Today, Fair Trials and REDRESS have released a new report which reveals how the use of evidence obtained by torture is still widespread in criminal trials across the world, and calls on States and UN bodies to do more to tackle the problem.
The report – “Tainted by Torture” – is a comparative analysis of the law and practices regarding the exclusion of torture evidence in 17 countries from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, and was produced with support from Allen and Overy LLP. It explores some of the serious flaws in domestic and international law which mean that the international prohibition on torture evidence often fails to be implemented in reality.
The report highlights how torture is often used by police, intelligence services, the military and others as a short-cut in criminal investigations, as a tool of exerting control over detainees; to gather “intelligence”; to solicit leads; and to obtain confessions. Often, authorities resort to torture because relevant domestic legislation does not prohibit such evidence, or because judges fail to declare such evidence inadmissible. In many countries, confessions are used as the main piece of evidence for convictions, exacerbating the risk of torture.
The report calls on States to put in place stronger safeguards to prevent the use of torture evidence and calls on United Nations bodies to do more to emphasise the importance of the exclusion of torture evidence to combat torture. In particular, it calls on the United Nations Committee Against Torture to engage with States and civil society, with a view to clarify international standards in this area.
Jago Russell, Chief Executive of Fair Trials, said: “Justice is impossible if the courts rely on evidence that is tainted by torture. In theory, reliance on torture evidence is already prohibited the world over but, in practice, torture evidence is being used to convict people on a daily basis. We must stop this practice, and remove one of the incentives for torturers the world over.”
Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS, added: “In too many countries the police use torture to force people into confessions, but using evidence obtained by torture is unreliable and leads to unsafe convictions. By excluding these torture statements from the courtroom, international law eliminates one of the root causes of torture around the world. But this report reveals that many states do not apply the rule properly, or at all.”
The report is being launched today at an event in London, hosted by Allen & Overy, which will feature a panel with global experts on the prevention of torture in criminal justice systems, as well as international human rights lawyers who have first-hand experience of challenging the use of torture evidence.
REDRESS and Fair Trials are very grateful to Allen & Overy for their pro-bono support.
A partner at Allen & Overy said: “Nearly 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights articulated the rights and freedoms to which every human being is equally entitled, including freedom from torture, this report raises some challenging issues regarding the admissibility of evidence obtained by torture. We all still have a role to play to make universal rights a reality and for this reason, lawyers from across 12 of our offices were pleased to contribute pro bono research to allow Fair Trials and REDRESS to bring these issues to the fore.”
The full report and recommendations are available here.
Published on Fair Trials on May 16, 2018