Torture is never the solution – a protocol for humane interrogations

Friday, January 27, 2017

Torture is never the solution to solving crime or obtaining reliable information from suspects. There are other, effective and humane ways of solving crime. Today we move forward with the idea of a universal protocol for investigative interviewing of detainees, as proposed by former Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez.

More than ever, we need to stand up against any attempts to legitimise the use of torture and inhuman treatment of detainees. Juan Mendez ended his mandate as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2016 with a ground-breaking proposal for a universal protocol on humane investigative interviewing. The protocol would set out minimum standards for non-coercive methods and safeguards to protecting detainees from torture and ill-treatment. Because, as Mendez writes in his report to the United Nations General Assembly, history and science offer no evidence on the strategic effectiveness of harsh questioning techniques.

The protocol sets out to change attitudes and practices in police stations and interrogation rooms, to put a stop to forced “confessions”. The proposal has received strong support from the human rights community, including Nils Melzer, current UN Special Rapporteur on Torture:

“There is growing popular belief that torture is an effective way of discovering the truth. This belief is perpetuated by misleading depictions in popular media and worse, in current political narratives. It is therefore important for me to take the work of my predecessor a step further.”

On Friday 27 January, the APT together with the Anti-Torture Initiative of the Washington College of Law organised a full-day strategy meeting with leading anti-torture experts to share national experiences and consider the best options to make the universal protocol a reality. Further consultations and discussions will be held over the year.


Photo: Participants in the strategy meeting:

  • Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture, Andrea Furger and Alia El Khatib (OHCHR)
  • Juan Mendez, former Special Rapporteur on torture and Andra Nicolescu (ATI)
  • Mark Thomson, Anne Lardy and Barbara Bernath (APT)
  • Ambassador Carsten Staur, Lone Thorup, Deputy Permanent Representative and Signe Dam, Permanent Mission of Denmark
  • Ralph Stamm, Diplomatic Officer, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland
  • Herborg Fiskaa Alvsaaker, Minister Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Norway and Anne-Li N. Ferguson, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Justice, Norway
  • Christophe Peschoux, Chief of Protection, Religion, Accountability and Human Security Section, OHCHR
  • David Marshall, OHCHR New York
  • Nathalie Prouvez, Chief of the Rule of Law and Democracy Section, OHCHR
  • Jens Modvig, Chairperson of the UN Committee against Torture
  • Malcolm Evans, Chairperson of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
  • Stuart Maslen, Professor, University of Pretoria
  • Asbjørn Rachlew, researcher at The Norwegian Centre for Human Rights. Former Superintendent of Norwegian police
  • Gisle Kvanvik, Norwegian Center for Human Rights
  • Vincent Iacopino, Physicians for Human Rights
  • Andrea Huber, Penal Reform International
  • Valérie Lebeaux, Chief, Justice Section, Division for Operations, UNODC
  • Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat