United Nations Convention against Torture

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Map of the world with parties to the Convention against Torture Template:Legend Template:Legend Template:Legend

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.

The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction, 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[1] and, following ratification by the 20th state party,[2] it came into force on 26 June 1987.[1] 26 June is now recognized as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, in honor of the Convention. Since the convention's entry into force, the absolute prohibition against torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.[3] As of February 2017, the Convention has 161 state parties.[1]


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) contains a definition of 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 under a party's municipal law (Article 4), establishing jurisdiction over acts of torture committed by or against a party's nationals (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, or their dependents in case victims died as a result 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 required to train and educate their law enforcement personnel, civilian or military personnel, medical personnel, public officials, and other persons involved in the custody, interrogation, or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention, or imprisonment, regarding the prohibition against torture (Article 10). Parties also must keep interrogation rules, instructions, methods, and practices under systematic review regarding individuals who are under custody or physical control in any territory under their jurisdiction, in order to prevent all acts of torture (Article 11).

Parties are also obliged to prevent all acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in any territory under their jurisdiction, and to investigate any allegation of such treatment. (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 (Article 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).

Main provisions

Definition of torture

Article 1.1 of the Convention defines torture as: Template:Quotation

The words "inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions" remain 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.[4]

Ban on torture

Article 2 prohibits torture, and requires parties to take effective measures to prevent it in any territory under their jurisdiction. This prohibition is absolute and non-derogable. "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever"[5] 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.[3] In other words, torture cannot be justified as a means to protect public safety or prevent emergencies.[5] Subordinates who commits acts of torture cannot abstain themselves from legal responsibility on the grounds that they were just following orders from their superiors.[3]

The prohibition on torture applies to anywhere under a party's effective jurisdiction inside or outside of its borders, whether on board its ships or aircraft or in its military occupations, military bases, peacekeeping operations, health care industries, schools, day care centers, detention centers, embassies, or any other of its areas, and protects all people under its effective control, regardless of nationality or how that control is exercised.[3]

The other articles of part I lay out specific obligations intended to implement this absolute prohibition by preventing, investigating, and punishing acts of torture.[3]

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."[6] 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.[7]

Ban on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment

Article 16 requires parties to prevent "other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1" in any territory under their jurisdiction. Because it is often difficult to distinguish between cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and torture, the Committee regards Article 16's prohibition of such act as similarly absolute and non-derogable.[3]

