Forced marriage in the UK

The Government defines forced marriage as where one or both of the parties in a marriage is married without his or her consent. Individuals may face physical pressure to marry (eg threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (eg they may be made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family)

During her time as Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP made forced marriage a significant focus. Most forced marriages occur overseas (particularly in South Asia) where an individual is transported to a foreign country to marry and returned to the UK after the process is complete. Until 2014, the civil remedy of Forced marriage protection orders had been the main instrument used to prevent this. It allowed the courts to, for instance, demand someone's passport if they believed they were at risk of forced marriage.

In 2014, Theresa May introduced legislation which made it a criminal offence to force someone else to marry. The new law criminalises people who: take another individual overseas to force them to marry; or, who force someone to marry who lacks the mental capacity to consent to it. Last year, in one of her final acts as Home Secretary, the now Prime Minister introduced new rules to provide lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage, protecting them from. It is hoped that this will increase the number of prosecutions for forced marriage

Despite these positive policies, figures collected by government suggest that the number of potential victims of forced marriage remains high and is only declining slightly.

Measuring forced marriage

The largest source of data on forced marriage is provided by the Forced Marriage Unit. The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit was which was set up in 2005 to lead on the Government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual who resides in the UK, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals.

The FMU operates a public helpline to provide advice and support to potential victims of forced marriage as well as to professionals dealing with cases. The assistance provided ranges from simple safety advice, through to aiding a victim to prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK (so-called ‘reluctant sponsor’ cases), and, in extreme cases, to rescue victims held against their will overseas.

In 2015 (the last year for which figures are available), the FMU gave advice or support relating to a possible forced marriage in 1,220 cases via its public helpline and email inbox. This represents a fall of 3% (47 cases) compared with the previous year. This fall continues a general downward trend which has been observed since 2009.

Almost 80% of cases handled by the FMU were reported by professionals, colleagues, friends or family, while only 20% are reported by potential victims themselves. Some have argued that the small number of self-referrals suggest that the FMU statistics may be underreporting the scale of forced marriage as victims are too afraid of repercussions to come forward.

Countries at risk

In 2015, the FMU handled cases which involved 67 ‘focus’ countries. Focus countries are countries which a victim is at risk of being taken to, or has already been taken to, in connection with a forced marriage. Five countries made up 62% of cases handled by the FMU. By far the most predominant focus country connected to forced marriage was Pakistan. In 2015, Pakistan was a focus country for 44% of cases handled by the FMU.

The FMU statistics show there is a clear geographical component to forced marriage. The top four countries connected to forced marriage all share a border with each other (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan). The FMU statistics mirror evidence which shows that women who live in South Asia are frequently forced into marriage.

According to UNICEF, 48% of women in South Asia are forced to marry before they are 18. The tradition of forced marriage in South Asian society is thought to have begun within the Indian subcontinent when the historical Vedic religion was eclipsed by Hinduism. Hinduism established a culture of patriarchy and rules based on caste. ‘Caste’ is a complex concept which refers to individuals who are differentiated according to different functions of life, such as occupation. Caste is hereditary. In order to maintain their caste, South Asian families frequently use forced marriage to ensure their children marry someone of a similar social status.

Outside of South Asia, the fifth highest volume country for cases handled by the FMU is Somalia. There appear to be two drivers of Somalia’s high volume of cases. First, its cultural norms promote forced marriage and misogyny. Nearly half of Somali girls are married by the time they turn 18 while 98% of Somali girls have suffered female genital mutilation. Second, a significant Somali community has emigrated to the UK. An official 2010 estimate indicated that 108,000 Somalis live in the UK.


The FMU statistics also provide interesting data on the profile of potential victims of forced marriage. In 2015, 980 cases (80%) involved women while 240 (20%) involved men. Some evidence suggests that many male victims of forced marriage are forced into marriage because their families know or suspect they are gay.

In 21% of cases handled by the FMU, the age of the potential victim is unknown. Of the remaining proportion, 62% of cases involved individuals aged under 25. The most common age of potential victims is between 18 and 21. The FMU gave advice or provided support in 174 cases which involved children aged 15 or under, accounting for 14% of all potential victims. A minority of cases involved older individuals. In 2015, 8% of cases concerned individuals aged over 30 while 2% of potential victims were older than 41.

Potential victims of forced marriage reside mostly in London, the West Midlands, the North West and the South East. Very few potential victims live in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. These figures closely follow the number of migrants in UK regions.

In 2015, 141 cases (12%) involved individuals who had either a physical or learning disability. Notably, these cases predominantly concerned men (62%). Some academics have speculated that these figures may simply be the “tip of the iceberg” with many individuals with learning difficulties and disabilities who are forced into marriage unable to seek assistance.


Forced marriage remains a significant problem for British citizens and residents. Government figures suggest that there has been a general downward trend in the number of potential victims since 2009. Forced marriages are mostly connected to South Asian countries and involve young women. However, a notable proportion of men, particularly disabled men, are potential victims. Human Rights Watch is currently campaigning to end forced marriage worldwide. However, this is likely to require coordinated action from a number of countries, particularly those in South Asia. Unfortunately, cultural norms in these countries mean that forced marriage, even for children, remains permissible and, in some cases, encouraged.

James Dobson is a researcher at Bright Blue


Freedom of Religion in UK’s Foreign Policy: the Case of China

The economic importance of a strong UK-China relationship is increasingly recognised by British politicians. When the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, visited China in 2015, he was welcomed by the Chinese media precisely for being “the first Western official in recent years who has stressed more the region’s business potential instead of finding fault over the human-rights issue.”

But the relationship between China and Britain has not been exempt from human rights contentions. In 2008, for example, Prince Charles refused to attend the Olympic games in Beijing due to his concerns over China’s occupation of Tibet. In 2012, the previous PM the Rt Hon David Cameron met the Dalai Lama in London and was banned from China for a year as a result.

This blogs examines one aspect of human rights abuses in China: namely, freedom of religion, specifically for Christians, Buddhists and Muslims.

Religion in China

The recent resurgence of religion is one of the most important social changes in modern Chinese history. However, religious activities in China, in particular those among ethnic minorities, continue to face political suppression. Insisting that all religions need to abide by a socialist ideology and contribute to Chinese socialism even though socialism in China is more of a political slogan than socio-economic reality, China’s President Xi Jinping has increased the pressure on religious groups and institutions. The following documents in more detail the contemporary situation of some religions in China, focusing in particular on the Christians, Muslims, and Tibetan Buddhists.

Christians in China

Though there is significant difficulty in acquiring reliable data on the state of religion in China, one estimate puts the number of Chinese Christians between 83.4 million and 125.2 million, 6.1% and 9.2% of total Chinese population respectively. A Pew Research Centre report shows[RS1]  that a sharp growth in the number of Christians in China has occurred since the early 1990s, picking up momentum particularly after the mid-1990s.

Since 2014, the Chinese government has engaged in systematic efforts to demolish crosses installed on church buildings, and has been exceptionally harsh in crushing Christian protests. One report estimates that the total number of crosses demolished in one single province in eastern China in 2014 and 2015 reached as much as 1,500.

The Chinese government has also attempted to thwart the growth of Christianity through strenuous efforts at cracking down on unregistered underground family churches.

Muslims in China

A 2009 Pew Research Centre report puts the total number of Muslims in China at 21.7 million[RS2] . There are ten Muslim ethnic groups in China. Most of these Muslims concentrate in northwest and southwest China, in areas that border upon Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Burma.

The political condition of Muslims continues to deteriorate. Islamophobia is widespread both online and offline. The Uyghur Muslims, concentrating primarily in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (or East Turkistan), often face severe repressions in their religious activities. Security cameras are installed in mosques. Arbitrary police raids in private homes in search of religious materials are not uncommon, and often result in violent clashes. Ethnic clashes of a violent nature are not uncommon in Xinjiang. Radio Free Asia reports in 2015 that as many as 700 people may have been killed in political violence in Xinjiang in 2013 and 2014, with ethnic Uyghurs three times as likely as Han Chinese to have lost their lives in the clashes. The Government has also embarked on a consistent campaign in the past several years to force Uyghur women to stop wearing headcover, forbidding those doing so from entering government premises.  [RS3] 

A famous and moderate Muslim website in China run by a group of Hui Muslims,, was shut down by the Government in 2016 for its religious background. One of its founding members has been indefinitely detained; others have been placed under close monitoring by the state. Efforts by Muslim groups in seeking legal assistance and a fair trial made have been thwarted by the Government.

Tibetan Buddhists in China

China’s occupation of Tibet - and its persecution of Tibetans - continues to remain a thorny issue. There are around 7.8 million Tibetans currently living in China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Human Rights Watch recorded 479 cases of detainment of Tibetans under the name of “political offences” from 2013 to 2015. While Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns constituted over 90% of political detainees in Tibet in the 1980s, they represent less than 40% of the 479 cases recorded in this recent Human Rights Watch report, showing that resistances and protests against religious and political persecution have gained wider ground beyond the institutional establishment of Tibetan Buddhism.

Despite extensive international criticism, the Chinese Government nevertheless recently carried out the plan to considerably downsize Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, a renowned Tibetan Buddhist institution of advanced learning located in Serta County in Kardze of China’s Sichuan Province. The action has displaced up to 7,000 monks and nuns, and large sections of the academy have been razed to the ground.


It is important that Britain expands its current engagement with non-official channels of intervention. The British government has already set the path to this expansion: it has worked with international partners, in particular civil rights organisations in China, to visit individuals under house arrest, observe court trials (or attempt to, often with limited success), and maintain contact with human rights defenders. But collaboration with China-based international partners is currently also under severe threat. 2016 has witnessed some of the worse crackdowns on international as well as domestic NGOs in China. In promoting collaborative work with China-based human rights NGOs, therefore, the UK Government must evaluate the risks thus posed to the local partners, who might be more likely subjected to intimidation and police harassment than their British colleagues. 

Guangtian Ha is a research intern at Bright Blue. He received his PhD in anthropology from Columbia University in 2014.

End Child Poverty - Feeling the pinch

Last week, the End Child Poverty coalition launched its new ‘Feeling the pinch’ report and campaign. 

Our research reveals how low income families really are ‘feeling the pinch’ - trapped between support being eroded by the cost of living rising much faster than benefit rates, and facing some of the highest prices on basic essentials as a result of a ‘poverty premium’ on key goods and services.

Benefits are frozen, but prices are going up – leaving families worse off

Many benefits for children have hardly risen while prices have jumped in recent years. In April 2010, benefit income for a single parent with 2 children and no other income or savings (excluding housing costs) was around £198 per week. This would have to rise to around £267 per week by 2020, in order to keep up with rises in costs of living. But their actual income is expected to be around £214 per week by 2020. The real loss of £53 per week will leave this family worse off by nearly £2800 per year.

Furthermore, Local Housing Assistance (LHA) rates (which provide support with rental costs for families living in privately rented homes) no longer rise in line with local rental prices, and now bear little relationship to typical local rents.  This is only set to get worse. If rents continue to rise at a similar rate to the last few years, by 2020, families in a typical 2-bedroom property could have a shortfall of around £155 per month.

Below inflationary increases in benefit rates will affect both low income working families, and those who are out of work – in so far as they are receiving one or more of the benefits affected.  

The poverty premium adds to the financial pressure on families

The ‘poverty premium’ is the extra cost that people on lower incomes can pay for goods and services, compared with the cost paid by people on a higher income. When every penny counts, being charged more for the same goods and services can cause further consequences down the line.

In 2016, this poverty premium amounts to around £1700 per year. 

Other everyday costs not included in this figure may also be subject to a premium, such as food costs (because of lack of access to a car or ability to buy in bulk); travel to work costs (often more affordable with a long-term season ticket for example); and access to pay-to-use cash machines, often in deprived areas. 

Poverty leads to a poorer childhood and worse outcomes throughout life. Poverty also has a cost to society as a whole – estimated as £78 billion a year.

Freezing benefits may not reduce the amount of cash in people's pockets, but cash isn't what matters - what matters is what people can to afford to buy with it. Freezes in children’s benefits, combined with rising prices, and the additional burden of the poverty premium, means that incomes are stretched and families are forced to make impossible choices for their children - between healthy meals, warm clothes and heating the home.

ECP is deeply concerned about the impact of poverty on children in families who are feeling the pinch. We call on the government to:

  • End the freeze on Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit and reinstate the link between annual increases in benefit levels and inflation. 
  • Ensure that support with housing costs for families renting privately rises in line with increases in local rents.  
  • Establish a commission to consider how businesses can ensure that their customers on a low income do not face paying the highest prices for goods and services.

Kate Goddard is Campaign Coordinator at End Child Poverty

For more detail on both the benefit freeze and poverty premium, please see our full report on our website and consider what you would do if you were feeling the pinch via our online game. 




