Counter-terrorism and human rights: Spotlight on the UK

Public demonstration: Don’t turn a blind eye to torture

The UK Government is seeking agreements to return people to countries known to use torture. Agreements have been signed with Jordan and Libya and are being sought with Algeria and other countries.

The law is clear. States must never torture people and must never send people to countries where they might be tortured. Please join us in a public demonstration to tell the UK Government: Don’t turn a blind eye to torture.


In the years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 in the USA, the UK has introduced a series of laws to counter terrorism which have had the overall effect of severely undermining the UK’s respect for justice and human rights.

This has included, among other things, indefinite detention without trial of terrorist suspects, the use of secret evidence and the admissibility of information extracted through torture as "evidence" in court.

With the new counter-terrorism legislation that is currently being currently debated, human rights, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary are coming under renewed and sustained attack in the UK.

"Diplomatic assurances"?

Within the past year, a number of non-UK nationals who would risk torture or other ill-treatment upon return have been detained on "national security grounds". The UK has recently concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Jordan and Libya, and is pursuing others with Algeria and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, to allow it to sidestep its moral and legal responsibility to not deport individuals to countries where they are likely to suffer human rights abuses.

MOUs and so-called “diplomatic assurances” from governments which are known perpetrators of torture are paper promises which do not change the reality on the ground in their countries, and do not relieve the UK of its legal and human rights obligations.

Political interference in the law

Many politicians, including the UK Prime Minister, have made statements that amount to a threat to, and attack against, the independence of the judiciary. They have hinted that if the courts do not heed the expressed policies of the executive, the government is prepared to bring forward a legislative amendment to the Human Rights Act 1998 - which enshrines in domestic law most of the human rights guaranteed under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms - to ensure that it gets its way.

A bad example

As a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, the current President of the EU, and member of the G8, Council of Europe and the OSCE, the global impact of the UK’s actions and proposed measures cannot be overstated. In addition, the credibility of the UK as an advocate of human rights abroad is also rapidly eroding due to its own demonstrated lack of respect for human rights.

The need to act

For this reason, Amnesty International is making representations to the highest levels of the UK government to ensure that its voice - and that of its 1.8 million members and supporters worldwide - gets heard.

To add your voice to ours, please support Amnesty International today...