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British Nationality: Torture

Volume 479: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many British nationals have asked the Government to espouse their claims for damages following allegations of torture by officials or agents of foreign governments, or have requested the Government to intervene on their behalf in these matters, since 8 December 1988; (218618)

(2) how many claims by British citizens of torture abroad have been espoused by the Government since December 1988; and what the criteria are for determining whether to espouse such a claim.

The UK is opposed to torture and is one of the most active countries in the world in the fight to eradicate it. We provide consular assistance to British nationals detained abroad, which includes taking an interest in their welfare. We take allegations of mistreatment—including torture—very seriously and, with the permission of the individual concerned, can take up such allegations with the relevant authorities in the host state.

From 1 April 2005 we have collated statistics on the number of cases where we have, with the permission of the British national concerned, raised concerns with the detaining authorities over allegations of mistreatment, ranging from a lack of water to physical abuse. Records were not collated prior to April 2005.

Cases have been raised as follows:

April to December 2005: 39 allegations raised;

January to December 2006: 69 allegations raised; and

January to December 2007: 75 allegations raised.

Collated data are not broken down into specific details of the alleged mistreatment.

We do not centrally collate data on how many British nationals have asked the Government to formally espouse their legal claims for damages following allegations of torture by officials or agents of foreign governments.

We do not centrally collate data on legal claims by British nationals of torture abroad which have been formally espoused by the Government. We have formally espoused no such legal claims in recent years. Any request to formally espouse a legal claim of torture would be considered on a case by case basis.

To collate this information would therefore incur a disproportionate cost.