|No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.|
Subsequent International Instruments
The prohibition on torture in Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has had an enormous influence on the subsequent evolution of international conventions and declarations dealing with this issue. The following discussion traces the development of the most important of those instruments that have drawn upon and progressively codified Article 5 in the decades since 1948.
Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the "ICCPR") states that:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.
The UN General Assembly Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from being subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was passed in 1975.
The Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was signed on 10 December 1984 and entered into force on 26 June 1987. Proponents of the Convention sought to engage states that were not party to the ICCPR but that might not be comfortable abstaining from a convention against torture, i.e. those states that would accept the right not to be tortured--by officials and others acting under color of law--but which were not prepared to accept the full array of civil and political rights or even cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that did not reach the level of torture.
Under the Torture Convention, states were prepared to assume obligations not to expel, return ("refouler"), or extradite a person to another country where there were substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture.1 In addition, states accepted implementation provisions more intrusive (and likely to be more effective) than those they had been prepared to accept in relation to the ICCPR.2
Article 5 ("Right to Human Treatment") of the American Convention of Human Rights of 1969, which came into force in 1978, states that:
1. Everyone has the right to have his physical, metal and moral integrity respected.
2. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1950, which entered into force in 1950, states that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading or punishment."
The European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was signed on November 26, 1987 and entered into force on February 1, 1989. Under this Convention, a European Committee has been established with the task of inspecting national prisons and other places of detention.
Since 1986, the UN Human Rights Commission has annually appointed a Special Rapporteur to examine questions relevant to torture. The Special Rapporteur collects information about the use of torture, makes occasional visits to different countries, brings cases of alleged torture to the attention of governments, and submits annual reports on his activities to the Commission.
Peter Danchin, Columbia University