Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
Torture is considered so barbaric and incompatible with civilised society that it cannot be tolerated. Torturers are seen as the ‘enemy of all mankind’.
The ban on torture is found in a number of international treaties, including Article 2 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A number of institutions work to enforce the ban on torture, including the UN’s Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Court.
What is torture?
Torture occurs when someone deliberately causes very serious and cruel suffering (physical or mental) to another person. This might be to punish someone, or to intimidate or obtain information from them.
Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention (ECHR) declares:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The Human Rights Court has stated that torture is ‘deliberate inhuman treatment causing very serious and cruel suffering’. It attaches to such treatment a ‘special stigma’. Similarly, Article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture defines torture as the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, for a specific purpose (such as obtaining information or punishment) by, or with the consent of, State authorities.
What is inhuman treatment?
Inhuman treatment or punishment is treatment which causes intense physical or mental suffering. It includes:
serious physical assault
cruel or barbaric detention conditions or restraints
serious physical or psychological abuse in a health or care setting, and
threatening to torture someone, if the threat is real and immediate.
What is degrading treatment?
Degrading treatment means treatment that is extremely humiliating and undignified. Whether treatment reaches a level that can be defined as degrading depends on a number of factors. These include the duration of the treatment, its physical or mental effects and the sex, age, vulnerability and health of the victim. This concept is based on the principle of dignity - the innate value of all human beings.
Are there any restrictions to this right?
Your right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way is absolute. This means it must never be limited or restricted in any way. For example, a public authority can never use lack of resources as a defence against an accusation that it has treated someone in an inhuman or degrading way.