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Convention against Torture
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Type of treaty Human rights convention
Drafted 10 December 1984[1]
Signed
Location
10 December 1984
New York
Effective
Condition
26 June 1987[1]
20 ratifications[2]
Signatories 76[1]
Parties 146[1]
Depositary UN Secretary-General[3]
Languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish[4]
Wikisource logo Convention against Torture at Wikisource
Map of the world with parties to the Convention against Torture      signed and ratified      signed but not ratified      not signed and not ratified

The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is an international human rights instrument, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture around the world.

The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture within their borders, and forbids states to return people to their home country if 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 recognised as the International Day in Support of Torture Victims, in honour of the Convention. As of January 2010, 146 nations are parties to the treaty, and another ten countries have signed but not ratified it.[1]

Contents

Summary

The Covenant follows the structure of the UDHR and ICCPR, 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 offence (Article 4), establishing jurisdiction over acts of torture committed by or against a party's citizens (Article 5), ensuring that torture is an extraditable offence (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 & 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 recognise 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 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

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"[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.[6] Torture cannot be justified as a means to protect public safety or prevent emergencies.[6] Neither can it be justified by orders from superior officers or public officials.[7] 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.[6] Since the Conventions entry into force, this absolute prohibition has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.[6]

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.[6]

The other articles of part I lay out specific obligations intended to implement this absolute prohibition by preventing, investigating and punishing acts of torture.[6]

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".[8] 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.[9]

Signatories of CAT

Participant Signature Ratification, Accession (a), Succession (d)
Afghanistan 4 Feb 1985 1 Apr 1987
Albania . 11 May 1994 a
Algeria 26 Nov 1985 12 Sep 1989
Andorra 5 Aug 2002 22-Sep-06
Antigua and Barbuda . 19 Jul 1993 a
Argentina 4 Feb 1985 24 Sep 1986
Armenia . 13 Sep 1993 a
Australia 10 Dec 1985 8 Aug 1989
Austria 14 Mar 1985 29 Jul 1987
Azerbaijan . 16 Aug 1996 a
Bahamas 16-Dec-08
Bahrain . 6 Mar 1998 a
Bangladesh . 5 Oct 1998 a
Belarus 19 Dec 1985 13 Mar 1987
Belgium 4 Feb 1985 25 Jun 1999
Belize . 17 Mar 1986 a
Benin . 12 Mar 1992 a
Bolivia 4 Feb 1985 12 Apr 1999
Bosnia and Herzegovina . 1 Sep 1993 d
Botswana 8 Sep 2000 8 Sep 2000
Brazil 23 Sep 1985 28 Sep 1989
Bulgaria 10 Jun 1986 16 Dec 1986
Burkina Faso . 4 Jan 1999 a
Burundi . 18 Feb 1993 a
Cambodia . 15 Oct 1992 a
Cameroon . 19 Dec 1986 a
Canada 23 Aug 1985 24 Jun 1987
Cape Verde . 4 Jun 1992 a
Chad . 9 Jun 1995 a
Chile 23 Sep 1987 30 Sep 1988
China 12 Dec 1986 4 Oct 1988
Colombia 10 Apr 1985 8 Dec 1987
Comoros 22 Sep 2000 .
Congo . 30 Jul 2003 a
Costa Rica 4 Feb 1985 11 Nov 1993
Côte d\'Ivoire . 18 Dec 1995 a
Croatia . 12 Oct 1992 d
Cuba 27 Jan 1986 17 May 1995
Cyprus 9 Oct 1985 18 Jul 1991
Czech Republic . 22 Feb 1993 d
Democratic Republic of the Congo . 18 Mar 1996 a
Denmark 4 Feb 1985 27 May 1987
Djibouti . 5 Nov 2002 a
Dominican Republic 4 Feb 1985 .
Ecuador 4 Feb 1985 30 Mar 1988
Egypt . 25 Jun 1986 a
El Salvador . 17 Jun 1996 a
Equatorial Guinea . 8 Oct 2002 a
Estonia . 21 Oct 1991 a
Ethiopia . 14 Mar 1994 a
Finland 4 Feb 1985 30 Aug 1989
France 4 Feb 1985 18 Feb 1986
Gabon 21 Jan 1986 8 Sep 2000
Gambia 23 Oct 1985 .
Georgia . 26 Oct 1994 a
Germany 13 Oct 1986 1 Oct 1990
Ghana 7 Sep 2000 7 Sep 2000
Greece 4 Feb 1985 6 Oct 1988
Guatemala . 5 Jan 1990 a
Guinea 30 May 1986 10 Oct 1989
Guinea-Bissau 12 Sep 2000 .
Guyana 25 Jan 1988 19 May 1988
Holy See . 26 Jun 2002 a
Honduras . 5 Dec 1996 a
Hungary 28 Nov 1986 15 Apr 1987
Iceland 4 Feb 1985 23 Oct 1996
India 14 Oct 1997 .
Indonesia 23 Oct 1985 28 Oct 1998
Ireland 28 Sep 1992 11 Apr 2002
Israel 22 Oct 1986 3 Oct 1991
Italy 4 Feb 1985 12 Jan 1989
Japan . 29 Jun 1999 a
Jordan . 13 Nov 1991 a
Kazakhstan . 26 Aug 1998 a
Kenya . 21 Feb 1997 a
Kuwait . 8 Mar 1996 a
Kyrgyzstan . 5 Sep 1997 a
Latvia . 14 Apr 1992 a
Lebanon . 5 Oct 2000 a
Lesotho . 12 Nov 2001 a
Liberia . 22 Sep 2004 a
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya . 16 May 1989 a
Liechtenstein 27 Jun 1985 2 Nov 1990
Lithuania . 1 Feb 1996 a
Luxembourg 22 Feb 1985 29 Sep 1987
Madagascar 1 Oct 2001 13 Dec 2005
Malawi . 11 Jun 1996 a
Maldives . 20 Apr 2004 a
Mali . 26 Feb 1999 a
Malta . 13 Sep 1990 a
Mauritania . 17 Nov 2004 a
Mauritius . 9 Dec 1992 a
Mexico 18 Mar 1985 23 Jan 1986
Monaco . 6 Dec 1991 a
Mongolia . 24 Jan 2002 a
Montenegro . 23 Oct 2006 d
Morocco 8 Jan 1986 21 Jun 1993
Mozambique . 14 Sep 1999 a
Namibia . 28 Nov 1994 a
Nauru 12 Nov 2001 .
Nepal . 14 May 1991 a
Netherlands 4 Feb 1985 21 Dec 1988
New Zealand 14 Jan 1986 10 Dec 1989
Nicaragua 15 Apr 1985 5 Jul 2005
Niger . 5 Oct 1998 a
Nigeria 28 Jul 1988 28 Jun 2001
Norway 4 Feb 1985 9 Jul 1986
Pakistan 17-Apr-08
Panama 22 Feb 1985 24 Aug 1987
Paraguay 23 Oct 1989 12 Mar 1990
Peru 29 May 1985 7 Jul 1988
Philippines . 18 Jun 1986 a
Poland 13 Jan 1986 26 Jul 1989
Portugal 4 Feb 1985 9 Feb 1989
Qatar . 11 Jan 2000 a
Republic of Korea [South] . 9 Jan 1995 a
Republic of Moldova . 28 Nov 1995 a
Romania . 18 Dec 1990 a
Russian Federation 10 Dec 1985 3 Mar 1987
Rwanda 15 Dec 2008 a
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines . 1 Aug 2001 a
San Marino 18 Sep 2002 27 Nov 2006
São Tomé and Príncipe 6 Sep 2000 .
Saudi Arabia . 23 Sep 1997 a
Senegal 4 Feb 1985 21 Aug 1986
Serbia . 12 Mar 2001 d
Seychelles . 5 May 1992 a
Sierra Leone 18 Mar 1985 25 Apr 2001
Slovakia . 28 May 1993 d
Slovenia . 16 Jul 1993 a
Somalia . 24 Jan 1990 a
South Africa 29 Jan 1993 10 Dec 1998
Spain 4 Feb 1985 21 Oct 1987
Sri Lanka . 3 Jan 1994 a
Sudan 4 Jun 1986 .
Swaziland . 26 Mar 2004 a
Sweden 4 Feb 1985 8 Jan 1986
Switzerland 4 Feb 1985 2 Dec 1986
Syrian Arab Republic . 19 Aug 2004 a
Tajikistan . 11 Jan 1995 a
Thailand . 2 Oct 2007 a
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia . 12 Dec 1994 d
Timor-Leste . 16 Apr 2003 a
Togo 25 Mar 1987 18 Nov 1987
Tunisia 26 Aug 1987 23 Sep 1988
Turkey 25 Jan 1988 2 Aug 1988
Turkmenistan . 25 Jun 1999 a
Uganda . 3 Nov 1986 a
Ukraine 27 Feb 1986 24 Feb 1987
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 15 Mar 1985 8 Dec 1988
United States of America 18 Apr 1988 21 Oct 1994
Uruguay 4 Feb 1985 24 Oct 1986
Uzbekistan . 28 Sep 1995 a
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 15 Feb 1985 29 Jul 1991
Yemen . 5 Nov 1991 a
Zambia . 7 Oct 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,"[10] 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 December 2008, 40 countries were party to OPCAT, and another 29 countries had signed but not ratified the protocol.[11]