Signatories and ratifications

Participant Signature Ratification, accession (a), succession (d)
Template:Flagicon Afghanistan 4 February 1985 1 April 1987
Template:Flagicon Albania 11 May 1994 a
Template:Flagicon Algeria 26 November 1985 12 September 1989
Template:Flagicon Angola 24 September 2013
Template:Flagicon Andorra 5 August 2002 22 September 2006
Template:Flagicon Antigua and Barbuda 19 July 1993 a
Template:Flagicon Argentina 4 February 1985 24 September 1986
Template:Flagicon Armenia 13 September 1993 a
Template:Flagicon Australia 10 December 1985 8 August 1989
Template:Flagicon Austria 14 March 1985 29 July 1987
Template:Flagicon Azerbaijan 16 August 1996 a
Template:Flagicon Bahamas 16 December 2008
Template:Flagicon Bahrain 6 March 1998 a
Template:Flagicon Bangladesh 5 October 1998 a
Template:Flagicon Belarus 19 December 1985 13 March 1987 (as the Template:Flag)
Template:Flagicon Belgium 4 February 1985 25 June 1999
Template:Flagicon Belize 17 March 1986 a
Template:Flagicon Benin 12 March 1992 a
Template:Flagicon Bolivia 4 February 1985 12 April 1999
Template:Flagicon Bosnia and Herzegovina 1 September 1993 d
Template:Flagicon Botswana 8 September 2000 8 September 2000
Template:Flagicon Brazil 23 September 1985 28 September 1989
Template:Flagicon Brunei 22 September 2015
Template:Flagicon Bulgaria 10 June 1986 16 December 1986
Template:Flagicon Burkina Faso 4 January 1999 a
Template:Flagicon Burundi 18 February 1993 a
Template:Flagicon Cambodia 15 October 1992 a
Template:Flagicon Cameroon 19 December 1986 a
Template:Flagicon Canada 23 August 1985 24 June 1987
Template:Flagicon Cape Verde 4 June 1992 a
Template:Flagicon Central African Republic 11 October 2016 a
Template:Flagicon Chad 9 June 1995 a
Template:Flagicon Chile 23 September 1987 30 September 1988
Template:Flagicon China 12 December 1986 4 October 1988
Template:Flagicon Colombia 10 April 1985 8 December 1987
Template:Flagicon Comoros 22 September 2000
Template:Flagicon Congo 30 July 2003 a
Template:Flagicon Costa Rica 4 February 1985 11 November 1993
Template:Flagicon Côte d'Ivoire 18 December 1995 a
Template:Flagicon Croatia 12 October 1992 d
Template:Flagicon Cuba 27 January 1986 17 May 1995
Template:Flagicon Cyprus 9 October 1985 18 July 1991
Template:Flagicon Czech Republic 22 February 1993 d (previously ratified by Template:Flag on 7 July 1988)
Template:Flagicon Democratic Republic of the Congo 18 March 1996 a
Template:Flagicon Denmark 4 February 1985 27 May 1987
Template:Flagicon Djibouti 5 November 2002 a
Template:Flagicon Dominican Republic 4 February 1985 24 January 2012
Template:Flagicon Ecuador 4 February 1985 30 March 1988
Template:Flagicon Egypt 25 June 1986 a
Template:Flagicon El Salvador 17 June 1996 a
Template:Flagicon Equatorial Guinea 8 October 2002 a
Template:Flagicon Eritrea 25 September 2014 a
Template:Flagicon Estonia 21 October 1991 a
Template:Flagicon Ethiopia 14 March 1994 a
Template:Flagicon Fiji 1 March 2016 16 March 2016
Template:Flagicon Finland 4 February 1985 30 August 1989
Template:Flagicon France 4 February 1985 18 February 1986
Template:Flagicon Gabon 21 January 1986 8 September 2000
Template:Flagicon Gambia 23 October 1985
Template:Flagicon Georgia 26 October 1994 a
Template:Flagicon Germany 13 October 1986 1 October 1990 (Template:Flag also ratified on 9 September 1987)
Template:Flagicon Ghana 7 September 2000 7 September 2000
Template:Flagicon Greece 4 February 1985 6 October 1988
Template:Flagicon Guatemala 5 January 1990 a
Template:Flagicon Guinea 30 May 1986 10 October 1989
Template:Flagicon Guinea-Bissau 12 September 2000 24 September 2013
Template:Flagicon Guyana 25 January 1988 19 May 1988
Template:Flagicon Holy See 26 June 2002 a
Template:Flagicon Honduras 5 December 1996 a
Template:Flagicon Hungary 28 November 1986 15 April 1987
Template:Flagicon Iceland 4 February 1985 23 October 1996
Template:Flagicon India 14 October 1997
Template:Flagicon Indonesia 23 October 1985 28 October 1998
Template:Flagicon Iraq 7 July 2011 a
Template:Flagicon Ireland 28 September 1992 11 April 2002
Template:Flagicon Israel 22 October 1986 3 October 1991
Template:Flagicon Italy 4 February 1985 12 January 1989
Template:Flagicon Japan 29 June 1999 a
Template:Flagicon Jordan 13 November 1991 a
Template:Flagicon Kazakhstan 26 August 1998 a
Template:Flagicon Kenya 21 February 1997 a
Template:Flagicon Kuwait 8 March 1996 a
Template:Flagicon Kyrgyzstan 5 September 1997 a
Template:Flagicon Lao People's Democratic Republic 21 September 2010 26 September 2012
Template:Flagicon Latvia 14 April 1992 a
Template:Flagicon Lebanon 5 October 2000 a
Template:Flagicon Lesotho 12 November 2001 a
Template:Flagicon Liberia 22 September 2004 a
Template:Flagicon Libya 16 May 1989 a (then Template:Flagicon Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)
Template:Flagicon Liechtenstein 27 June 1985 2 November 1990
Template:Flagicon Lithuania 1 February 1996 a
Template:Flagicon Luxembourg 22 February 1985 29 September 1987
Template:Flagicon Madagascar 1 October 2001 13 December 2005
