Article 5:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Drafting History

Early in the drafting process, Cassin expressed his view that the contours of the word "torture" were vague and that the First Session of the Drafting Committee

ought to take into consideration such questions as: Do some people have the right to expose others to medical experiments and do any have the right to inflict suffering upon other human beings without their consent, even for ends that may appear good?

The authors of the Declaration gave clear-cut negative answers to both of these questions.1

As Morsink notes, there are many forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The world will always witness new forms of it and no article can capture the depth of evil to which humans, and the states they create, can fall. Nothing can justify what, for example, Dr. Johann Kremer did when he saw an Auschwitz inmate with what appeared to him to be an interesting cranial shape. "He would order that prisoner be photographed and injected with phenol for his collection of fresh corpse samples of liver and other organs." Dr. Friedrich Entress, in the same camp, would infect "prisoners with typhus in order to make medical observations."2

1. Johannes Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting, and Intent (1999) 42.
2. Morsink 42.

Peter Danchin, Columbia University