Treatment of people with mental health problems, those in care homes, and prisoners, calls into question Scotland's record under the United Nations Convention against Torture, according to a new report by the Scottish Human Rights Commission.
The report, which is being presented to the UN’s Committee against Torture (UNCAT) in Geneva today (6 May), details concerns about Scotland’s record upholding the Convention and sets out 21 recommendations to the Scottish Government on improving its human rights record in relation to the prevention of inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Convention prohibits conduct such as the excessive use of force or restraint techniques in education, health, social care, prisons or where children are in custody. It also prohibits any acts in care homes, hospitals and mental health units that could be degrading, including the abuse and neglect of children or older people in residential care.
In its report the Commission sets out a wide range of areas where it believes Scotland is failing to meet the standards of the Convention, including:
- the treatment of older people in care homes, which should meet UNCAT standards with effective guidance to businesses in the sector on how to respect human rights;
- understaffed prisons, with some prisoners locked up for up to 22 hours a day with limited access to activities, along with overcrowding and its impact on prisoner violence and access to recreation;
- inadequate provision for older prisoners, with many experiencing poor treatment in terms of isolation and poor healthcare, and foreign national prisoners, who experience heightened levels of isolation;
- immigration detention, where the Commission supports and echoes calls for an end to indefinite immigration detention made by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC);
- deaths in custody, where there is no mandatory investigation for deaths in mental health settings, and there are long delays in holding fatal accident inquiries in respect of deaths in prison;
- restraint or seclusion of children in schools, which is known to take place without clear policies and procedures.
It also calls for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised beyond the minimum of 14 years of age, in line with the majority of European nations.
Commission chair Judith Robertson commented: "We all have the human right to be free from cruel and degrading treatment, whether that’s in care homes or hospitals, when we use mental health services, or if we come into contact with the criminal justice system.
"The Convention against Torture protects these rights in international human rights law, and sets the standards that Scotland should be upholding through its own laws, policies and practices. As a country we have signed up to these standards but are failing to meet all of them. The Scottish Government must take action to address the concerns we have set out in our report to the UN.
"In Geneva today we will be asking the UN to press the Scottish Government to take action to close these gaps, including by incorporating all elements of the Convention against Torture into law in Scotland."