United Nations Convention against Torture
|Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment|
|Type||Human rights convention|
|Drafted||10 December 1984|
|Signed||10 December 1984|
|Effective||26 June 1987|
|Languages||Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish|
|Convention against Torture at Wikisource|
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (United Nations Convention against Torture) is an international human rights instrument, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture within their borders, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
The text of the Convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1984 and, following ratification by the 20th state party, it came into force on 26 June 1987. 26 June is now recognised as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, in honour of the Convention. As of September 2013, the Convention has 154 state parties.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Main provisions
- 3 Optional Protocol
- 4 Committee against Torture
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The Covenant follows the structure of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), with a preamble and 33 articles, divided into three parts:
Part I (Articles 1–16) defines torture (Article 1), and commits parties to taking effective measures to prevent any act of torture in any territory under their jurisdiction (Article 2). These include ensuring that torture is a criminal offense (Article 4), establishing jurisdiction over acts of torture committed by or against a party's citizens (Article 5), ensuring that torture is an extraditable offense (Article 8), and establishing universal jurisdiction to try cases of torture where an alleged torturer cannot be extradited (Article 5). Parties must promptly investigate any allegation of torture (Articles 12 and 13), and victims of torture must have an enforceable right to compensation (Article 14). Parties must also ban the use of evidence produced by torture in their courts (Article 15), and are barred from deporting, extraditing or refouling people where there are substantial grounds for believing they will be tortured (Article 3).
Parties are also obliged to prevent other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to investigate any allegation of such treatment within their jurisdiction (Article 16).
Part II (Articles 17 – 24) governs reporting and monitoring of the Convention and the steps taken by the parties to implement it. It establishes the Committee against Torture (Article 17), and empowers it to investigate allegations of systematic torture (Article 20). It also establishes an optional dispute-resolution mechanism between parties (Articles 21) and allows parties to recognize the competence of the Committee to hear complaints from individuals about violations of the Convention by a party (Article 22).
Part III (Articles 25 – 33) governs ratification, entry into force, and amendment of the Convention. It also includes an optional arbitration mechanism for disputes between parties (Article 30).
Definition of torture
Article 1 of the Convention defines torture as:
Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
— Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1
The words "inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions" remains vague and very broad. It is extremely difficult to determine what sanctions are 'inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions' in a particular legal system and what are not. The drafters of the Convention neither provided any criteria for making such determination nor did it define the terms. The nature of the findings would so differ from one legal system to another that they would give rise to serious disputes among the Parties to the Convention. It was suggested that the reference to such rules would make the issue more complicated, for it would endow the rules with a semblance of legal binding force. This allows state parties to pass domestic laws that permit acts of torture that they believe are within the lawful sanctions clause. However, the most widely adopted interpretation of the lawful sanctions clause is that it refers to sanctions authorized by international law. Pursuant to this interpretation, only sanctions that are authorized by international law will fall within this exclusion. The interpretation of the lawful sanctions clause leaves no scope of application and is widely debated by authors, historians, and scholars alike.
Actions which fall short of torture may still constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 16.
Ban on torture and cruel and degrading treatment
Article 2 of the convention prohibits torture, and requires parties to take effective measures to prevent it in any territory under its jurisdiction. This prohibition is absolute and non-derogable. "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever" may be invoked to justify torture, including war, threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, or any form of armed conflict. Torture cannot be justified as a means to protect public safety or prevent emergencies. Neither can it be justified by orders from superior officers or public officials. The prohibition on torture applies to all territories under a party's effective jurisdiction, and protects all people under its effective control, regardless of citizenship or how that control is exercised. Since the convention's entry into force, this absolute prohibition has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.
Because it is often difficult to distinguish between cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and torture, the Committee regards Article 16's prohibition of such treatment as similarly absolute and non-derogable.
The other articles of part I lay out specific obligations intended to implement this absolute prohibition by preventing, investigating and punishing acts of torture.
Ban on refoulement
Article 3 prohibits parties from returning, extraditing or refouling any person to a state "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture". The Committee against Torture has held that this danger must be assessed not just for the initial receiving state, but also to states to which the person may be subsequently expelled, returned or extradited.