Explaining modern slavery

The Prime Minister has described modern slavery as the great human rights issue of our time and has said that her Government will lead the way in defeating it. In doing so, the Prime Minister is building on the work she did while Home Secretary when she introduced the Modern Slavery Act.

Yet, for many, modern slavery remains a difficult term to understand. The concept groups together a number of different crimes. It also difficult to understand the scale of the problem since the hidden nature of modern slavery makes it difficult to measure and monitor.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is difficult to define because it takes a number of different and distinct forms. Victims of modern slavery include those that have been forced to work without pay; forced to commit criminal activities on behalf of their slave driver and against their will; sexually exploitedand those who are forced into domestic servitude.

Victims are often forced into ‘debt bondage’ where they are required to repay a sum of money owed to their trafficker. This debt bondage often exists because modern slaves are frequently trafficked into the UK and coerced and deceived into believing they will benefit from living and working in the UK. The victim of modern slavery therefore believes they have to repay the costs of being trafficked into the UK. Victims of modern slavery can, however, also be born or live in Britain before they become victims of modern slavery.

The scale of the problem

Modern slavery is a problem across the globe. Traffickers and victims often move regularly between countries which are the source of victims, countries which are used to transit victims, and the destination countries. This makes measuring modern slavery inherently difficult. However, some estimates of the total number of victims of modern slavery worldwide do exist. In 2015, the Global Slavery Index estimated there were over 45 million victims of slavery, while in 2013 the International Labour Organisation stated that victims of forced labour alone amounted to over 21 million individuals.
Estimating the number of victims of modern slavery in the UK is also difficult. Victims are almost always closely controlled and hidden from public view. Victims may also be to fearful to report the crime, and may be uncomfortable using the British legal system. Some victims of modern slavery, particularly children, may not perceive themselves to be victims. They may not really understand what is happening to them or could be obeying someone they consider to be an authority figure.

Despite these problems, there is one significant source of data on the scale and profile of modern slavery in the UK. The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) provides a mechanism for organisations to refer potential victims of modern slavery. Organisations who can refer a potential victim include: the police, the Home Office, and various charities who regularly deal with vulnerable individuals. If an individual suspects someone is the victim of modern slavery then they can raise modern slavery concerns through these organisations. The NRM collects and records data on the individuals referred. It must be noted that not all individuals referred to the NRM are found to be victims of modern slavery. For example, between 2009 and 2013, 42% of individuals referred to the NRM were found to actually be a victim of modern slavery. The below figures therefore should be interpreted with caution.

Data from NRM shows that the number of potential victims of modern slavery is increasing in the UK. In 2013, the latest year for which data is available, 1,746 potential victims were referred to the NRM – a 47% increase on the previous year. This increase could be a result of increased modern slavery, increasing awareness and subsequent reporting of modern slavery, or a combination of the both. The Home Office believes that this figure is a significant underestimate of the prevalence of modern slavery. They believe that in 2013 there were between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK.  

The forms of modern slavery

The NRM also provides useful data on the profile of modern slavery. Those referred to the NRM are predominantly female. In 2013, 64% of potential modern slavery victims were female. This figure has been stable since around 2011.

Victims of modern slavery are exploited for a number of different reasons. Sexual exploitation is the most common form of modern slavery. In 2013, 42% of potential victims of modern slavery reported experiencing sexual exploitation. Potential victims reported being forced into prostitution, escort work and pornography. Ninety-five percent of potential victims who reported sexual exploitation were female while 20% of all potential victims who reported sexual exploitation were children.

Labour exploitation is the second most common form of modern slavery in the UK. In 2013, 37% of potential victims reported this form of modern slavery. The Home Office states that victims are forced to work against their will. They frequently work for extremely long hours and receive little or no pay. Seventy two percent of potential victims who reported this form of modern slavery were male while 19% were children.

Domestic servitude makes up most of the remaining potential victims. Victims are used as household servants. They are required to carry out housework and domestic chores against their will, they receive little or no pay , and are often confined to the household.

Victims’ country of origin

In 2013, potential victims referred to the NRM came from 112 different countries. Forty seven percent of potential victims came from the five most common countries of origin. These were: Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and the UK.

