Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1950) is the founding document of the international human rights system. While it is not a treaty, it is considered to reflect customary international law and to be binding on all States. Article 5 states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also says that people have the right to "an effective remedy" if their rights are violated.
Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture
The Convention against Torture is complemented by an Optional Protocol (the OPCAT), which was adopted in 2002 and entered into force in 2006. The Optional Protocol does not establish new normative standards. Instead, it reinforces the specific obligations for prevention of torture in articles 2 and 16 of the Convention by establishing a system of regular visits to places of detention by an international body (the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture) and national bodies (known as National Preventive Mechanisms). More about the OPCAT.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that no person “shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. In addition, article 10 states: “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”. No derogation is allowed regarding the right not to be subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The ICCPR also provides for legal and procedural safeguards related to the deprivation of liberty and fair trials (Articles 9, 10, 14, 15).
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
The CPPED is the most recent international human rights treaty (2010). It prohibits enforced disappearance which has been recognized as a form of torture. It requires State Parties to make enforced disappearance a crime, as well as to implement several legal and procedural safeguards related to the deprivation of liberty. This is the first time many of these legal and procedural safeguards are explicitly included in a treaty text. Therefore, full implementation of the safeguards related to the deprivation of liberty in the CPPED will also help to prevent torture.
Other international human rights treaties
The following treaties all contain specific articles on the prohibition of torture:
- The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 15) and requires State Parties to prevent torture and ill-treatment of persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others. It also requires States Parties to take steps to prevent exploitation, violence and abuse (Article 16).
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires States Parties to ensure that no child is subjected to torture or other ill-treatment (Art. 37).
- The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families prohibits torture and other ill-treatment (Article 10).
United Nations Standards
The United Nations has a developed a number of standards that are relevant for the prevention of torture, including:
- Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners
- Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners
- Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment
- Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty
- United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules).
Standards dealing with the work of law enforcement officials:
- Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials
- Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials
Standards on the role of medical doctors in the prohibition and prevention of torture:
- Principles of Medical Ethics relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Principles on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (Istanbul Protocol).