TAKE ACTION: How the UK government can make sure torture mistakes are never repeated

By Bella Sankey, Deputy Director of Reprieve

Today the Government apologised to Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar for the UK’s role in their abduction, torture, and rendition. But, at the same time, it is rewriting our country’s torture rules behind closed doors.

We are calling for an open and transparent process to put an end to UK torture complicity.

Ending UK involvement in torture

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“I’ll never forget the sight of my kidnappers, dressed all in black and wearing ski masks, waiting for me in a white cell in the Bangkok detention site. […] A man grabbed my head and shoved me into a truck. They blindfolded and trussed me. […] I have no idea how long I was in the Thai secret prison because no one would let me sleep. The cell was white and stark, with nothing in it but a camera and hooks on the wall. The masked abductors were waiting. I was terrified. They chained me to the hooks. Because I was midway through my pregnancy, I could barely move or sit.

Fatima describing her abuse in The New York Times

We must have proper safeguards to ensure cases like Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar are never repeated, but the Government is consulting only the very agencies they are meant to regulate.

The most recent report on the Consolidated Guidance – the rules that apply to the security services where there is a risk of torture or inhumane treatment – revealed that in 2016 alone there were:

  • 921 cases of torture rules being considered – double the previous annual figures
  • An unprecedented number of acknowledged failures
  • A failure to apply the rules in 35 cases
  • 8 cases where intelligence was passed on in circumstances prohibited by the rules

Britain’s past role in torture has only been exposed by the hard work of journalists and organisations like Reprieve. We must not allow the torture rules to be rewritten or watered down in secret.