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British Nationality: Torture

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 16 September 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what guidance his Department follows in response to reports of British nationals having been tortured abroad. (291421)

Consular staff are specifically trained on what action to take in response to any allegation of mistreatment, and there is clear guidance for such cases.

This guidance includes the identification of possible signs of torture and mistreatment, as well as the procedures to be adopted in such circumstances. The first step when a British national is detained overseas is to seek and secure access by our consular staff. Our staff are instructed to ask our nationals whether they have suffered abuse or mistreatment, and to look out for signs of mistreatment even where an individual does not raise it. They are required to follow up all reports of mistreatment whether they come from the individual themselves, from their friends, family or representatives, or from other sources. What form this follow up action will take will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. Most obviously, we can raise our concerns with the relevant authorities. Whatever action we take the objective remains the same: to end the mistreatment, and have the incident investigated and the perpetrators of any abuse brought to justice.

In many countries we also raise more general concerns around the mistreatment and abuse of detainees as part of our wider human rights dialogue.