Birkbeck Professor invited to give UN talk on the prevention and prosecution of torture
|Professor of Law Bill Bowring recently spent two days in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (15-16 March 2012) as part of a training for advocates on international standards, Uzbek legislation, and practice relating to the prevention and suppression of torture.|
Human rights expert Bill Bowring was invited to Tashkent by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to give an overview of UK legislation and practice on the prevention of torture, and on prosecuting suspected torturers.
Professor Bowring is a fluent Russian speaker and has taken many cases to the European Court of Human Rights. His presentations were part of a two-day programme for some 50 Uzbek lawyers, which culminated in a mock torture trial. His close colleague Olga Tseitlina, a leading advocate in St Petersburg, spoke on Russia.
“There have been a number of human rights cases involving extradition from Russia to countries of the former Soviet Union such as Uzbekistan, and the participants were interested in hearing about the UK as a contrast to Russia. The law on torture is better here than in Russia or Uzbekistan, but there are also problems and it was useful for them to hear what’s going on in the UK, as a country further down the same road,” he said.
Professor Bowring emphasised that this is an area where the UK too has been criticised. “A Government inquiry into the UK’s alleged complicity in the torture and rendition of detainees after the 9/11 attacks was abandoned recently following criticisms,” he said. “This issue is poorly covered by the UK media, and the public are not informed about our international obligations.”
Professor Bowring has been a trustee of The Redress Trust since 1992, which works for reparation of torture survivors, and is the Director of Birkbeck’s LLM/MA in Human Rights. His expertise and experience make him a regular, key figure in such international training exercises, but being invited is also due to the special regard the former Soviet countries have for the UK.
“They romanticise the UK as a country of mists and fogs, and the Soviet film versions of Sherlock Holmes are extremely popular!” he added.