Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Torture

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Adopted by the Organization of American States on December 9, 1985. Entered into force on February 28, 1997.

Relevant Provisions of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Torture

Article 1

The State Parties undertake to prevent and punish torture in accordance with the terms of this Convention.

Article 2: Definition of Torture

For the purposes of this Convention, torture shall be understood to be any act intentionally performed whereby physical or mental pain or suffering is inflicted on a person for purposes of criminal investigation, as a means of intimidation, as personal punishment, as a preventive measure, as a penalty, or for any other purpose. Torture shall also be understood to be the use of methods upon a person intended to obliterate the personality of the victim or to diminish his physical or mental capacities, even if they do not cause physical pain or mental anguish.

The concept of torture shall not include physical or mental pain or suffering that is inherent in or solely the consequence of lawful measures, provided that they do not include the performance of the acts or use of the methods referred to in this article.

Article 3

The following shall be held guilty of the crime of torture:

A public servant or employee who acting in that capacity orders, instigates or induces the use of torture, or who directly commits it or who, being able to prevent it, fails to do so.

A person who at the instigation of a public servant or employee mentioned in subparagraph (a) orders, instigates or induces the use of torture, directly commits it or is an accomplice thereto.

Article 4

The fact of having acted under orders of a superior shall not provide exemption from the corresponding criminal liability.

Article 5

The existence of circumstances such as a state of war, threat of war, state of siege or of emergency, domestic disturbance or strife, suspension of constitutional guarantees, domestic political instability, or other public emergencies or disasters shall not be invoked or admitted as justification for the crime of torture.

Neither the dangerous character of the detainee or prisoner, nor the lack of security of the prison establishment or penitentiary shall justify torture.

Article 6

In accordance with the terms of Article 1, the States Parties shall take effective measures to prevent and punish torture within their jurisdiction.

The States Parties shall ensure that all acts of torture and attempts to commit torture are offenses under their criminal law and shall make such acts punishable by severe penalties that take into account their serious nature.

The States Parties likewise shall take effective measures to prevent and punish other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment within their jurisdiction.

Article 7

The States Parties shall take measures so that, in the training of police officers and other public officials responsible for the custody of persons temporarily or definitively deprived of their freedom, special emphasis shall be put on the prohibition of the use of torture in interrogation, detention, or arrest.

The States Parties likewise shall take similar measures to prevent other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 8

The States Parties shall guarantee that any person making an accusation of having been subjected to torture within their jurisdiction shall have the right to an impartial examination of his case.

Likewise, if there is an accusation or well-grounded reason to believe that an act of torture has been committed within their jurisdiction, the States Parties shall guarantee that their respective authorities will proceed properly and immediately to conduct an investigation into the case and to initiate, whenever appropriate, the corresponding criminal process.

After all the domestic legal procedures of the respective State and the corresponding appeals have been exhausted, the case may be submitted to the international fora whose competence has been recognized by that State.

Article 9

The States Parties undertake to incorporate into their national laws regulations guaranteeing suitable compensation for victims of torture.

None of the provisions of this article shall affect the right to receive compensation that the victim or other persons may have by virtue of existing national legislation.

Article 10

No statement that is verified as having been obtained through torture shall be admissible as evidence in a legal proceeding, except in a legal action taken against a person or persons accused of having elicited it through acts of torture, and only as evidence that the accused obtained such statement by such means.

Article 12

Every State Party shall take the necessary measures to establish its jurisdiction over the crime described in this Convention in the following cases:

When torture has been committed within its jurisdiction;

When the alleged criminal is a national of that State; or

When the victim is a national of that State and it so deems appropriate.

Every State Party shall also take the necessary measures to establish its jurisdiction over the crime described in this Convention when the alleged criminal is within the area under its jurisdiction and it is not appropriate to extradite him in accordance with Article 11.

This Convention does not exclude criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with domestic law.

Article 13

The crime referred to in Article 2 shall be deemed to be included among the extraditable crimes in every extradition treaty entered into between States Parties. The States Parties undertake to include the crime of torture as an extraditable offence in every extradition treaty to be concluded between them.

Status of Signature, Ratification or Accession to the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Torture

Country Signature Ratification/Accession
Antigua y Barbuda - -
Argentina 10 February 1986 18 November 1988
Bahamas - -
Barbardos - -
Belize - -
Bolivia 09 December 1985 26 August 2006
Brazil 24 January 1986 09 June 1989
Canada - -
Chile 24 September 1987 15 September 1988
Colombia 09 December 1985 02 December 1998
Costa Rica 31 July 1986 25 November 1999
Dominica - -
Dominican Republic 31 March 1986 12 December 1986
Ecuador 30 May 1986 30 September 1999
El Salvador 16 October 1987 17 October 1994
Grenada - -
Guatemala 27 October 1986 10 December 1986
Guyana - -
Haiti 13 June 1986 -
Honduras 11 March 1986 -
Jamaica - -
Mexico 10 February 1986 11 February 1987
Nicaragua 29 September 1987 23 September 2009
Panama 10 February 1986 27 June 1991
Paraguay 25 October 1989 12 February 1990
Peru 10 January 1986 27 February 1990
St. Kitts & Nevis - -
St. Lucia - -
St. Vincent & Grenadines - -
Suriname 12 November 1987 12 November 1987
Trinidad and Tobago - -
United States - -
Uruguay 09 December 1985 23 September 1992
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 09 December 1985 25 June 1991

See International Law