Signatories and ratifications
|Participant||Signature||Ratification, accession (a), succession (d)|
|Afghanistan||4 February 1985||1 April 1987|
|Albania||11 May 1994 a|
|Algeria||26 November 1985||12 September 1989|
|Angola||24 September 2013|
|Andorra||5 August 2002||22 September 2006|
|Antigua and Barbuda||19 July 1993 a|
|Argentina||4 February 1985||24 September 1986|
|Armenia||13 September 1993 a|
|Australia||10 December 1985||8 August 1989|
|Austria||14 March 1985||29 July 1987|
|Azerbaijan||16 August 1996 a|
|Bahamas||16 December 2008|
|Bahrain||6 March 1998 a|
|Bangladesh||5 October 1998 a|
|Belarus||19 December 1985||13 March 1987 (as the Byelorussian SSR)|
|Belgium||4 February 1985||25 June 1999|
|Belize||17 March 1986 a|
|Benin||12 March 1992 a|
|Bolivia||4 February 1985||12 April 1999|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1 September 1993 d|
|Botswana||8 September 2000||8 September 2000|
|Brazil||23 September 1985||28 September 1989|
|Bulgaria||10 June 1986||16 December 1986|
|Burkina Faso||4 January 1999 a|
|Burundi||18 February 1993 a|
|Cambodia||15 October 1992 a|
|Cameroon||19 December 1986 a|
|Canada||23 August 1985||24 June 1987|
|Cape Verde||4 June 1992 a|
|Chad||9 June 1995 a|
|Chile||23 September 1987||30 September 1988|
|China||12 December 1986||4 October 1988|
|Colombia||10 April 1985||8 December 1987|
|Comoros||22 September 2000|
|Congo||30 July 2003 a|
|Costa Rica||4 February 1985||11 November 1993|
|Côte d'Ivoire||18 December 1995 a|
|Croatia||12 October 1992 d|
|Cuba||27 January 1986||17 May 1995|
|Cyprus||9 October 1985||18 July 1991|
|Czech Republic||22 February 1993 d (previously ratified by Czechoslovakia)|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||18 March 1996 a|
|Denmark||4 February 1985||27 May 1987|
|Djibouti||5 November 2002 a|
|Dominican Republic||4 February 1985||24 January 2012|
|Ecuador||4 February 1985||30 March 1988|
|Egypt||25 June 1986 a|
|El Salvador||17 June 1996 a|
|Equatorial Guinea||8 October 2002 a|
|Estonia||21 October 1991 a|
|Ethiopia||14 March 1994 a|
|Finland||4 February 1985||30 August 1989|
|France||4 February 1985||18 February 1986|
|Gabon||21 January 1986||8 September 2000|
|Gambia||23 October 1985|
|Georgia||26 October 1994 a|
|Germany||13 October 1986||1 October 1990 ( East Germany also ratified)|
|Ghana||7 September 2000||7 September 2000|
|Greece||4 February 1985||6 October 1988|
|Guatemala||5 January 1990 a|
|Guinea||30 May 1986||10 October 1989|
|Guinea-Bissau||12 September 2000||24 September 2013|
|Guyana||25 January 1988||19 May 1988|
|Holy See||26 June 2002 a|
|Honduras||5 December 1996 a|
|Hungary||28 November 1986||15 April 1987|
|Iceland||4 February 1985||23 October 1996|
|India||14 October 1997|
|Indonesia||23 October 1985||28 October 1998|
|Iraq||7 July 2011 a|
|Ireland||28 September 1992||11 April 2002|
|Israel||22 October 1986||3 October 1991|
|Italy||4 February 1985||12 January 1989|
|Japan||29 June 1999 a|
|Jordan||13 November 1991 a|
|Kazakhstan||26 August 1998 a|
|Kenya||21 February 1997 a|
|Kuwait||8 March 1996 a|
|Kyrgyzstan||5 September 1997 a|
|Lao People's Democratic Republic||21 September 2010||26 September 2012|
|Latvia||14 April 1992 a|
|Lebanon||5 October 2000 a|
|Lesotho||12 November 2001 a|
|Liberia||22 September 2004 a|
|Libya||16 May 1989 a (then Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)|
|Liechtenstein||27 June 1985||2 November 1990|
|Lithuania||1 February 1996 a|
|Luxembourg||22 February 1985||29 September 1987|
|Madagascar||1 October 2001||13 December 2005|
|Malawi||11 June 1996 a|
|Maldives||20 April 2004 a|
|Mali||26 February 1999 a|
|Malta||13 September 1990 a|
|Mauritania||17 November 2004 a|
|Mauritius||9 December 1992 a|
|Mexico||18 March 1985||23 January 1986|
|Monaco||6 December 1991 a|
|Mongolia||24 January 2002 a|
|Montenegro||23 October 2006 d|
|Morocco||8 January 1986||21 June 1993|
|Mozambique||14 September 1999 a|
|Namibia||28 November 1994 a|
|Nauru||12 November 2001||26 September 2012|
|Nepal||14 May 1991 a|
|Netherlands||4 February 1985||21 December 1988|
|New Zealand||14 January 1986||10 December 1989|
|Nicaragua||15 April 1985||5 July 2005|
|Niger||5 October 1998 a|
|Nigeria||28 July 1988||28 June 2001|
|Norway||4 February 1985||9 July 1986|
|Pakistan||17 April 2008||3 June 2010|
|Palau||20 September 2011|
|Panama||22 February 1985||24 August 1987|
|Paraguay||23 October 1989||12 March 1990|
|Peru||29 May 1985||7 July 1988|
|Philippines||18 June 1986 a|
|Poland||13 January 1986||26 July 1989|
|Portugal||4 February 1985||9 February 1989|
|Qatar||11 January 2000 a|
|Republic of Korea [South]||9 January 1995 a|
|Republic of Moldova||28 November 1995 a|
|Romania||18 December 1990 a|
|Russian Federation||10 December 1985||3 March 1987 (ratified as the Soviet Union)|
|Rwanda||15 December 2008 a|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||1 August 2001 a|
|San Marino||18 September 2002||27 November 2006|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||6 September 2000|
|Saudi Arabia||23 September 1997 a|
|Senegal||4 February 1985||21 August 1986|
|Serbia||12 March 2001 d (ratified as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; SFR Yugoslavia had previously ratified)|
|Seychelles||5 May 1992 a|
|Sierra Leone||18 March 1985||25 April 2001|
|Slovakia||28 May 1993 d (previously ratified by Czechoslovakia)|
|Slovenia||16 July 1993 a|
|Somalia||24 January 1990 a|
|South Africa||29 January 1993||10 December 1998|
|Spain||4 February 1985||21 October 1987|
|Sri Lanka||3 January 1994 a|
|Sudan||4 June 1986|
|Swaziland||26 March 2004 a|
|Sweden||4 February 1985||8 January 1986|
|Switzerland||4 February 1985||2 December 1986|
|Syrian Arab Republic||19 August 2004 a|
|Tajikistan||11 January 1995 a|
|Thailand||2 October 2007 a|
|The Republic of Macedonia||12 December 1994 d|
|Timor-Leste||16 April 2003 a|
|Togo||25 March 1987||18 November 1987|
|Tunisia||26 August 1987||23 September 1988|
|Turkey||25 January 1988||2 August 1988|
|Turkmenistan||25 June 1999 a|
|Uganda||3 November 1986 a|
|Ukraine||27 February 1986||24 February 1987 (ratified as the Ukrainian SSR)|
|United Arab Emirates||19 July 2012 a|
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||15 March 1985||8 December 1988|
|United States of America||18 April 1988||21 October 1994|
|Uruguay||4 February 1985||24 October 1986|
|Uzbekistan||28 September 1995 a|
|Vanuatu||12 July 2011 a|
|Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)||15 February 1985||29 July 1991|
|Vietnam||7 November 2013|
|Yemen||5 November 1991 a|
|Zambia||7 October 1998 a|
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 2002 and in force since 22 June 2006, provides for the establishment of "a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," to be overseen by a Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Signatories of the Optional Protocol
As of September 2012 the Protocol has 72 signatories and 63 parties.
Committee against Torture
The Committee against Torture (CAT) is a body of human rights experts that monitors implementation of the Convention by State parties. The Committee is one of eight UN-linked human rights treaty bodies. All state parties are obliged under the Convention to submit regular reports to the CAT on how rights are being implemented. Upon ratifying the Convention, states must submit a report within one year, after which they are obliged to report every four years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of "concluding observations." Under certain circumstances, the CAT may consider complaints or communications from individuals claiming that their rights under the Convention have been violated.
The CAT usually meets in April/May and November each year in Geneva. Members are elected to four-year terms by State parties and can be re-elected if nominated.
The current membership of the CAT:
|Claudio Grossman (chair)||Chile||2015|
|Xuexian Wang (vice-chair)||China||2013|
|Essadia Belmir (vice-chair)||Morocco||2013|
|Felice D. Gaer (vice-chair)||United States||2015|
|Nora Sveaass (rapporteur)||Norway||2013|
|Satyabhoosun Gupt Domah||Mauritius||2015|
|Fernando Mariño Menéndez||Spain||2013|
- Cruel and unusual punishment
- Execution of Rizana Nafeek
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
- International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
- Use of torture since 1948
- United Nations Treaty Collection: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Retrieved on 13 September 2012.
- Convention Against Torture, Article 27. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
- Convention Against Torture, Article 25. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
- Convention Against Torture, Article 33. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
- Ronli Sifris (December 4, 2013). Reproductive Freedom, Torture and International Human Rights: Challenging the Masculinisation of Torture. Routledge. p. 145.
- Convention Against Torture, Article 2.2. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
- "CAT General Comment No. 2: Implementation of Article 2 by States Parties" (PDF). Committee against Torture. 23 November 2007. p. 2. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
- Convention Against Torture, Article 2.3. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
- Convention Against Torture, Article 3.1. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
- "CAT General Comment No. 01: Implementation of article 3 of the Convention in the context of article 22". UN OHCHR. 21 November 1997. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- OPCAT, Article 1.
- "Parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment". United Nations Treaty Collection. Retrieved 2012-09-04.
- "Committee Against Torture – Membership". United Nations OHCHR. 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Official text of the Convention
- List of parties
- Optional Protocol
- U.N. Committee against Torture
- Human Rights Watch summary of the Convention
- List of links to other related documents
- Human Rights First; Tortured Justice: Using Coerced Evidence to Prosecute Terrorist Suspects (2008)
- Human Rights First; Leave No Marks: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality
- International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT); What is torture? Defining torture
- Introductory note by Hans Danelius, procedural history note and audiovisual material on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in the Historic Archives of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law
Decisions of the Committee Against Torture
- Committee against Torture – Jurisprudence
- CAT decisions on Refworld
- Decisions of the Committee Against Torture