Detention: an imbalance of power

The risk of torture and other ill-treatment exist in all situations where persons are deprived of their liberty. Any such situation creates an imbalance of power, where the detained person is totally dependent on the individuals and authorities in charge.

The risk of being tortured or ill-treated is higher at certain times during the period of a person’s detention and in certain situations:

  • The initial period of arrest and police custody;
  • During transfer from one place of detention to another;
  • When persons deprived of their liberty are held out of contact with others, in particular incommunicado detention or solitary confinement.

The risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment exists within any closed facility; not only

  • prisons and
  • police stations, but also,
  • psychiatric facilities,
  • juvenile detention centres,
  • immigration detention centres and
  • transit zones in international ports.

Who is at risk of torture?

Any person could potentially be at risk. In general, however, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups within society – such as minority groups (racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic), women, minors, persons with disabilities, migrants, LGBTI persons, the homeless and the poor – commonly face a higher risk of torture and ill-treatment.

It is important to stress that no State is immune from the risk of torture and ill-treatment. As a result, there is always a need to be vigilant and to develop and implement effective preventive strategies.