Submissions to the UN Committee Against Torture, 50th Session May 2013

By Together Against Genocide (TAG, formerly Tamils Against Genocide), Tuesday, May 07 2013
Read TAG's Submission to the Committe Against Torture, 50th Session, regarding the 5th perodic review of the United Kingdom here:

The executive summary reads as follows:

Executive Summary

TAG’s submission is restricted to questions regarding Article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture, namely,

Article 3 No 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. 2. For 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.

We present a summary of TAG’s evidence regarding predominantly voluntary returns to Sri Lanka who were tortured on return. Significantly we refer to 34 asylum appeal determinations from the UK, in which asylum was refused by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and then granted on appeal. The cases are of returns to Sri Lanka, all of whom allege that they were tortured in Sri Lanka, who managed to escape and sought refuge in the UK. We consider it worrying that asylum was refused in the first instance by the UKBA, and we deplore the frequently spurious reasoning employed in so doing.

The UK has temporarily suspended Charter flights of failed asylum seekers (FAS), but this was done not in light of the wealth of information that returnees were at risk, but because the country guidance asylum case was on-going. We contend that the UKBA’s reaction to the information presented to it was inadequate. The tendency of the UKBA has been to respond to new evidence with dismissal and critique.

We note that the country guidance asylum case regarding risk to Sri Lankan Tamils is ongoing. Nonetheless we wish here to express concern regarding the UKBA’s record to date and methodology. Specifically:

a) We note that Operational Guidance notes have been produced without consultation with NGOs whose work they include and critique. Specifically TAG is aware of one country policy bulletin was produced that contained errors, and published directly prior to a scheduled charter flight of FAS allowing insufficient time for NGOs and legal practitioners to respond.

b) TAG has observed the dismissal of torture claims and a refusal to give any weight to the presence of scarring without recourse to evidence, and with a distinct lack of sensitivity for the victim. As noted, paragraph 6, we take issue in general with the reasoning applied by UK officials in the decision making process. There is a tendency to extrapolate from what is judged ‘reasonable’ or ‘sensible’ and asylum applicants’ claims then judged against this artificial and subjective benchmark.

c) Only upon receipt of a Freedom of Information (FoI) Request has the UKBA analysed its own available date with regard to the treatment of FAS in Sri Lanka. We contend that such analysis should be done as a matter of course in order that asylum decisions are made having considered all available information.

d) In an interview, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs Minister Alistair Burt, denied knowledge of evidence that returnees from the UK to Sri Lanka had been tortured on their return to Sri Lanka, this despite there being a considerable amount of evidence on this matter in the hands of the Home Office at the time of the interview. That the FCO was not aware of this information, and indeed, in this instance, spoke contrarily to the facts is deemed unacceptable.