Countries tend to be associated with particular forms of modern slavery. For example, in 2013, the majority of potential victims from Albania, Nigeria and the UK referred to the NRM were women or girls who reported sexual exploitation, while the majority of potential victims from eastern and central European countries such as Romania and Poland were men reporting labour exploitation. Forty-two percent of potential victims from Vietnam were children and the majority of Vietnamese children reported labour exploitation.


Modern slavery is a complicated crime which is very difficult to measure. However, the evidence we do have suggests that there are a significant number of victims of modern slavery and this number is rising. The Modern Slavery Act consolidated previous offences relating to trafficking and slavery. It deals with the problem of modern slavery explicitly. The makes it the first first legislation of its kind in Europe. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister herself has argued more needs to be done to tackle this growing problem. The Prime Minister is likely to continue to pursue this problem throughout her time in office.

James Dobson is a researcher at Bright Blue

Restoring fairness for EU Citizens living in the UK

“We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.” These were the words of Theresa May in her Brexit speech this week. Where does this leave the three million EU citizens who have come to this country in good faith and now find themselves at the centre of a political battle? On one hand, the Government has expressed its intention that EU citizens would be allowed to remain after Brexit; on the other, it has so far refused to offer them any guarantees. Instead they’ve been called negotiating capital or bargaining chips. This is a dark place to be for milllions of people and it is somehow shaming a country which honours itself on the principles of fairplay and tactfulness.

When I created the civil rights organisation the3million back in July 2016, most Europeans I was speaking to were mourning a way of life which had hitherto defined them. The idea that you could be born in one member state, study in another and work across borders didn’t feel particularly political. Those who ended settling in the UK did it for different reasons but they all shared admiration for a country where freedom and tolerance were predominant in equal measure.

This illusion was broken on June 23rd. . The rise in hate crimes provided a narrative which seems to belong to another era. Attitudes towards migration had turned hostile to the point that fully integrated EU citizens who had been living in this country for a long time were told to go home in no uncertain term. And the same happened to their British-born children in the playgrounds.

This could have been averted easily if the Government hadn’t developed an ambiguous message which was seized by the xenophobic elements of society as a blank cheque for letting go. For example, the Prime Minister could have told EU citizens on the day of the result that they were welcome as valued members of society and unilaterally granted their rights to remain after Brexit.

What happened next is inspiring. EU citizens started to organise themselves - not around their usual national communities but embracing their EU citizenship under the umbrella of the3million. Solidarity developed as people looked to secure their future by applying for a Permanent Residence (PR) card or even citizenship.

The current Kafkaesque Home Office system is not fit for purpose to register three million people within the tight timeframes of Brexit. The system is broken and it needs to be fixed for the sake of respecting the lives of 3 million people who are the partners, relatives, friends and colleagues of British citizens.

This is what the3million is asking to remedy this depressing situtation:

1. The Prime Minister and her Government must show leadership and stop using EU citizens as a human shield in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

Not only does this stance create a highly negative backdrop to the start of the negotiations with Michel Barnier and his team of EU negotiators but there is also very little political gains to be made when 84% of the British population say that EU citizens can stay after Brexit (ICM survey 03/07/2016). Unless the government feels that mass deportation is an option in case the negotiations don’t succeed, this is only an empty threat - but with a real, damaging impact on the three million EU citizens.

In addition, most organisations of British citizens in Europe have also called for the PM to stop treating EU citizens as bargaining chips, since they don’t want to be bargaining chips themselves. So the first priority of this Government should be to unilaterally grant EU citizens the right to remain after Brexit.

2. The Government needs to establish a fair system to register all three million EU citizens who currently live here. Nobody should be excluded because of the inadequacy of a system put in place by the Home Office under different circumstances.

3. The Government must consider the future status of those EU citizens who have arrived in good faith and offer them legal protection to replicate their current protected status. This could be done through a fast track and affordable process to citizenship (followed by detailed negotiations to allow dual nationality for all EU citizens), similar to what was offered to Commonwealth citizens who came to the UK in the 50s and 60. And the Government ought to create a new bespoke status for those who will not be able to access citizenship but who will require the same protection.

Here we are now, with article 50 looming on the horizon and no more certainty over our future than when we woke up that morning after the referendum. The idea that somehow, we might have to make preparation to leave by the time the UK leaves the EU is a fear which exists in all of us. I’ve heard people who are fearful of being divided from their children after Brexit, or pensioners who are worried that they will need to go back to a country they haven’t lived in for over fifty years. Whether irrational or justified, these fears are all based on one simple fact: no guarantee has been given to any EU citizen who lives in the UK.

