How to report a possible abuse of your human rights

Last updated: 20 July 2017

If you feel your human rights have been abused, there are lots of ways you can report it.

Human rights abuses and crimes

A lot of human rights abuses are also crimes. This includes things like assault or someone being sexist or racist to you in the street. In these cases you can report what's happened to the police.

Some human rights abuses aren't matters for the police. These can include things such as being treated badly by:

  • the Scottish Government
  • British security services like MI5
  • the NHS
  • universities and colleges
  • housing associations
  • prisons
  • local councils

How to make a complaint

Most of the time you can make a direct complaint to the public body that you believe has abused your human rights. Most public bodies should have a review process for complaints that is separate to the part you're making a complaint about - this means your complaint should be looked at without any bias.

Police Scotland

You can complain about the police if you're unhappy with the way Police Scotland has treated you.

The Scottish Government

If you feel that any of the Scottish Government's policies, staff or services have had an impact on your human rights, you can make a complaint using the email address: sgcomplaints@gov.scot.

Find out more about making a complaint to the Scottish Government.

NHS Scotland

Often, the simplest way to make a complaint about any care you've received from the NHS is to make a direct complaint to any NHS staff member who is caring for you, such as a GP.

Find out more about other ways to make a complaint to the NHS.

Local councils

You can make a complaint direct to your local council.

Prisons

You can contact the Scottish Prisons Service to make a complaint if you feel:

  • you've been treated badly while on a visit to a prison
  • someone in your family is in prison and you feel they're being treated badly

If you're an inmate and you want to make a complaint about your treatment in prison you should make a complaint to the staff at your prison. They can refer a complaint to the Scottish Prisons Service.

Housing associations, universities or colleges

All housing associations, universities and colleges are regulated by law. This means they have to fairly review any complaint you make.

You'll need to contact your individual housing association, university or college to make a complaint.

If you're not happy with the response to your complaint

If you made a complaint to a Scottish public service, and you don't feel their response was good enough, you can make a final stage complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).

The SPSO will decide whether a Scottish public service has dealt with your complaint fairly. You can make a complaint to the SPSO about:

  • the Scottish Government
  • the NHS
  • universities and colleges
  • housing associations
  • prisons
  • local councils

Complaints about MI5

MI5 is not a Scottish public service. If you want to make a complaint about MI5 you will need to make a complaint to the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

If you want some advice

Citizens Advice Scotland and other human rights groups can give free advice to help you work out what to do.

Human rights groups

Human rights groups are often charities that have nothing to do with the government or any other public bodies, so can give free, independent advice. Some of the groups that might be able to help or advise you are:

Government support service

The Equality Advisory Support Service can help with information and advice about any type of sexism, racism or human rights issues.

Solicitors can give legal advice about human rights issues, though you may have to pay for a solicitor's time.