UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Update: September 2014

The UN Committee Against Torture accepted many of the recommendations in the Commission's shadow report during the assessment it made in May 2013 of the United Kingdom’s compliance with the Treaty. The Committee's concluding observations can be read in full here.  - Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom, adopted by the Committee at its fiftieth session .

The Committee asked the government to report after one year on a small number of its recommendations. In response to that report, the three UK National Human Rights Institutions – the EHRC, Scottish Human Rights Commission and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission – have submitted a joint interim shadow report. Read our joint shadow report.

Update: 2 May 2013

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has updated its previous submission (August 2012) to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT). This comes ahead of the Committee's oral examination next week, which incorporates many of the issues raised in the August submission, and will look at how the UK is complying with the Convention Against Torture which the UK signed up to in 1988.

The report covers the legal framework, policies and practices in Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) that under the UK's constitutional arrangements, are the responsibility of the UK Government or have been devolved to the Welsh Assembly. On the Commission's analysis, the provisions of the Convention Against Torture are largely incorporated into the domestic legislative framework, but there is still some work to be done in ensuring that its protections are always fully implemented in practice.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) reviews the record of the UK every four years as part of measuring how well countries are performing in implementing the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Commission will be asking the Committee to explore whether there is more that could be done, particularly in the context of some immigration processes, some custody settings and investigative procedures.

The Commission's list of issues report was very influential: 32 of the 42 questions the Committee poses relate directly to information in that report. Many of the Committee's questions are copied directly from our report. With the exception of one or two questions whose origins are likely to be in NGO submissions, the remainder relate to Northern Ireland or are follow up questions from the CAT's last examination of the UK. (There are also a further 17 questions concerning crown dependencies, reflecting the lack of data in the state report with regard to them.)

The UK examination will take place on 6 to 8 May 2013. The Commission has produced a further report to the Committee responding to the Committee's list of issues which can be downloaded on the right hand side of this page. We will also be attending the examination and meeting with the Committee's rapporteurs prior to the Committee's session with the government. We will be seeking to ensure that the Committee makes recommendations in relation to a large number of issues raised in our reports.

Read the Commission's report in word here.

Read the Commission's report in PDF here.


Please contact Clare Collier at clare.collier@equalityhumanrights.com if you have any questions.

UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Torture is one of the most serious violations of human rights and, as such, is strictly condemned by international law and, in particular, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 5, which states that 'No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'.

The Convention against Torture (CAT), adopted in 1984, not only specifies that the States Parties will outlaw torture in their national legislation, but also notes explicitly that no order from a superior or exceptional circumstance may be invoked as a justification of torture.

Each state party is also required to prevent other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CIDT) which do not amount to torture, when they are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official. There are other rights in the treaty, including the right for victims to obtain redress and compensation.

The UK signed CAT in 1988 and as with all its international treaty commitments, reports periodically to the CAT treaty body, the Committee against Torture, on its compliance with the treaty.

The UK government submitted its Fifth Periodic State Report to the Committee in August 2011. The examination will take place at the Committee’s 50th session, due to take place in Geneva in May 2013.

The committee sets a “list of issues” to be the focus of the examination at the session prior to it. The 49th session is scheduled for 29 October to 23 November 2012.

The Commission has submitted a comprehensive report to the Committee prior to the list of issues being set which can be downloaded below or from the related documents section. The report is structured thematically. Following a full review of the evidence and consultation with stakeholders we have focussed on eight areas: UK involvement in conflict overseas, counter-terrorism, immigration, police and prisons, children’s rights, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in health and social care, protection from abuse and the legislative framework.

More information

Commission raises concerns about implementation of UNCAT

The Commission regularly raises concerns about the implementation of UNCAT with the Government and others, for example:

Equality and Human Rights Commission Chief Executive letter to Justice Secretary, 21 February 2012
Download our letter (PDF)

Equality and Human Rights Commission Chief Executive letter to Justice Secretary, 18 November 2011
Download our letter (PDF)

Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair to Sir Peter Gibson, 13 September 2010
View our press release.


Last Updated: 07 Oct 2014