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NPM responds to Scottish Human Rights Bill consultation

The Scotland Subgroup of the UK National Preventive Mechanism has submitted its response to the Scottish Government’s Human Rights Bill consultation, broadly welcoming the Bill, but with hopes for the inclusion of the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) and Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), and a more ambitious programme of delivery.

In 2021, the Scottish Government’s Human Rights Taskforce released its recommendations for the creation of a Human Rights Bill for Scotland, which would give domestic legal effect to several international human rights standards. From there, a consultation was initiated, (opens in a new tab) asking stakeholders to share their views on the Bill and its incorporation proposal.

The UK National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) Scotland Subgroup represents the interests of Scottish NPM members in their mandate to protect the human rights of people deprived of their liberty. In their consultation response, members broadly welcomed the Human Rights Bill for Scotland and its incorporation proposal, but hoped to see full incorporation of all four treaties* to the same extent, the inclusion of UNCAT (opens in a new tab) and OPCAT, and a more ambitious programme of delivery, including provision of adequate resources and guidance to support human rights scrutiny bodies to fulfil their requirements.

Incorporation of the UNCAT and OPCAT would enshrine the NPM mandate in legislation, taking proactive steps to prevent torture and ill-treatment through the duties and obligations set out in OPCAT. Further, incorporation of the UNCAT would protect the right to rehabilitation, not only bolstering rights of those deprived of their liberty in Scotland, but improving mental and physical health outcomes following detention.

Jim Farish, Chair of the UK NPM Scotland Subgroup, said: “We are pleased to see the Scottish Government taking steps to establish a domestic legal framework for the protection of human rights, however this legislation will only be as strong as the resources and support allocated for its implementation and ongoing scrutiny.

We also believe that the UNCAT and OPCAT should be incorporated into this Bill. Doing so would make a clear statement on the prohibition of torture in Scotland and the importance of taking preventive measures, particularly among people deprived of their liberty, who are especially vulnerable to ill-treatment.”

Read the full consultation response (opens in a new tab).

*The Scottish Government’s Human Rights Taskforce currently recommends embedding four international human rights treaties into Scottish law: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)