UK Law Lords torture ruling: Torture evidence from abroad admissible in domestic proceedings

Lawyers representing Amnesty International and 13 organisations will be in court from today asking the Law Lords to overturn a 2004 judgment by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales permitting the admissibility of torture evidence from abroad in domestic proceedings.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

"The UK must not accept the unacceptable. Torture is abhorrent and can never be condoned under any circumstances. It is banned under international law and with good reason – there is no place for torture anywhere in the world.

"This is a momentous case. The UK is at an important crossroads. It can reaffirm its stand against torture, which is absolutely banned, or slide towards illegality by its tacit acceptance that torture is 'sometimes OK'."

The Court of Appeal ruled in August last year that evidence obtained by torture of a third party abroad would be admissible in proceedings before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission providing the torture was not committed or connived at by UK agents.

In the intervention to the UK's highest Court, Keir Starmer, QC representing Amnesty International and the other 13 organisations, will underscore the fact that under international law - which the UK cannot unilaterally change - torture is absolutely prohibited in all circumstances.

Amnesty International also warned of the dangerous precedent that would be set, should the Law Lords fail to rule against torture evidence.

Kate Allen said:

"Failing to rule out the use of any torture evidence in UK proceedings would give a green light to torturers the world over.

"Rather than leading the way in the fight against this vile practice, the UK would legitimise the actions of torturers and provide a cloak of legality for their abhorrent and unlawful practice.

"Let us be clear what we are talking about. This is not about whether evidence is useful.

"This is about whether the UK will turn a blind eye to someone being thrown in a cell and having pain and terror inflicted upon them.

"International law is clear. It tells states not to torture people; not to send people to countries where they might be tortured; and not to use evidence extracted under torture - except in proceedings against torturers.

"Having already sought ‘Diplomatic Assurances’ with states known to torture in the hope of returning people to places where they would face risk of torture, the UK is now in danger of failing on two of these three counts."

In its submission to the Law Lords, Amnesty International has joined forces with 13 other national and international organisations which have extensive experience in working to eradicate the use of torture:

  • the Advice Centre on Individual Rights in Europe (The AIRE CENTRE)
  • The Association for the Prevention of Torture
  • British Irish Rights Watch
  • The Committee on the Administration of Justice
  • Doctors for Human Rights
  • Human Rights Watch
  • The International Federation of Human Rights, INTERIGHTS
  • The Law Society of England and Wales, Liberty
  • The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture
  • REDRESS
  • The World Organisation Against Torture

The organisations are represented in this case, pro bono, by:

  • Keir Starmer QC
  • Mark Henderson
  • Joseph Middleton
  • Peter Morris
  • Laura Dubinsky and Professor Nick Grief all of Doughty Street Chambers
  • Richard Stein, Jamie Beagent and Jo Hickman of Leigh and Day Solicitors

Amnesty International is campaigning to stop torture and ill-treatment in the "war on terror". Find out more about our campaign to Stop Torture...

UPDATE: 16 OCTOBER 2005

Lawyers representing Amnesty International and 13 other organizations are in court today asking the Law Lords to overturn the 2004 judgment by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales permitting torture evidence from abroad to be admitted as evidence in UK proceedings.

In the intervention to the UK's highest court, Keir Starmer QC, representing Amnesty International and the other organizations, will argue that under international law torture is absolutely prohibitied in all circumstances and that no statement obtained through torture should ever be admitted as evidence except in proceedings against torturers.

View the Case for the Interveners on Appeal... /b>

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