Suspected international terrorists detained in the United Kingdom: a follow-up report by the Council's Anti-Torture Committee

In a report published today, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) re-assesses the treatment of foreigners detained in the United Kingdom pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA)(1).
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The visit of the CPT in March 2004* focused on the impact of the conditions of detention on the mental and physical health of the detainees. It found that many of them were in a poor mental state as a result of their detention, and some were also in poor physical condition. Detention had caused mental disorders in the majority of persons detained under the ATCSA. For those who had been subjected to traumatic experiences in the past, it had clearly reawakened the experience. The absence of control resulting from the indefinite character of detention, the uphill difficulty of challenging the detention and the fact of not knowing what evidence was being used against them had a detrimental effect on their health. The CPT concluded that for some of them, their situation at the time of the visit could be considered as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment.

In its response the United Kingdom Government rejects this conclusion and maintains that throughout their detention under the ATCSA powers, the individuals concerned received humane and decent treatment and appropriate levels of medical and psychological care. The Government also responds to other points raised in the CPT’s report, most notably in relation to the organisation and provision of health care services for prisoners and the operation of special advocates.

The CPT report and the response of the United Kingdom Government (published at the request of the UK) are available on the CPT’s website:


* A previous visit of the CPT took place in February 2002.

(1)    The ATCSA Part 4 powers were exceptional immigration powers which enabled the Home Secretary to certify and detain foreign nationals who were suspected of involvement in international terrorism and who were believed to represent a risk to national security. They could not be removed from the United Kingdom because of fears that if returned to their countries of origin those detained would suffer torture. In this connection, the UK derogated from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).


On 16 December 2004 the Law Lords quashed the derogation order and concluded that ATCSA was incompatible with Article 5 and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the ECHR. This led to the United Kingdom Government introducing measures that could apply to UK and foreign nationals and which did not involve imprisonment. The Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2005 was enacted on 10 March 2005, introducing a new system of Control Orders. Those detained under the ATCSA, and visited by the CPT’s delegation, were released from detention and served with Control Orders.