Representing Victims of Torture

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People are tortured or otherwise ill-treated in at least 111 countries around the world. In 61 of those countries human rights abusers can torture with impunity.[1]. While an individual may be tortured for many reasons -- to force a confession, for punishment, to intimidate or coerce, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind -- the majority of torture cases occur during police interrogation. This guide provides the criminal defense with an overview of how to identify and represent individuals who have been tortured either for confessions or for extra-judicial punishment.

Identifying Victims of Torture

There may be many different goals related to identifying victims of torture: holding the perpetrator accountable, making reparation, preventing the deportation of an individual to a country where he or she would be at risk of torture, etc. For criminal defense attorneys it is important to identify victims of torture because specific groups (i.e. children, women, the elderly, or religious persons) may be more vulnerable to the effects of ill-treatment, making it easier to consider the degree of suffering severe enough to amount to torture. [2]

Identifying and tracking torture cases will also help uncover patterns of abuse being directed at a particular group of victims.

For example, regarding children, Article 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, color, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State.” Similarly, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”[3]

Currently, the UNCRC does not provide for individual complaint mechanisms, however, the CAT may provide the only method of redress for individuals.

In certain cases, systematic torture of a particular group will allow the criminal defense attorney to use additional international mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December of 1948, includes "acting with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group [by] causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group" as part of its definition of genocide. [4]

The Rome Statute of the ICC incorporates this definition of genocide as well as a definition of crimes against humanity, which includes torture. As soon as a State becomes a party to the Statute, it accepts the ICC's jurisdiction with respect to those crimes, and a State can recommend individual nationals suspected of those crimes to the Court. The ICC will then have complete jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute unless the person recommended has already been tried or is in the process of going to trial in the State already.

Investigating and Documenting Torture: The Istanbul Protocol

In 1999, the United Nations developed the Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, commonly known as the Istanbul Protocol. It is the first set of international standards “for the assessment of persons who allege torture and ill-treatment, for investigating cases of alleged torture and for reporting findings to the judiciary or any other investigative body.[5]

The Istanbul Protocol provides advice for interviewing detainees and possible victims of torture that is applicable to lawyers, doctors, psychologists or other professionals. Therefore, while it may differ from local standards set by a defender’s office, it provides an excellent resource for a lawyer who wants guidance as to minimum standards for documenting a case where a client has been tortured.

According to the CAT, the State should ensure that its “competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation” of any torture allegations.[6] Similarly, the Istanbul Protocol asserts that the State should appoint a primary investigative authority (separately from providing access to legal services) to serve as the main liaison between the authorities and the alleged torture victim. This investigative authority must be separate from alleged torturers or any agency that employs them. [7] In doing so, the State should be sensitive to the victim's culture, language and gender. The investigator should attempt to obtain a detailed statement from the victim, color photographs of the injuries, as well as a thorough medical examination from an independent, qualified expert to produce a comprehensive evaluation of the alleged torture victim.The State should also provide the following information to the alleged torture victim during the investigation:

1. updates on the progress of the investigation; 2. information on all key hearings in the investigation and prosecution of the case; 3. updates on the suspected perpetrator (whether he/she has been identified, arrested etc.); 4. contact information for advocacy and treatment groups that might assist the victim; 5. the right to refuse questioning, to stop the investigation, or to take a break; 6. protection, not only for the victim, but also for the victim's family; 7. psychological counselors and other medical professionals trained in treating torture victims. When using any kind of formal, standardized equipment to conduct medical tests on suspected victims of torture, however doctors must be sensitive to the trauma. In fact, these instruments should only be used when absolutely necessary, such as when there is a legal case against the perpetrator and proof of torture is needed. [8]

Physical Evidence of Torture

As the Istanbul Protocol notes, most torture occurs when people are held in some form of custody, where preservation of physical evidence or unrestricted access may be initially difficult or impossible.