Template:Flagicon Malawi 11 June 1996 a
Template:Flagicon Maldives 20 April 2004 a
Template:Flagicon Mali 26 February 1999 a
Template:Flagicon Malta 13 September 1990 a
Template:Flagicon Mauritania 17 November 2004 a
Template:Flagicon Mauritius 9 December 1992 a
Template:Flagicon Mexico 18 March 1985 23 January 1986
Template:Flagicon Monaco 6 December 1991 a
Template:Flagicon Mongolia 24 January 2002 a
Template:Flagicon Montenegro 23 October 2006 d
Template:Flagicon Morocco 8 January 1986 21 June 1993
Template:Flagicon Mozambique 14 September 1999 a
Template:Flagicon Namibia 28 November 1994 a
Template:Flagicon Nauru 12 November 2001 26 September 2012
Template:Flagicon Nepal 14 May 1991 a
Template:Flagicon Netherlands 4 February 1985 21 December 1988
Template:Flagicon New Zealand 14 January 1986 10 December 1989
Template:Flagicon Nicaragua 15 April 1985 5 July 2005
Template:Flagicon Niger 5 October 1998 a
Template:Flagicon Nigeria 28 July 1988 28 June 2001
Template:Flagicon Norway 4 February 1985 9 July 1986
Template:Flagicon Pakistan 17 April 2008 3 June 2010
Template:Flagicon Palau 20 September 2011
Template:Flagicon State of Palestine 2 April 2014 a
Template:Flagicon Panama 22 February 1985 24 August 1987
Template:Flagicon Paraguay 23 October 1989 12 March 1990
Template:Flagicon Peru 29 May 1985 7 July 1988
Template:Flagicon Philippines 18 June 1986 a
Template:Flagicon Poland 13 January 1986 26 July 1989
Template:Flagicon Portugal 4 February 1985 9 February 1989
Template:Flagicon Qatar 11 January 2000 a
Template:Flagicon Republic of Korea [South] 9 January 1995 a
Template:Flagicon Republic of Moldova 28 November 1995 a
Template:Flagicon Romania 18 December 1990 a
Template:Flagicon Russian Federation 10 December 1985 3 March 1987 (ratified as the Template:Flag)
Template:Flagicon Rwanda 15 December 2008 a
Template:Flagicon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1 August 2001 a
Template:Flagicon San Marino 18 September 2002 27 November 2006
Template:Flagicon São Tomé and Príncipe 6 September 2000
Template:Flagicon Saudi Arabia 23 September 1997 a
Template:Flagicon Senegal 4 February 1985 21 August 1986
Template:Flagicon Serbia 12 March 2001 d (ratified as the Template:Flag; Template:Flag had previously ratified on 10 September 1991)
Template:Flagicon Seychelles 5 May 1992 a
Template:Flagicon Sierra Leone 18 March 1985 25 April 2001
Template:Flagicon Slovakia 28 May 1993 d (previously ratified by Template:Flag on 7 July 1988)
Template:Flagicon Slovenia 16 July 1993 a
Template:Flagicon Somalia 24 January 1990 a
Template:Flagicon South Africa 29 January 1993 10 December 1998
Template:Flagicon South Sudan 30 April 2015 a
Template:Flagicon Spain 4 February 1985 21 October 1987
Template:Flagicon Sri Lanka 3 January 1994 a
Template:Flagicon Sudan 4 June 1986
Template:Flagicon Swaziland 26 March 2004 a
Template:Flagicon Sweden 4 February 1985 8 January 1986
Template:Flagicon Switzerland 4 February 1985 2 December 1986
Template:Flagicon Syrian Arab Republic 19 August 2004 a
Template:Flagicon Tajikistan 11 January 1995 a
Template:Flagicon Thailand 2 October 2007 a
Template:Flagicon The Republic of Macedonia 12 December 1994 d
Template:Flagicon Timor-Leste 16 April 2003 a
Template:Flagicon Togo 25 March 1987 18 November 1987
Template:Flagicon Tunisia 26 August 1987 23 September 1988
Template:Flagicon Turkey 25 January 1988 2 August 1988
Template:Flagicon Turkmenistan 25 June 1999 a
Template:Flagicon Uganda 3 November 1986 a
Template:Flagicon Ukraine 27 February 1986 24 February 1987 (ratified as the Template:Flag)
Template:Flagicon United Arab Emirates 19 July 2012 a
Template:Flagicon United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 15 March 1985 8 December 1988
Template:Flagicon United States of America 18 April 1988 21 October 1994
Template:Flagicon Uruguay 4 February 1985 24 October 1986
Template:Flagicon Uzbekistan 28 September 1995 a
Template:Flagicon Vanuatu 12 July 2011 a
Template:Flagicon Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 15 February 1985 29 July 1991
Template:Flagicon Vietnam 7 November 2013 5 February 2015
Template:Flagicon Yemen 5 November 1991 a
Template:Flagicon Zambia 7 October 1998 a

Optional Protocol

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,"[8] to be overseen by a Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Status of the Optional Protocol

As of October 2016, the Protocol has 75 signatories and 83 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:[9]

Name State Term Expires
Claudio Grossman (chair) Template:Flag 2015
Felice D. Gaer (vice-chair) Template:Flag 2015
Satyabhoosun Gupt Domah Template:Flag 2015
George Tugushi Template:Flag 2015
Abdoulaye Gaye Template:Flag 2015
Jens Modvig Template:Flag 2017
Sapana Pradhan-Malla Template:Flag 2017
George Tugushi (Vice-Chairperson) Template:Flag 2015
Kening Zhang Template:Flag 2017

See also



External links


Decisions of the Committee Against Torture

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