Freedom News

Kevan Thakrar challenges torture in Belmarsh

On 25 and 26 April Kevan Thakrar, a young Muslim man, is bringing a legal challenge in the High Court against his prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement in prison segregation. Since April 2021 he has been confined to his cell for 23 hours a day and has to exercise in what amounts to a cage. 

A protest will be held outside the court each morning at 9 a.m. in support of Thakrar, organised by his family, friends and organisations opposed to this cruel and inhuman treatment. 

Thakrar received a life sentence after being convicted of murder in a case based on the discredited joint enterprise law and in a trial riddled with injustice. Thakrar is one of the 50 men within English prisons to be detained within the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system under Rule 46 of the Prison Rules 1999.

The use of solitary confinement is widespread across the British prison estate, most acutely in high security prisons against Muslim men, Black men and men of colour. In 2015, 50% of prisoners in Close Supervision Centres (segregated punishment units) were Muslim, despite being only 4% of the general population. Describing the impact of solitary confinement, Thakrar has said:  

I am almost constantly anxious, hypervigilant, lethargic, and feeling myself deteriorating physically and mentally. I am regularly suffering with severe headaches, flashbacks and nightmares

Solitary is a recognised form of torture causing irreparable harm to those subjected to it for prolonged periods of time. Prisoners testify to being denied access to food, clothes and communication with their loved ones outside prison. Some women are also in solitary confinement and because their work as the primary carers in society continues even from prison, this isolation is particularly traumatic. Thakrar says: 

The brutality inflicted upon the prisoners within solitary causes the majority of people to develop major mental illness. I would not wish this devastation upon anyone.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture recognised that solitary confinement amounts to a breach of his Article 3 human rights – the right to life. Whilst in segregation, Thakrar has suffered racist attacks and been abused by prison staff, including an incident where he was tear gassed.

Thakrar’s account of his treatment in prison was recently endorsed by the courts where he proved that the prison authorities failed to protect him from racist and Islamophobic violence over a period of seven years. This included being knifed and having excrement thrown at him. In the settlement agreement the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) accepted that it had been guilty of torture and/or cruel and inhuman treatment, as well as breaching Thakrar right to a family life.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture questioned the government about Thakrar’s case saying that his conditions of detention, if confirmed: 

“. . . would amount to a violation of the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as codified in Articles 2 and 16 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), ratified by the United Kingdom on 8 December 1988. These acts would also constitute a violation of Articles 7, 9, and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which the United Kingdom became a state party on 20 July 1976.”

The protest will continue throughout the duration of Mr. Thakrar’s case.

Read more about Kevan Thakrar’s story:

Image: Guy Smallman

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