World Report 2015 - United Kingdom

United Kingdom

The government failed to honor its promise of a new independent judge-led inquiry into the UK’s involvement in renditions and complicity in overseas torture. In December 2013, the government announced the inquiry would be conducted by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), a parliamentary body that lacks full independence from government and has repeatedly failed to exercise effective oversight of the security services.

The law enabling same sex marriage in England and Wales came into effect in March. In Scotland, the law was passed in March  and is expected to go into force in December.

A government-sponsored bill to combat modern slavery, before parliament at time of writing, included inadequate safeguards against employer abuse of migrant domestic workers. In April, a parliamentary committee urged the government to restore the ability of migrant domestic workers in the UK to change employer, having found that a visa tying them to one employer “institutionalizes their abuse.”

During a visit in April, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Rashida Manjoo was barred from entering Yarl’s Wood immigration removal center, where migrant and asylum-seekers, most of them women, are detained. In her initial report, Manjoo noted the impact of legal aid cuts on access to justice for women victims of violence.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor announced in May a preliminary examination into allegations of systematic abuse of detainees by UK armed forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2008.

In July, the High Court ruled that the  accelerated “detained fast track” procedure denies asylum applicants the legal representation needed to prepare their case effectively. Rights group charge the system puts people at risk of being removed to countries where they risk persecution, torture, or other ill-treatment.

In July, parliament passed emergency legislation renewing the government’s powers to collect data on the communications of millions of people, contradicting the April ruling by the CJEU on blanket data retention. The law also extended UK surveillance powers extraterritorially. In November, the government disclosed the existence of policies allowing UK intelligence agencies to intercept confidential lawyer-client communications on national security grounds.

A law passed in July allows the government to revoke the citizenship of naturalized UK citizens if they engage in terrorism or other actions “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests” of the UK, even if it renders them stateless. In November, the government published draft legislation to ban people suspected of involvement in terrorism abroad from returning to the UK for two years and allow police to confiscate the passports of those suspected of travelling overseas to join armed groups.

An NGO,recorded an increase in anti-Semitic incidents from January to June compared to the same period in 2013, including violent assaults, damage, and desecration of property and threats. In London, the Metropolitan police recorded a 92.8 percent increase in anti-Semitic crime in the 12 months leading to October 2014.

According to official statistics, there were 88 suicides in prison between April 2013 and March 2014, a 69 percent rise compared to the previous 12 month period and the highest figure in a decade.

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