I am an optimist. I believe that the future could be safe for all EU citizens who currently live in the UK; but only if a majority of Britons agree with us and press on the Government to share our vision of a society willing to treat its three million EU citizens with fairness and compassion.

Nicolas Hatton is the founding co-chair of the3million, a civil rights organisation defending the rights of residence of EU citizens. The3million is organising a mass lobby in Westminster on 20 February calling on the Government to unilaterally grant EU citizens living in the UK the right to remain after Brexit.



Torture and Trump

Torture and Trump

In seven days Donald Trump will be officially instilled as the President of the United States. Trump’s inauguration will take place in the context of ongoing controversy. This week the news website Buzzfeed released unverifiable documents alleging that the Russian Government holds a file containing compromising material on Trump. Whether the allegations are correct is unclear, but their salience represents a wider fear that Trump’s administration is sympathetic towards Putin’s Russia and admires the various human rights abuses it has committed.

In fact, there is concern that the Trump administration will enable the US to commit two major and notorious human rights abuses: the use torture against suspected terrorists, and the indefinite detention of terrorists suspects without trial.


During the presidential election campaign, Donald Trump made a number of different statements on the use of torture. In February 2016, for example, he said that:

“Torture works. OK, folks? You know, I have these guys—”Torture doesn’t work!”—believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question: What do you think of waterboarding? Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding.”

Later in the year, Trump reiterated this statement, declaring that “I am a person that believes in enhanced interrogation. And by the way, it works.”

‘Enhanced interrogation’ is a euphemism for the U.S. government's program of systematic torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and various components of the U.S. Armed Forces that were authorised by the Bush administration. These techniques included beating, binding in contorted stress positions, hooding, subjection to deafening noise, sleep deprivation to the point of hallucination, deprivation of food, drink, and withholding medical care for wounds—as well as waterboarding, walling, sexual humiliation, subjection to extreme heat or extreme cold, confinement in small coffin-like boxes, and repeated slapping. The techniques were used during the ‘War on Terror’, but the evidence shows they were of dubious effectiveness.

Since his election, there have been some signs that the President-elect may be willing to reconsider his attitude to torture. Following a meeting with James Mattis - a former Commander of United States Central Command - Trump stated that he was “very impressed” by Mattis’s argument that he had never found torture particularly useful, and that he could get more information with “a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers” than with torture methods. While just yesterday, Trump’s pick to be the next CIA director, Mike Pompeo, told the United State’s Senate that he would “absolutely not” be willing to reinstate the CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ program, even if Trump personally gave the order.

Detention without trial

Closely related to torture is the issue of detention without trial. The most prominent example of this is the US’s use of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. Guantanamo Bay was established in 2002, during the Bush Administration. It is used by the United States to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists without trial. The US is unable to detain suspected terrorists without trial on the US mainland due to various protections given by the American constitution.

Upon his election as President in 2008, Barack Obama repeatedly promised to close the detention camp. However, the Obama administration has failed to do this. Many cite significant Republican Party opposition in Congress to his plans as the cause of this failure. Obama did, however, succeed in reducing the number of inmates held in Guantanamo Bay. During his Presidential term, the number of inmates decreased from around 245 to 61.

Donald Trump has made a number of statements on Guantanamo Bay and indefinite detention without trial. In February last year, Trump declared that:

"Guantanamo Bay we are keeping open… and we're gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we're gonna load it up."

Trump repeated these claims throughout the Presidential campaign. Since his election, Trump has not shown any desire to row-back on these statements. Two weeks ago the President-elect said that there must be no further releases of detainees from Guantanamo Bay. He said those left were "extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield". Trump has accused Obama of attempting to rush through more releases before Trump’s inauguration. On Wednesday, 40 Democratic legislators wrote an open-letter to Obama urging him to close the detention camp before Trump’s inauguration.


The President-elect has made a number of inflammatory statements regarding the use of torture and indefinite detention without trial. These statements have alarmed human rights organisations across the globe. Since his election in November, statements by Trump and those around him have suggested that he may be willing to reconsider his endorsement of the use of torture. However, it seems that Trump is not prepared to reconsider his support for the use of indefinite detention and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

James Dobson is a researcher at Bright Blue