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The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1984

The UN Convention against Torture was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984. One hundred and thirty states were party to the Convention by August 2002. The Convention defines torture and specifies that states parties must prohibit torture in all circumstances. Torture cannot be justified during a state of emergency, or other exceptional circumstances, nor because of superior orders received by an official.[1] The Convention prohibits the forcible return or extradition of a person to another country where he or she is at risk of torture.[2] States must ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law – including complicity and participation in and incitement to such acts.[3] States must establish jurisdiction over such offences in cases of torture where the alleged offenders are not extradited to face prosecution in another state, regardless of the state in which the torture was committed, or the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim (‘universal jurisdiction’).[4] In exercising universal jurisdiction states are obliged to take suspected perpetrators of torture into custody, to undertake inquiries into allegations of torture and to submit suspected torturers to the prosecuting authorities.[5] States must also co-operate with one another to bring torturers to justice.[6] Statements made as a result of torture may not be invoked in evidence – except against the alleged torturer.[7] Victims of torture also have a right to redress and adequate compensation.[8]

The Convention against Torture also obliges states parties to take effective measures to combat torture. States undertake to train law enforcement, medical personnel, and any other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of detained individuals, about the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.[9] Interrogation rules and custody arrangements are to be kept under review to aid in preventing any acts of torture and ill-treatment.[10] States must actively investigate acts of torture and ill-treatment – even if there has not been a formal complaint about it.[11] Individuals have a right to complain about acts of torture and ill-treatment, to have their complaints investigated and to be offered protection against consequent intimidation or ill-treatment.[12] Acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that do not amount to acts of torture are also prohibited and the provisions discussed in this paragraph also apply to such acts.[13]

[1] Article 2, the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

[2] Article 3 ibid.

[3] Article 4, ibid.

[4] Articles 5, ibid.

[5] Articles 6-8, ibid.

[6] Article 9, ibid.

[7] Article 15, ibid.

[8] Article 14, ibid.

[9] Article 10, ibid.

[10] Article 11, ibid.

[11] Article 12, ibid.

[12] Article 13, ibid.

[13] Article 16, ibid.