Yet investigators must be given authority by the State to obtain unrestricted access to where the torture allegedly took place. Once a place is identified as a possible torture location, it should be secured and only the investigator should have access. All evidence must be properly collected and labeled. Any object that could have been used as an instrument of torture should be collected as well. The investigator should take color photographs and draw a sketch of the scene. If the torture happened recently, the investigator should collect the victim's clothes to test for bodily fluids. X-rays and MRIs are the best ways to determine the extent of soft tissue, mandibular and dental trauma. It is especially important to try to capture evidence of soft tissue injuries as they tend to be difficult to prove.

The investigator should also order a physical examination of the alleged torture victim as soon as possible. An alleged torture victim, his family member or his lawyer may also request a medical examination to document physical evidence of torture. Military or police personnel should not be the authorities requesting a medical exam, nor should they be present during the examination or responsible for transporting the alleged victim, since they may have been involved in the torture.

A record should be made if such officials are present during the examination, and this may present possible grounds for challenging the validity of the exam results at a later date if they are unfavorable to one’s client. [9]

The medical examiner should ideally have experience examining torture victims, and be familiar with torture practices in that region/country. The medical examiner needs to document the previous medical history before conducting an extremely thorough examination of the alleged victim's entire body, including eyes, ears, nose, oral cavity and teeth, jaw, oropharynx and neck, chest and abdomen, the central and peripheral nervous system, the genito-urinary system and the musculoskeletal system. The medical examiner should take photographs, if possible, and should note if the examination was not conducted under bright light.[10]

It is important to note, however, that the absence of physical evidence does not necessarily suggest that torture did not occur; many violent acts, such as psychological or sexual torture, frequently leave no marks or permanent scars.

Psychological Evidence of Torture [11]

Studies have found that 70% of torture victims suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). [12] Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, severe anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, depression and memory lapses.[13]

To prevent the victim from re-experiencing the trauma, an investigator should explain what he or she should expect prior to the medical examination.

Victims of torture may also suffer from depression. Symptoms of depression include depressed mood, anhedonia (markedly diminished interest or pleasure in activities), appetite disturbance or weight loss, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue and loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness and excessive guilt, difficulty paying attention, concentrating or recalling from memory, thoughts of death and dying, suicidal ideation or attempted suicide. In addition to PTSD, torture victims may suffer from other disorders such as personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorders.[14]

Torture victims often feel guilt and shame due to the humiliation they have endured. Many feel that they have betrayed themselves or their friends and family. These symptoms are normal human responses to abnormal and inhuman treatment.[15]

Assessing a child who is a potential victim of torture is potentially an even more complex process. Depending on their age, children who have been tortured may have different reactions than adults. Children may not be able to express their feelings verbally; instead, they often express themselves behaviorally. If possible, a child who has witnessed or experienced torture should be examined by an expert in child abuse. Caregivers should be sure to carefully monitor the development of the child, even if he or she not experience torture personally, but indirectly witnessed torture of a loved one.[16]

Interviewing Torture Victims and Gathering Evidence[17]

The lawyer has a right to interview his client in private without any police officer or prison officer present. Interviews conducted while a client is in custody, and potentially still vulnerable to his/her torturers, will be different than one conducted in a private place.[18]

The police cannot legally insist that the client be interviewed within their presence or with a police officer within earshot who can hear what is being said between the lawyer and his client.

The lawyer should be straightforward with the client about what he/she can realistically achieve for the client, and explain the process thoroughly. The lawyer should be aware that the victim may not be comfortable right away, and the lawyer may need to conduct several interviews. The lawyer should always be sensitive to the victim's trauma, using eye contact and sympathetic body language.

