Communications
report
Feb. 28, 2016

United Kingdom communications: May 1, 2011 to February 28, 2016

1200px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.500This page summarizes cases raised with the United Kingdom by the Special Rapporteur between May 1, 2011, (when the Special Rapporteur took up his functions) and February 28, 2016 (the date of the last public release of communications). Communications are released to the public once per year. This page also contains observations on these communications and on responses received from the United Kingdom.

Communications and observations are divided into sections based upon which observation report they originally appeared.

Each communication is referenced as urgent appeal (UA), allegation letter (AL), joint urgent appeal (JUA) and joint allegation letter (JAL) – the hyperlinks lead to these documents. This is followed by the date the communication was issued, as well as the case number and the State reply (also hyperlinked if available).

Summaries and communications are published only in the language of submission (in the case of the United Kingdom, English).

First Report (May 1, 2011 to March 15, 2012)

None

Second Report (March 16, 2012 to February 28, 2013)

None

Third Report (March 1, 2013 to February 28, 2014)

None

Fourth Report (March 1, 2014 to February 28, 2015)

  1. Joint urgent appeal, 21/05/2014. Case no: GBR 2/2014. State reply: 10/07/2014. Alleged imminent risk of forced return from the United Kingdom to Bahrain, and of torture or ill-treatment in detention upon return.

Observations

Responses to communications
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of the United Kingdom for its reply to the communication sent during the reporting period, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolutions 24/5 (2013), 21/16 (2012) and 15/21 (2010) that call upon the State to respond promptly to his communications.

Non-refoulement in the context of the right to peaceful assembly
In relation to the case of Mr. X, the Special Rapporteur reiterates his concern that this individual faces serious risk of torture or ill-treatment in detention over his alleged involvement in anti-Government Protests should he be returned to Bahrain. Mr. X has been detained and tortured three times in Bahrain and sentenced in absentia on charges of “illegal gathering with the intention of inciting violence,” akin to the charge brought against hundreds of protestors in Bahrain since 2011.

The Special Rapporteur takes note of the information provided by the Government that Mr. X remains in the United Kingdom and has not been deported, as of the date of the reply, however, he regrets that no other information is provided with regards to the queries in the communication. In particular, he would seek to know the results of any investigations relevant to the case of forcible refoulement of Bahraini national to Bahrain. He would also request that the Government provide detailed information about what kind of monitoring is conducted to ensure that Bahraini asylum seekers who have not been granted asylum in the United Kingdom and have returned to Bahrain, were not subject to arbitrary detention, torture or other ill-treatment.

The Special Rapporteur refers to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the United Kingdom is a party. Article 3 provides that “[n]o State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture,” which, in the case of Mr. X, would be reportedly due to his involvement in peaceful protests in Bahrain. It further provides that ““[f]or the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.” Moreover, he calls on all States, including the United Kingdom to take all necessary steps to secure the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association as per article 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Country visit
The Special Rapporteur takes this opportunity to reiterate his thanks to the Government for the visit he undertook from 14 to 23 January 2013. He recalls the exemplary cooperation of the Government during the mission and remains grateful for its continuous support to his mandate since its inception, and more generally for its efforts at promoting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association at the international level.

Fifth Report (March 1, 2015 to February 28, 2016)

  1. Joint allegation letter, 22/12/2015. Case no. GBR 4/2015. State reply: 17/02/2016; 10/03/2016. Allegedly a number of provisions contained in a draft bill, namely the draft “Investigatory Powers Bill”, may unduly interfere with the right to privacy, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association, both within and outside the United Kingdom.
  2. Press release, 11/01/2016. “UK: UN experts urge review of surveillance bill threatening freedom of expression”

Observations

Response to communication
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of the United Kingdom for responding to the communication sent during this reporting period, in particular the detailed response of 10 March 2016.

Investigatory Powers Bill
In relation to the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, the draft Bill aims to protect privacy and security by improving transparency and changing the way investigatory powers are authorised and overseen. The Special Rapporteur highlighted concerns about overly broad definitions and disproportionate procedures to authorize surveillance and data retention in the draft Bill (PR 11/01/2016), as explained in his submission to the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, he notes with appreciation of the consideration of his submission by the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill in its subsequent Report.[1]

A number of amendments have subsequently been made to the draft Bill, and the Investigatory Powers Bill (the Bill) is now before the Parliament. The Special Rapporteur emphasizes his ongoing concern for the potential impact of the Bill on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, and calls on the Government to ensure that the surveillance and privacy measures in the Bill protect these fundamental rights. In particular, he expresses concern for the collection of data, in particular of peaceful protestors and individuals associating online, and how this information may be used. He calls on the Government to ensure a human rights based approach in the Bill and to increase the accountability of intelligence services (A/HRC/23/39/Add.1).

Country visit
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of the United Kingdom
for inviting him to undertake a follow-up mission, from 18 to 21 April 2016, subsequent
to the country visit he conducted from 14 to 23 January 2013. A full
report on his findings will be presented at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council.
His end-of-visit statement can be found here:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19854&LangID=E

[1]   UK Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, Draft Investigatory Powers Bill Report, (2015-16, HL 93, HC 651).

For the full reports, containing communications, replies and observations for all countries, see the following links:

Report A/HRC/20/27/Add.3: May 1, 2011 to March 15, 2012

Report A/HRC/23/39/Add.2: March 16, 2012 to February 28, 2013

Report A/HRC/26/29/Add.1: March 1, 2013 to February 28, 2014

Report A/HRC/29/25/Add.3: March 1, 2014 to February 28, 2015

Report A/HRC/32/36/Add.3: March 1, 2015 to February 28, 2016

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