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Torture and Other Ill-treatment

Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (commonly known as CIDT or other ill-treatment) constitute one of the most heinous forms of human rights violations and are prohibited under various human rights treaties, conventions, and laws at the domestic, regional, and international levels.

The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) adopted in 1984, is an international human rights treaty under the review of the United Nations that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world. The CAT further mandates State Parties to ensure that effective legislative, administrative, and judicial measures are taken to prevent the torture of all and any kind under their territorial jurisdiction (Article 2) and prevent other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment (Article 16).

Despite the universal ban, torture continues to exist in all regions, and has a disproportionate effect on persons and groups in situation of vulnerability.

National human rights institutions (NHRIs), as independent institutions of the state with a broad human rights promotion and protection mandate, play a crucial role in addressing torture and other forms of ill-treatment and contributing to its prevention.

NHRIs are strategically positioned to apply their unique mandate and functions to eradicate this practice. This includes through investigating, monitoring, reporting, and advising the state and its institutions, as well as by conducting human rights education and awareness.

Many NHRIs serve as national preventative mechanisms (NPM) under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) with specific mandates and responsibilities.

Other NHRIs prevent and fight torture in their daily application of their broad mandate addressing situations of persons with special vulnerability, including children, women, older persons, migrants and persons deprived of their liberty.

The key roles played by NHRIs in preventing torture and ill-treatment include:

  • Investigating torture and ill-treatment, handling complaints, and monitoring all places of deprivation of liberty
  • Reporting on situations, including at national level to United Nations anti-torture mechanisms such as the CAT, SPT
  • Advising   the   state   and   authorities and conducting human rights education and training for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment
  • Establishing  and  cooperating  with  effective  and  independent NPMs
  • Advocating  as NHRIs for CAT and OPCAT ratification
  • Addressing risks and needs of people at risk of torture  
  • Engaging with and supporting victims, and working with those who defend their rights

GANHRI 14th International Conference of NHRIs

Around 300 participants took part in the three-day 14th International Conference held in Copenhagen from 6-8 November 2023. The Conference examined the critical role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in addressing and preventing torture and other ill-treatment. The Declaration sets out a range of practical actions that NHRIs will take as part of their promotion, prevention and protection work on torture and other ill-treatment.

NHRIs committed to a victim-centered approach in their work, “that acknowledges the experiences of victims and survivors and the harm suffered, and which seeks redress that is responsive to their needs”.

The Declaration also recognises the role of NHRIs to pay particular attention to uphold the rights of persons experiencing situations of vulnerability, who can face heightened risks of torture and other ill- treatment.