During this interview the lawyer must find out all relevant information including: - The client's response to the allegations leveled against him. - The names of the officers who arrested him and the investigating officer. - What the arresting officers said to him at the time of the arrest. - What questioning, if any, the client has been subjected to since he was arrested and the parties who conducted that questioning. - Whether he has made any sort of statement, and, if he has, all details regarding that statement, i.e., was the statement oral or handwritten; was it a warned and cautioned statement which was typed and read over to him before he signed it; was the statement confirmed before a magistrate? (Where the client has already made a statement to the police and this has been recorded, the lawyer should ask the police to see the statement and that he be provided with a copy.) - If a statement has been made and whether it was made freely and voluntarily. (If the client says he was physically maltreated or threatened in order to force him to confess, the lawyer should carefully note down the details of the alleged maltreatment or threats. The client should also be asked to show the lawyer any injuries and bodily marks which resulted from his mistreatment and the lawyer must carefully note down his observations about these.) - If a medical practitioner has already given medical treatment to the client. (If so, lawyer should ask the police for a copy of the medical report.).

Whether the aim is preparing an absolute defense for the client or advancing and proving procedural irregularity, it is key to ask the client certain questions in an interview to develop a defense. Even with time and experience, given a number of cases or detention visits, all lawyers forget a few important points or questions. This is why a small checklist can be a useful reminder.

Client Interview Checklist:

- Exact time and date of arrest

- Details of the arrest: number of people involved, role of each in the arrest and, if possible, the name and occupation of each

- Words exchanged, and rights invoked at arrest

- Details of placement into custody: whether the client had knowledge of the infraction when being placed into custody

- Language used by law enforcement officials, how the client understood the language used

- Visits, conditions and treatment after the arrest and during custody: medical visits, lawyer visits, family visits, presence of an interpreter, interrogations, rest and food provided

- Judicial follow-up: transfers to courtroom, summons, notifications, access to a lawyer

- Time and location of torture

- Details regarding anyone present during the torture (whether or not they participated)

- Exact role of each person or party involved,especially the nature and number of blows inflicted by each (if applicable)

- Details of all pressures or threats constituting mental or psychological torture

- Details of all marks personally observed by the lawyer

- Information about all possible witnesses (bystanders, co-prisoners)

Victim Responses During Interviews

Silent Clients

When meeting or interviewing a known victim of torture, a lawyer can often expect the victims to remain silent or be very talkative. When victims remain silent (a reaction often developed to deal with trauma), do not lose sight of the fact that he or she requires help to talk about his or her experience. Resist the temptation to speak on your client's behalf. First, a good starting point as an interviewing method is to ask the victim to tell the story of interrogation from the beginning, during which you ask for numerous details—for example, color and brand of the police car, weather conditions, and what people nearby were wearing. These details may initially seem insignificant, but giving small details often makes it easier to speak of violence. Second, never finish or complete the phrases of the client. Silences, even prolonged, may help him or her find the most appropriate or comfortable way of communicating what happened. Third, pay attention to the details; the victim's understanding of the gravity of certain acts may be different from what is legally proscribed. Finally, once the client has begun, do not interrupt him or her. Wait until the narrative is over to ask further questions. With the victim’s help, come up with an inventory of the visible marks that resulted. Ask if there were any witnesses to the arrest (particularly family or colleagues) and for descriptions and names of the perpetrators (first names are often given during physical interrogations).

Talkative Clients

Conversely, when victims are talkative, it is important to first allow for an initial ”purging” phase during the interview, when the client is able to “get it all out.” Take advantage of this time to identify elements that can be used to direct later conversation. There can occasionally, but not always, be a tendency to exaggerate. Next, explain how certain details may aid or inform the creation of a defense (e.g., nullity, absolute defense or legal action against the perpetrators). Third, have the client make precise lists of people present, of blows given, of clothing worn, etc., to regulate the flow of the interview. Additionally, have a talkative victim speak of mental or psychological torture first. Make breaks during the story to explain, for example, the anti-torture treaties and legislation that exist. If the flow is interrupted, change the subject for a bit. Talking about family or friends is often a good way to ground the client in reality. After this, you can return to the details of the violations. Only look at the wounds at the end. Finally, make an inventory of places, names and witnesses as discussed above. Regardless of the cause of or response to torture, the defense lawyer must be methodological, keeping in mind the purpose and goals of the interview. All potentially interfering personal feelings or conflicts of interests must be put aside. With both talkative and silent victims, the lawyer should obtain the information covered in the “Interview Checklist” provided above by the end of the interview. Following the interview, a doctor should be called for expertise, and, if necessary, witnesses found from whom to take statements or cite. Then the defense should be prepared.

A Lawyer’s Responsibilities When Representing Victims of Torture

Ethical Obligations

Lawyers have an ethical obligation to uphold the principles of justice and represent their clients to the best of their abilities. Principle 14 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers provides: “Lawyers, in protecting the rights of their clients and in promoting the cause of justice, shall seek to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law and shall at all times act freely and diligently in accordance with the law and recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.[19] Thus, lawyers should refer to the ethics code governing their local bar to resolve any ethical questions. Whatever the country-specific regulations may be, there are general standards that all lawyers should meet when dealing with their clients.


As in other circumstances, lawyers have a duty of communication to the client. Being a successful and competent lawyer requires having the ability to communicate the best defense to the client and, subsequently, working with the client to support that defense strategy throughout the representation. Defense strategies are the methods by which a criminal defense attorney decides to try his/her client’s case. They are different from hearing strategies, in that they are principles decided upon, developed and fixed by the lawyer and client prior to the hearing. They should remain consistent up to the deliberations.

Presenting Defenses

It is fundamental that the defense strategy is agreed upon by both the defendant and the lawyer. While the lawyer may have special knowledge and expertise about the subject matter, ultimately, it is within the authority of the client to determine the purposes served by legal representation within the bounds of the law and the lawyer’s professional obligations. Thus, a lawyer should present the available defense strategies to the client, advise the client on the advantages and disadvantages of both, and, with the client, choose and apply the best defense strategy. In the case of a rupture defense, however, which generally extends to political cases, the defendant is able to seriously limit the freedom of the lawyer in the formulation of a strategy.

In developing countries where torture is routinely used as an interrogation tactic to forcibly extract confessions, the criminal defense lawyer must be prepared to defend his or her client in many ways. Given the State's monopoly on legitimate violence, it is able to provide the police force with very clear parameters about what is and what is not acceptable. A criminal defense lawyer should argue that only force strictly necessary for the interrogation of a person or for his continued cooperation with the police is legitimate.

Requesting medical and psychological treatment for the client

The criminal defense lawyer representing a client who has been tortured has a responsibility that goes beyond merely raising defenses at trial. Under certain circumstances a criminal defense attorney may request a court-ordered medical examination. This may be required before the court will launch a formal investigation into an allegation of torture. It also may be required before the court can order appropriate medical or psychological treatment. An accurate medical examination helps the victim as well as his defense lawyer. A very precise medical dossier, that documents the violence accurately, brings the Court closer to the victim and makes the victim more reliable.

Available Remedies

A survivor of torture might be a victim twice: victim of physical and psychological violence, and victim of an unfair criminal proceeding. The information acquired through torture, indeed, might be used against the victim, as well as against a third person. The information is usually a confession regarding a criminal offense and there is no shortage of authority for the assertion that such evidence is inadmissible.

The reason for this rule at the international level is given primarily by Article 15 of the CAT, which prescribes that “[e]ach State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”[20] This provision is closely connected with the right against self-incrimination in Article 14(3)(g) International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

These norms aim to remove incentives to torture and to ensure fair (criminal, civil, administrative, judicial and non-judicial) proceedings. Thus, any kind of evidence obtained by torture must be declared inadmissible. Moreover, as the CAT travaux préparatoires make clear, the risk that the information obtained under torture may not be true is very high.

National criminal justice systems have adopted different remedies, with even further differentiations among common law and civil law countries themselves. China, for example, in July 2010, introduced a very detailed new set of rules specifically regarding the exclusion of oral evidence obtained by illegal means.[21]

The aim of the CAT provision is protecting both the dignity and the physical and mental integrity of the individual. At the same time, its scope is dissuading law enforcement officials, and, in general, people acting under color of law from committing torture to gain information because the information cannot be used to prove the defendant’s responsibility.

Common Law Countries

The most common method of defense is to argue that the defendant’s confession should be excluded because it was produced by illegal means.[22]

The exclusionary rule should apply not only to the confession, but to all evidence produced as a result of the confession. This would be the case in the United States, subject to certain limitations. [23] There are several opportunities to raise this defense in a common law system:

- Arraignment / Bail – This may be the earliest opportunity for a criminal defense attorney to raise a defense for the client. At this early stage, the defense attorney should argue that the case should be thrown out because defendant’s confession was induced by torture or that the confession evidence should have no bearing on the bail motion.

- Pre-trial motions – The defense attorney should file for a motion to suppress the involuntary statement as the product of torture. If the judge determines that a question of fact exists as to whether the confession was involuntary she should hold a pre-trial hearing to make a factual determination. This pre-trial hearing is like a mini-trial, with both parties able to call witnesses. As a practical matter, the defendant will rarely be called to the stand. The pre-trial motion and hearing process serves two strategic purposes for the criminal defense lawyer. First, if the defendant wins the motion to suppress the confession, this puts the defense in a more favorable position at trial. In a common law system winning this motion may even result in dismissal of the case. At the very least, it puts the defendant in a superior bargaining position for plea negotiations. Second, even if the defendant fails to win the motion to suppress the confession, valuable evidence is gained during the hearing process because this may be the first and only time the defense lawyer is able to hear the story of the interrogation police prior to trial. In certain circumstances the hearing could provide valuable impeachment evidence that can be used at trial.

- Trial – In some jurisdictions a confession induced by torture is still admissible at trial, regardless of the attendant circumstances. In these cases, the defense must defend against the confession by putting forth evidence to show that the confession is unreliable. A criminal defense attorney who is representing a defendant whose confession was induced by torture should develop a central theme at trial that emphasizes physical or psychologically overwhelming interrogation tactics.

- At Appeal – If evidence was erroneously admitted at trial, the defendant should argue on appeal that this was reversible error and request a reversal of conviction based on the error.

Civil Law Countries

In general, the following are the actions that can be initiated by the defense lawyer in civil law countries. It might be procedurally possible to pursue the three actions simultaneously. However, a careful analysis of the situation must be carried out to understand if it is in the client’s best interest to pursue one action instead of another, or more than one at the same time.

Nullity of Procedure- Putting forth a defense of nullity of procedure can call for the invalidation of either the entire procedure, or just parts, such as the interrogation or custody.

Absolute Defense - A defense that rejects statements or concessions given under conditions of violence and mistreatment. This is a factual defense which implies a very solid reconstruction of the circumstances surrounding the accusation, in order to undermine the case for the prosecution.

Disciplinary Action Against Perpetrators - Administrative or civil disciplinary actions can be taken against the perpetrators, usually under the auspices of the prosecution, by submitting a complaint.

Collateral Remedies

In both civil and common law countries, a defendant may have an independent civil action[24] for damages against the State or the police. Both legal systems seek to deter and punish similar fact patterns. No matter the type of system, criminal and civil law should operate in conjunction, as complements to each other, to reach the most favorable result for the victim.

For torture survivors, the process of seeking justice and reparation is an important part of recovery, because it allows them to regain their dignity and the control of their life. Accountability of the perpetrators and public acknowledgment of the wrong inflicted is also important as a public record that a wrong has been committed and might be useful as deterrent against future perpetrators, and so strengthening the rule of law.[25]

Civil Law Countries

Action Civile is the action that the victim of torture can initiate against the perpetrator to seek redress and/or compensation. This action can be initiated in the criminal proceeding at the trial phase (in France, even without the assistance of a lawyer). Moreover, the action civile can also generate a separate civil proceeding, and in this case procedural codes envision coordination of rules between the two actions.

The action civile combines penal and tort procedures. Article 2 of the French Procedural Criminal Code provides that “all who have personally suffered a damage directly caused by the crime have a right to reparation of that damage by a civil cause of action (...).”[26]

However, what is called “constitution de partie civile” bars the “partie civile” from being heard as a witness in that criminal trial, according to article 422 CCP. Given the fact that most of the time the victim’s statements are the only evidence of the torture itself, exercising the action civile might not be the best defense strategy. Moreover, the judicial decision declaring the torturer’s civil responsibility, and thus his duty to compensate the victim, might be difficult to enforce because the torturer does not have any financial resources or has been tried in absentia, for example.

Requesting medical and psychological treatment for client

The criminal defense lawyer representing a client who has been tortured has a responsibility that goes beyond merely raising defenses at trial. Under certain circumstances a criminal defense attorney may request a court-ordered medical examination. This may be required before the court will launch a formal investigation into an allegation of torture. It also may be required before the court can order appropriate medical or psychological treatment.

International Remedies

Use of International Principles in Domestic Litigation

Translation from an international standard or norm to national law and then to local implementation is slow and very complex. But not only States are responsible for transforming judicial practices. Direct application of international law by domestic courts can also play an important role in implementing international human rights standards, complying with relevant international standards and citing precedents of other jurisdictions. The greater the extent to which international principles about torture are known, the greater the possibility that domestic courts will comply with them.

The role of defense lawyers in this complicated process, especially concerning absolute prohibitions like torture, is fundamental. Defense lawyers must constantly try to invoke international human rights standards when litigating torture cases, either directly, where possible, or using the standards in interpreting domestic laws.

Concerning torture, the international community agrees on considering the prohibition of torture as customary law, and specifically as a peremptory norm of general international law (i.e., jus cogens).[27] This means not only that states cannot stipulate upon or derogate from the norm, but also that the norm is elevated to a higher level than other international rules. Moreover, torture is considered an obligation erga omnes that is an obligation that each state has not only toward its citizens, but to the international community in general.[28]

In a national court context, these international law-related arguments are not obviously persuasive. However, defense lawyers can use this kind of reasoning to reinforce their claims that evidence obtained with force must be deemed inadmissible.[29] This is because such evidence intrinsically violates principles that are so fundamental and globally recognised that they do not need to be incorporated into domestic systems through national legislation to demand their application.

The fact that national courts and lawyers play a primary role in upholding the fundamental principles of international law can also be derived from the complementarity principle contained in Article 1 of the International Criminal Court Statute (1998). This principle means that domestic jurisdictions first have to take the lead in the adjudication of international crimes, while the ICC can step in just if one state is “unable” or unwilling” to prosecute the crime.

Recourse to International Mechanisms

International mechanisms provide victims of torture with additional protection and, at the same time, function in a sense as supervisory bodies over the state action. Remedies are available at the regional level, where individuals may have the right to bring their case before a Commission/ombudsman (such as the African Human Rights Commission[30]), or directly before an international judicial/quasi judicial mechanism, such as before the United Nations Human Rights Committee monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[31] or the Committee against Torture monitoring the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Usually, cases can be brought only if the State party has accepted the individual complaints procedure. The human rights treaty bodies have the power to find a violation, to recommend measures to redress the violation, and carrying out of effective investigations, which States are bound to comply with. In particular, the Convention Against Torture provides that if the Committee Against Torture receives reliable information indicating that torture is being systematically practiced in a State Party, the Committee would invite that State Party to cooperate in the examination of the information and submit observations about the information concerned. If necessary, the Committee may also designate one or more of its members to make a confidential inquiry and report to the Committee.[32] After the investigation, the Committee would transmit the findings to the State Party concerned together with any comments or suggestions. If a State makes a declaration recognizing the competence of the Committee “to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by a State Party of the provisions of the Convention,” then a torture victim or his/her defense attorney could file a complaint directly with the Committee. The Convention also emphasizes, however, that an individual cannot make any complaints if his case is already pending in an international court or if they have not already exhausted domestic avenues.[33]


