Human rights abuses abroad – Government action
UK Government actions
- In April 2021, the UK Parliament passed the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act, first introduced by the UK Government in March 2020, which creates a ‘presumption against prosecution’ for some criminal offences alleged to have been committed by UK military personnel while deployed on overseas operations. The criminal measures in the Act apply to alleged offences on overseas operations following a period of five years since the events in question. This halves the limitation period on prosecution from the previously proposed ten years. The Act also imposes an absolute time bar on civil claims for personal injury and death and human rights claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 connected with overseas operations. The ‘presumption against prosecution’ did not ultimately apply to crimes including genocide, torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Also removed was a requirement to consider derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to future overseas operations.
- In October 2020, the UK Government committed to releasing, for the first time, details of the funding allocated each year to countries in the Gulf under the Integrated Activity Fund. Concerns had been raised about providing funding to countries with poor human rights records. The fund supports a range of programmes in the region, although details of these have previously been withheld. No details have been released yet.
- In August 2020, the UK Government published its updated approach to the Protection of Civilians in armed conflict, including specific principles on complying with human rights law in situations of conflict. The update commits to actions not previously included in the strategy, including around the specific protection of children living in conflict areas.
- In July 2020, the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 came into force, which seek to deter and provide accountability for serious violations of human rights across the world.
- In July 2019, the UK Government announced its decision not to hold an independent judge-led inquiry into British complicity in torture and rendition. After a legal challenge to this decision was launched, the Government sought to have some of the proceedings heard in private under the Justice and Security Act 2013. These proceedings are ongoing.
- In July 2019, after calls for it to be clarified, the UK Government published a revised version of its ‘Consolidated guidance to intelligence officers and service personnel on the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas’. The revised version followed a review by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office into how to improve the guidance.
- In May 2018, after a Supreme Court ruling, the UK Government apologised to Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar for the UK’s role in their abduction, torture, and rendition to Libya in 2004.
- In 2017, the UK Government closed the Iraq Historic Allegations Team which reviewed and investigated allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel between 2003 and 2009. It opened over 3,000 cases, but these did not lead to any prosecutions. All remaining cases were assigned to Service Police Legacy Investigations.
Read our assessment of the UK Government’s progress on human rights abuses abroad.
The assessment was made based on the evidence available up to 10/05/2021