2003 Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Theo van Boven

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

1873. By letter dated 13 September 2002 sent jointly with the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information according to which Zahid Mubarek was beaten to death with a table leg by his cell mate in Feltham Young Offenders Institution and Remand Centre, Middlesex, in March 2000. An internal prison service investigation into this murder was believed to have identified a number of management failures and other major problems affecting Feltham. It was alleged that Zahid Mubarek had been placed in the same cell as his killer, even though prison officers were, or should have been, aware of the latter’s racial prejudices and violent behaviour. On 5 October 2001 the High Court was said to have ruled that the Home Office should initiate a public and independent investigation into the failures which led to the death of Zahid Mubarek. In March 2002 the Court of Appeal ruled that a public inquiry was not necessary. The Court of Appeal judges said that it had already been established that the prison service was at fault, an inquiry into this had been held and the family invited to be involved; that the cause of death had been established by the inmate’s conviction for murder; and that there was no basis for prosecuting any member of the prison service. They also added that there were no “factual unknowns” which would impede the family from bringing a claim in the civil courts for damages. The family of Zahid Mubarek was reportedly planning to appeal to the House of Lords.

1874. By letter dated 18 November 2002, the Government assured the Special Rapporteur that the death was the subject of a wide-ranging investigation by the Prison Service and that a specially trained senior Governor from outside Feltham was appointed as Senior Investigating Officer. In all 26 recommendations were made addressing such areas as screening on reception, the availability and scrutiny of medical records, protection from harassment procedures, policy and procedures for reading and stopping mail, the availability of security information files from previous establishments, security, reception and Duty Governor training and the searching strategy. In addition, an improved healthcare screening process is being introduced to better identify prisoners with serious physical and mental health problems. Procedures are also being developed to ensure a better exchange of information between Prison Service and externa l agencies when a prisoner comes into custody. The Government informed the Special Rapporteur that an offer of £20,000 as compensation had been made to the family of Zahid Mubarek in September 2001 but had not been answered yet. Finally, the Government confirmed that the aggressor had been sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and that no member of staff at Feltham had been charged with any criminal offences or disciplined internally in relation to the care of Zahid Mubarek.

Urgent appeals

1875. On 1st July 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal on behalf of Mahmoud Abu Rideh, a Palestinian refugee, who was held at Belmarsh Prison in London. He was reportedly arrested in London on 19 December 2001 under the Antiterrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) 2001. In 1997, he is said to have been granted refugee status as a torture victim and diagnosed as suffering from severe posttraumatic stress disorder. His mental and physical health has seriously deteriorated since his detention. He reportedly complained of frequent flashbacks of his torture, which were said to be triggered by the fact that he was detained in Belmarsh Prison in very harsh conditions. He was reportedly confined to a wheelchair. On a daily basis, like the other ATCSA detainees, he is locked up in his cell for 22 hours a day. Despite evidence presented at the bail hearing that Mahmoud Abu Rideh could conceivably take his own life as a result of his current detention at Belmarsh Prison, bail to a medium to low level secure mental hospital as requested by his legal representatives has been refused.

1876. On 24 July 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent another urgent appeal on behalf of Mahmoud Abu Rideh on behalf of whom he had intervened on 1st July 2002 (see above). It was reported that on 19 July 2002, the Home Secretary had ordered his transfer from Belmarsh prison in London to Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital in the South of England. Broadmoor hospital is one of three high security mental hospitals and holds some of the most dangerous and vio lent detainees. However, it was reported that psychiatrists from Broadmoor had examined him while in Belmarsh and had recommended that he be sent to a mental hospital which would have a less oppressive regime and which would be nearer to his family. According to expert medical evidence, he is not a threat to anyone except himself.

1877. By letter dated 13 August 2002, the Government confirmed that Mahmoud Abu Rideh had been transferred on 24 July 2002 from Belmarsh prison to Broadmoor high security hospital after approval of the Home Secretary. The Government stated that the transfer of Mahmoud Abu Rideh met the legal requirements of the Mental Health Act 1983 and that the Home Secretary may only transfer a person to hospital if there are reports from a least two registered medical practitioners that the said person is suffering from mental illness or severe mental impairment that requires urgent treatment. The Government added that the Home Secretary considered Broadmoor to be an appropriate setting for Mahmoud Abu Rideh, taking into account his clinical needs and the risk he presents to the public.


1878. The Special Rapporteur considers it appropriate to draw attention to the concerns expressed by the Human Rights Committee in its consideration of the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in October 2001 under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding the general Terrorism Act 2000 under which “suspects may be detained for 48 hours without access to a lawyer if the police suspect that such access would lead, for example, to interference with evidence or alerting another suspect. Particularly in circumstances where these powers have not been used in England and Wales for several years, where their compatibility with articles 9 and 14 inter alia is suspect, and where other less intrusive means for achieving the same ends exist, the Committee considers that the State party has failed to justify these powers.” (CCPR/CO/73/UK, para. 19)

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United Arab Emirates United Republic of Tanzania

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