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 May and November each year in Geneva.

The current membership of the CAT:

  • Chile Chairman - Claudio Grossman - term expires in 2011
  • Norway Vice Chairman - Nora Sveaass - term expires in 2009
  • People's Republic of China Vice Chairman - Xuexian Wang - term expires in 2009
  • Morocco Vice Chairman - Essadia Belmir - term expires in 2009
  • Cyprus Rapporteur - Myrna Y. Kleopas - term expires in 2011
  • Ecuador Luis Gallegos Chiriboga - term expires in 2011
  • United States Felice Gaer - term expires in 2011
  • Senegal Abdoulaye Gaye - term expires in 2011
  • Russia Alexander Kovalev - term expires in 2009
  • Spain Fernando Mariño Menéndez - term expires in 2009

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g United Nations Treaty Collection: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Retrieved on 16 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b Convention Against Torture, Article 27. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  3. ^ Convention Against Torture, Article 25. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  4. ^ Convention Against Torture, Article 33. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  5. ^ Convention Against Torture, Article 2.2. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "CAT General Comment No. 2: Implementation of Article 2 by States Parties" (PDF). Committee against Torture. 2007-11-23. pp. 2. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/docs/CAT.C.GC.2.CRP.1.Rev.4_en.pdf. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  
  7. ^ Convention Against Torture, Article 2.3. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  8. ^ Convention Against Torture, Article 3.1. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  9. ^ "CAT General Comment No. 01: Implementation of article 3 of the Convention in the context of article 22". UN OHCHR. 1997-11-21. http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/13719f169a8a4ff78025672b0050eba1?Opendocument. Retrieved 2008-06-15.  
  10. ^ OPCAT, Article 1.
  11. ^ United Nations Treaty Collection: Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.

External links








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