Convention Against Torture

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners


Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture


  2. The Torture Reporting Handbook, 3.4.2, at
  3. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37
  4. Article 3 Rome Statute
  5. Istanbul Protocol: Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, p. 1, at
  6. Article 12
  7. Istanbul Protocol, ¶ 79
  8. ttp://
  9. Istanbul Protocol ¶ 123, 124, 125
  10. Istanbul Protocol: Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Chapter V Istanbul Protocol, ¶ 131
  11. Istanbul Protocol: Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Chapter VI.
  13. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims,
  14. Istanbul Protocol: Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ¶ 259.
  15. Kenneth S. Pope & Rosa E. Garcia-Peltoniemi, Responding to Victims of Torture: Clinical Issues, Professional Responsibilities, and Useful Resources, 22 Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 269 (Year), available at
  16. Istanbul Protocol: Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ¶ 310–315.
  17. Although geared more towards a neutral state-sponsored investigation than a lawyer’s representation of his client, Chapter V of the Istanbul Protocol provides many example lines of questioning designed to help elicit the full account of any torture that occurred.
  18. Istanbul Protocol, ¶ 129
  19. Available at
  20. On this issue: Tobias Thienel, The Admissibility of Evidence Obtained by Torture under International Law, The European Journal of International Law Vol. 17 no.2 , 2006, at 356.
  22. Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936)
  23. See Exclusionary Rule
  24. An action aimed to seek redress and/or compensation beyond criminal charges. For example, in the US, a tort action under the theory of battery or a civil law remedy for violation of constitutional rights under 42 USC 1983
  25. According to the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (2005), the recognized forms of reparation comprise restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition, at
  26. The original text reads: “L'action civile en réparation du dommage causé par un crime, un délit ou une contravention appartient à tous ceux qui ont personnellement souffert du dommage directement causé par l'infraction. La renonciation à l'action civile ne peut arrêter ni suspendre l'exercice de l'action publique, sous réserve des cas visés à l'alinéa 3 de l'article 6.” at: <>. See Lucie Ménard, Nullité de la preuve obtenue par l’emploi de méthodes coercitives lors d’un interrogatoire en France et en Allemagne, até-de-la-preuve-obtenue-par-l’emploi-de-méthodes-coercitives-lors-d’un-interrogatoire-e
  27. Filartiga v. Pena Irala (US Ct. of Appeals, 1980); R v. Bartle (ex parte Pinochet) (House of Lords, 1999) (per Lord Millet). See also: Association for the Prevention of Torture, The criminalisation of torture under the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, An Overview for the Compilation of Torture Laws, August 2009, at 2, note 5 and 6.
  28. Prosecutor v. Furundzija (ICTY, 1998)
  29. In State v T Makwanyane and M. Mchunu- Case No. CCT/3/94, in considering the constitutionality of death penalty, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of South Africa proposed a very interesting reasoning. The Court said: “In the course of the arguments addressed to us, we were referred to books and articles on the death sentence, and to judgments dealing with challenges made to capital punishment in the courts of other countries and in international tribunals. The international and foreign authorities are of value because they analyse arguments for and against the death sentence and show how courts of other jurisdictions have dealt with this vexed issue. For that reason, alone they require our attention. They may also have to be considered because of their relevance to section 35(1) of the Constitution (...)”. The Court went on saying that however, as the international legal instrument basically failed in proscribing the death penalty while, instead the South African Constitution bars it, the principle to follow it is not to be found in international law, but in the more advanced national law (the decision is available at
  30. For Further information refer to
  31. On the procedural mechanisms, refer to
  32. Convention Against Torture, Article 20
  33. Convention Against Torture, Article 22. To know more about the procedures:
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