfactory conditions in the State party's detention facilities including substantial numbers of deaths in custody, inter-prisoner violence, overcrowding and continued use of "slopping out" sanitation facilities, as well as reports of unacceptable conditions for female detainees in the Hydebank Wood prison, including a lack of gender-sensitive facilities, policies, guarding and medical aid, with male guards alleged to constitute 80% of guarding staff and incidents of inappropriate threats and incidents affecting female detainees;

Human Rights in the United Kingdom

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 15 February 2013]

The European Court of Human Rights and domestic Human Rights Act face ongoing political and media attack in the UK. A draft law before Parliament would widen the use of secret hearings in civil courts when national security is invoked, undermining accountability for abuses by UK officials. Criminal investigations and civil cases on alleged UK complicity in torture and rendition to Gadaffi-era Libya continue, although a wider inquiry into UK complicity in rendition has been shelved. NGOs had boycotted the inquiry over lack of transparency and independence.

Former internees claim 'new evidence' of Army torture

Vincent Kearney, BBC NI home affairs correspondent, BBC News, Northern Ireland, 28 November 2013

[accessed 30 Nov 2013]

On their way to the interrogation centre in 1971, the interned men were hooded and thrown to the ground from helicopters.   They had been told they were hundreds of feet in the air, but were actually just a few feet from the ground.

They were then subjected to what the Army referred to as "the five techniques".   They were beaten, deprived of sleep, food and water, and forced to stand in a stress position against a wall for long periods.   "The noise was indescribable, like steam coming from a boiler at a high rate," said former internee Gerry McKerr.

"We were put against the wall and told to hold the position for as long as we could. On falling, we were beaten and placed back against the wall again.   "I collapsed innumerable times and was beaten each time," Mr McKerr said.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015

TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT - On 12 January, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that, following an investigation, criminal charges would not be brought in two cases against UK intelligence officers alleged to be involved in the ill-treatment of detainees abroad. The first case related to involvement in the torture and other ill-treatment of Binyam Mohamed, the second to an unnamed individual held by US authorities at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in January 2002. However, the MPS stated that it had received other allegations, and was considering possible further criminal investigations.

Criminal investigations were announced, however, into UK involvement in the alleged rendition of Sami al Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj to Libya in 2004 and their reported torture and ill-treatment. In December, Sami al Saadi and his family accepted a financial settlement from the government. A civil claim for damages brought by Abdel Hakim Belhaj against UK authorities remained pending at the end of the year.

On 18 January, the government announced that because of the new criminal investigations concerning alleged renditions to Libya, the Detainee Inquiry would conclude early. The Detainee Inquiry had been established in 2010 to examine allegations of UK involvement in human rights violations of individuals detained abroad in the context of counter-terrorism operations. However, it fell short of international human rights standards for effective, independent and thorough investigations. On 27 June, the Detainee Inquiry provided the government with a report on its work to date, which remained unpublished at the end of year.


For more articles:: Search Amnesty International’s website

[accessed 20 January 2019]

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Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 15 February 2013]

[accessed 7 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – Although the law prohibits such practices, there were complaints that individual members of the police occasionally abused detainees. On December 8, the House of Lords Judicial Committee reversed an appeals court decision and ruled that even in terrorism cases no court could consider evidence obtained through torture.

Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 1   Civil Liberties: 1   Status: Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 15 February 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

The terrorist attacks led to government proposals to toughen antiterrorism laws, which in turn sparked concerns about civil liberties. The proposals, first introduced in August 2005, were wide ranging, although one of Blair’s first measures was defeated. Instead of extending the time terrorism suspects could be held without detention from 14 to 90 days, the Commons extended the period to 28 days. In another government setback, the Law Lords, the highest court in Britain, ruled in December that evidence obtained through torture could not be used at trial.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- United Kingdom UK",, [accessed <date>]