Torture, Restraint of Children in Care, and LGBTQ+ Rights in Uganda: The Weekly Round-Up
8 June 2023
In the news
The UK’s role in the torture of detainees following the 9/11 attacks, is in question. Last week, the investigatory powers tribunal announced that, on grounds of public interest, they will examine complaints “of the gravest possible kind” which were brought by Mustafa al-Hawsawi against the UK’s intelligence services. Al-Hawsawi was detained in secret CIA prisons and tortured between 2003 and 2006, having been accused of aiding the September 11 attacks. It is alleged that in this time, UK intelligence “aided, abetted, encouraged, facilitated, procured and/or conspired” with the US in Al-Hawsawi’s torture. A related issue concerning the conduct of the CIA is also being heard by the Supreme Court in the case of Zubaydah v Foreign and Commonwealth Office and others next week.
Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that restraint of children should only be a measure of last resort. However, an alarmingly unregulated practice of handcuffing children in care during transport has come to light and is now facing heavy scrutiny. A new campaign by MPs and peers is calling for it to be banned and for any restraint incidents to be properly recorded and monitored by local authorities. The Human Rights framework for restraint can be read in more detail here.
Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda, has now assented to the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act which permits sentences as harsh as the death penalty for certain same-sex acts. The bill has received international criticism, including a statement by US President Joe Biden that this is a “tragic violation of universal human rights”. Human Rights Watch have identified that the Act violates rights to freedom of expression and association, equality, non-discrimination, privacy as well as Uganda’s international human rights commitments.
In other news
A 70% drop out rate by rape victims in criminal investigations has been revealed by government data. The shadow justice minister has identified this as a likely consequence of strain on the criminal justice system, stating that “rape trials are delayed for years, with a high rate of rapists unpunished, leaving victims powerless and traumatised”. Back in March, Louise Casey’s report on misogyny in the Metropolitan police gave rise to increased pressure by Labour on Rishi Sunak to address rape conviction rates. Whether this new statistic will increase that pressure further, and how the government will respond to it, now remains to be seen.
An interesting interaction between equality and planning law is under review following The Bar Standards Board’s concern to facilitate disabled access to the historic chambers buildings in central London. Achieving planning consent to make necessary reasonable adjustments to historic listed buildings is now a point of discussion between the Inns of Court, BSB and London Boroughs of Westminster, City of London and Camden.
Human Rights Watch have reported that a new law being proposed in Russia could “ban transgender people from accessing gender affirming health services”, as well as “prohibit people from changing their name and gender marker on official documents”. The provisions have been declared discriminatory and also a violation on the human right to integrity and privacy.
In the Courts
In the case of Maymulakhin and Markiv v. Ukraine, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the ECHR where the State had failed to provide justification for treating a same-sex couple differently from opposite-sex couples. It was held that the denial to the same-sex couple applicants of any form of legal recognition and protection in contrast with that which is afforded to opposite-sex couples, amounted to unlawful discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Protection of the traditional family, as a broad aim, is not a valid ground for justification in these circumstances.