Benefits, torture and human rights

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has made a submission about human rights in Scotland to the United Nations Committee against Torture. The remit of the UN Committee is that it monitors the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Part of the SHRC’s submission is that “the UK Government and all of those involved in the implementation of welfare reform ensure that the cumulative impact of cuts in social security does not breach the Convention.”

Now, much as I dislike the benefit cuts, I think there is a moral distinction to make between cutting Housing Benefit and administering electric shocks to people’s private parts; and at a time when the protection of essential human rights is under threat, bombarding international organisations with issues that fall well outside their remit is neither appropriate nor wise.

One thought on “Benefits, torture and human rights”

  1. Hi Paul, interesting and timely post.

    I was at a an event on Tuesday evening with an organisation called ‘Freedom from torture’ where a torture survivor spoke about his experience of the asylum process in the UK and he stated that at several points during the 11 years his case took to reach a decision, he wished he could be returned to his own country so he could be ‘finished off quickly’ (his words) rather than being left to live the life he was leading in the UK. I also spoke recently to a researcher who is concluding a report into a similar subject with male refugees in the North East and she said that the most used phrase by participants in her research was that life in the UK under the asylume system was ‘slow torture’.

    I appreciate that your post is about welfare reform and not the asylum system (and I’m not suggesting that the beneftis cuts amounts to torture either) but these examples perhaps highlight the effect that administrative systems and poverty/destitution have on people who have already experienced horrendous conditions elsewhere. I guess it also highlights the importance of ‘voice’ in these situations and that ‘torture’ can take many forms.

    As S.M Miller wrote in the Introduction to ‘The philsophy of Welfare’ – ‘Inhumanity becomes social policy because it keeps the costs down’

    Best wishes,


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