7. Submission from the Medical Foundation
for the Care of Victims of Torture
The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of
Torture (the "Medical Foundation") is a human rights
organisation that works exclusively with survivors of torture
and organised violence, both adults and children. It has received
more than 38,000 referrals since it began in 1985. The Foundation
offers its patients medical and psychological treatment and documentation
of the signs and symptoms of tortureproviding some 1,000
forensic medical reports each yearas well as a range of
1. The Medical Foundation is concerned by the decision
of SIAC in the case of Jamal Ben Miloud Amar Ajouaou v. Secretary
of State for the Home Department, 29th October 2003, and in
particular, by the Commission's seeming willingness to accept
and consider in its deliberations evidence which had been obtained
through the use of torture. The UN Convention Against Torture
and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
(1984) (the "UN Convention"), to which the UK is a signatory,
provides at Article 15 that "Each State Party shall ensure
that any statement which is established to have been made as a
result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings."
The decision of SIAC in this case is therefore in clear contravention
of international law.
Furthermore, Article 55 of the United Nations Charter
obliges all States party to promote universal respect for, and
to observe, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The acceptance
and use of evidence obtained through torture is inconsistent with
this obligation, since rather than condemn the practice, the effect
may be one of implicit endorsement.
Finally on this point, evidence obtained by torture
is notoriously unreliable. This was demonstrated most recently
in the case of the British and Canadian expatriates Sandy Mitchell
and William Sampson, who were wrongly accused of the murder of
a second Britain in a bomb attack in Saudi Arabia. The two were
convicted and sentenced to death solely on the basis of false
confession evidence extracted under torture, and were held in
prison for nearly three years before their convictions were quashed.
A further four Britains and a Belgian national were arrested and
convicted at the same time, again solely on the basis of false
confession evidence extracted under torture, following separate
bombing incidents in Riyadh. All of the convictions have now been
quashed and the accused released. It is clear from this that evidence
obtained by torture is both legally and ethically unsound, and
its use must be prohibited in all circumstances.
2. In addition, the Medical Foundation is concerned
about the negative mental health consequences of indefinite detention
without trial, as has already been, in part, illustrated by the
case of "G". The Medical Foundation believes that the
nature of detention under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security
Act 2001 is particularly likely to cause psychological problems:
i. Indefinite detention with limited communication
about the progression of the case is more difficult to endure.
A report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission
of Australia has suggested that both indeterminacy and lack of
control over the legal case can act as risk factors for mental
ii. Detention without proper trial can increase
feelings of injustice, frustration and despair, thereby impacting
on mental health.
iii. Prolonged periods of detention (over months)
increase the risk of adverse and disabling psychological consequences.
iv. Detention under anti-terrorism legislation
is subjecting individuals to being labelled a "terrorist"
without first establishing that conviction. Such a label can in
itself do harm.
i. The UK Government should legislate to prohibit
the use in any UK court of any information obtained under torture,
whether confessions or intelligence information.
ii. The UK Government should ensure that no prisoners
held under UK jurisdiction, in the UK or abroad, are kept in secret
locations or are not notified to the appropriate independent inspectorate,
whether HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in the UK or, with reference
to prisoners held by British armed forces abroad, the International
Committee of the Red Cross.
iii. Prisoners held under anti-terrorism legislation
who are subject to indefinite detention without trial should have
access to psychiatric assessment and treatment from an independent
psychiatrist or psychologist of their own choosing.
iv. All prisoners held under anti-terrorism legislation
should have their detention subject to meaningful, substantive
and regular review by the courts. Such review should include consideration
of information provided on the mental health and well being of
v. Mechanisms should be put in place to identify
those detainees who have previously been subject to torture in
other countries. This group is at increased risk of mental ill
health, and as such should be monitored and measures taken to
protect their health. This would include access to appropriate
28 June 2004
2 219 19 Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission
1998, Canberra HREOC 1998: 167, 153, 154, 218. Back