The UK Government should create an exception to the state immunity rule which currently prevents torture survivors pursuing foreign torturers for damages in UK courts. This is one of the important conclusions of the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) in its Report released yesterday, “Closing the Impunity Gap: UK law on genocide (and related crimes) and redress for torture victims.
The JCHR said that existing universal criminal jurisdiction to prosecute those alleged to have committed torture abroad should be matched by laws allowing civil claims to be brought in the UK. Victims of torture are entitled under international law to seek reparations, and the Government should legislate to make this possible. The JCHR called on the Government to support the Torture (Damages) Bill passed in the House of Lords last year, which is currently in the House of Commons.
From the report:
94. Creating the exception to state immunity for the tort of torture would give the courts the opportunity to develop international law in this regard. We think that the pre-eminence of UNCAT, and in particular article 14, provides a strong basis for positive future developments. The Government’s interpretation of the current international legal position is not a sufficient reason to retain unjust, outdated domestic law and prevent any opportunity for the UK to lead the development of international law in this regard.