UN Convention against Torture

The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture) was adopted in 1984 and entered into force in 1987.

The Convention against Torture is the most comprehensive international treaty dealing with torture. The Committee against Torture monitors its implementation by States.

1. The Convention against Torture sets out a definition of torture.

2.  The Convention against Torture obliges States to take preventive measures.

According to article 2 of the Convention, each State Party has an obligation to take all necessary measures to prevent acts of torture. This includes legislative, administrative and judicial measures, as well as any other measures that may be appropriate. States are also obliged to prevent other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in article 16.

3.  There is no justification for torture - ever

Article 2.2 of the Convention states that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever" can justify torture. This includes war or the threat of war, political instability, combating terrorism or any other emergency.Orders from a superior officer are also not a justification for torture.

4. Non-refoulement

Article 3 of the Convention sets out the principle of non-refoulement, which requires States to not expel, return or extradite a person to another State if there are "substantial grounds” for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

5. Specific crime of torture

Article 4 of the Convention requires each State Party to ensure that torture is included as a specific crime in their national criminal law. The Committee against Torture requires that States parties use, as a minimum, the definition of torture included in article 1 of the Convention.

6. Universal jurisdiction

The Convention obliges each State Party to establish its jurisdiction over persons found in its territory who are alleged to have committed the crime of torture, irrespective of whether the crime was committed outside its borders and regardless of the alleged perpetrator’s nationality, country of residence or absence of any other relationship with the country (articles 5-9). If the State is unable to prosecute the offence, it is required to extradite the alleged perpetrator to a State which is able and willing to prosecute such a crime. This principle of universal jurisdiction constitutes one of the most important aspects of the Convention.

7. Training officials

Article 10 of the Convention requires States parties to take steps to ensure that all law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, public officials and others involved in the deprivation of liberty receive education and information on the prohibition and prevention of torture.

8.  Review of detention procedures

Under article 11 of the Convention, States parties are required to keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices, as well as custody procedures. These should comply with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.

9. Prompt investigation

According to article 12 of the Convention, each State Party must establish prompt and impartial investigations whenever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction. This means that, even in the absence of a formal complaint, the relevant authorities must undertake an impartial, effective, independent and thorough investigation as soon as they receive information indicating any instance of torture or ill-treatment.

10. Right of victims to complain and obtain redress

The Convention provides that victims of torture have the right to complain and to have their case investigated promptly and impartially (article 13), as well as to receive redress and adequate compensation (article 14). This also includes the right to rehabilitation that is as full as possible.

11. Inadmissible evidence

According to article 15 of the Convention, any statements gathered as a result of torture must be deemed inadmissible in legal proceedings. This provision is extremely important because, by making such statements inadmissible in court proceedings, one of the primary aims of torture becomes redundant.