Redress have published a new report setting out a series of principles to help shape a legal right to consular assistance. These intend to stop any ongoing violation against a British national, or prevent it from occurring, and to enable compensation and reparations (including rehabilitation in appropriate situations) to be provided to British nationals who have suffered human rights violations. Alongside British Rights Abroad Group, Free Nazanin Campaign, and Hostage International, Prisoners Abroad is proud to endorse this publication. 

Christopher Stacey, Chief Executive of Prisoners Abroad says: 

"Prisoners Abroad has over 45 years’ experience of supporting British people in prisons overseas and know how significant the UK government’s consular assistance is to those in trouble abroad; it is especially so for people imprisoned in countries where they may not understand the criminal justice system, the language or the culture. 

For these people, consular assistance overseen by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides unique and vital support at a most crucial and sometimes dangerous time in their lives. The people we support often tell us that without the interest or involvement of consular staff, they would be at greater risk of torture, mistreatment and other abuses of their human rights.  A visit, phone call or letter from UK government officials can show local authorities that someone outside of the prison is aware of the person’s situation and concerned for their welfare.  

One of our key purposes as a charity is to safeguard the welfare and human rights of British citizens detained overseas and we achieve this in several ways. Sometimes this is with practical measures, such as providing grants for clean water, food, and medical treatment to alleviate the impact of harsh conditions and sometimes through advocacy, relaying to consular officials concerns about mistreatment flagged by the person we are supporting. Our services rely on a close working relationship with the FCDO, and we strive to ensure that this relationship is strong so that Britons are aware of and can receive our help and support.

There are, however, some groups of people that are very hard to access and help; these include those deemed to be arbitrarily detained who may also be dual nationals of the country where they are imprisoned, often without having grown up in that country or holding residence there. These people can disappear into prison systems, not receive legal help or the support of the UK government, and therefore Prisoners Abroad may never hear about them or be able to offer any support. This group is extremely vulnerable and needs all the protection that can be afforded by the UK government.

For British citizens detained overseas, consular assistance is absolutely vital to safeguarding their welfare and human rights, and therefore Prisoners Abroad supports the principle put forward by Redress that consular assistance should be provided as a legal obligation.

A shift to a legal obligation is the right thing to do, instead of a discretionary policy that is subject to changes to government priorities, political will and the complex relationships between the UK and other countries. It would undoubtedly require a change culture and practice within the FCDO and UK embassies around the world, but we believe this would be a positive development that would help to protect an extremely vulnerable group of British citizens at a time when they are most in need."

For press and media enquiries, please contact: [email protected]