Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on December 10, 1984. The Convention entered into force on June 26, 1987. It has five signatories – India as well as Brunei, Haiti, Palau and Sudan – and 170 countries have ratified or acceded to it. (Signatories are qualified to ratify, accept or approve a treaty. Ratification is the 'international act' where a State indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty.)
Convention refers to Article 5 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 7 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which state that no one shall be subjected to
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or torture.
roughly 4,500-word Convention is arranged in three parts and contains 33 Articles.
Part I (Articles 1-16) covers recommendations to State Parties on the
prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Part II (Articles 17-24) proposes establishing a Committee against Torture composed
of nationals of the State Parties to the Convention, and prescribes the manner
in which State Parties shall report the measures they have adopted to observe
the rights recognised by the Convention. Part III (Articles 25-33) discusses
the process by which the Convention is to be ratified and amended. (In UN
documents, a ‘State Party’ to a treaty is a country that has ratified or
acceded to that particular treaty, and is therefore legally bound by the
provisions in the instrument).
following are excerpts from 10 of Part I’s 16 articles, which remain especially
relevant to the present times:
Article 1: ‘Torture’ means any act by which severe pain or
suffering – physical or mental – is intentionally inflicted on a person by, at
the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of, a public official
or other person acting in an official capacity, for obtaining information or a
confession from them; punishing them for an act they or other persons have
committed or are suspected of having committed; intimidating or coercing them
or a ‘third person’; or for reasons based on any kind of discrimination. It
does not include pain or suffering arising from ‘lawful sanctions’.
Article 2: State Parties shall take legislative,
administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in
territories under their jurisdiction. No exceptional circumstances – a war or a
threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency –
may be invoked as a justification of torture. An order from a superior officer
or public authority may not be used as a justification of torture.
Article 4: Each State Party shall ensure that acts of torture
are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to attempts to torture,
and acts which involve complicity or participation in torture. State Parties shall
make such offences punishable by appropriate penalties.
Article 6: After examining the information available to it, and
being satisfied that the circumstances so warrant, the State Party shall take into
custody any person alleged to have committed acts of torture “or take other
legal measures to ensure their presence.” The State Party shall immediately
make a preliminary inquiry into the facts of the allegation. The person taken
into custody shall be assisted in communicating with “the nearest appropriate
representative of the State” of which they are a national; if the person taken
into custody is ‘stateless’, they shall be assisted in communicating with a
representative of the State where they usually reside. When a State Party has
taken a person into custody, they shall immediately notify the States referred
to in Article 5. The State Party making the preliminary inquiry shall promptly
report its findings to the said States and shall indicate whether it intends to
exercise jurisdiction over the offence.
Article 10: State Parties shall ensure that education and
information on the prohibition of torture are fully included in the training of
civil or military law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, public
officials and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation
or treatment of a person subjected to any form of arrest, detention or
imprisonment. State Parties shall include this information in the rules or
instructions regarding the duties and functions of such personnel and
Article 11: With the aim of preventing cases of torture in
any territory under its jurisdiction, each State Party shall “keep under
systematic review” its interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices,
and arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons under arrest,
detention or imprisonment.
Article 12: Each State Party shall ensure that its
competent authorities conduct a prompt and impartial investigation wherever
there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed
in any territory under its jurisdiction.
Article 13: State Parties shall ensure that any individual
alleging that they have been subjected to torture in any territory under the its
jurisdiction, has the right to complain to, and have their case promptly and
impartially examined by, competent authorities in the State. Steps shall be
taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against any ill-treatment
or intimidation as a consequence of their complaint.
Article 14: Through its legal system, each State Party
shall ensure that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has a
right to fair and adequate compensation, including “the means for as full
rehabilitation as possible.” In the event of the death of the victim as a
result of torture, the victim’s dependants shall be entitled to compensation.
Article 15: State
Parties shall ensure that no statement established to have been made as a
result of torture shall be used as evidence in any proceeding, unless the
statement is invoked “…against a person accused of torture as evidence that
the statement was made.”
Focus by Shrushti Bhosale.
10 Dec, 1984