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Updated 06/23/2006

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which entered into force on June 26, 1987, bans torture under any circumstances and calls on governments to prevent and prohibit torture.    

The convention defines torture as any intentional act that causes mental or physical pain and suffering and is inflicted for purposes such as obtaining information, coercion, punishment or discrimination. The convention's definition includes acts that are inflicted by a person acting in an official capacity such as a police officer or military personnel. The convention also includes as victims persons who are forced to observe torture for purposes of intimidation. Under the convention, there is no justification whatsoever for torture, be it war, national emergencies or orders from a superior.   

Each member state must provide training to military and law enforcement officials in addition to periodically reviewing its interrogation methods and investigating allegations of torture. The convention also created the Committee Against Torture, to which any individual may lodge a complaint. 

On Dec. 18, 2002, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The protocol would establish a subcommittee to the U.N. Committee against Torture that would serve as an expert international visiting body. This group would be allowed to inspect detention areas of all state parties, without prior notice to that country. Such surprise visits would act as a deterrent and means of prevention of torture. 

On June 22, 2006, the Optional Protocol entered into force after simultaneous ratifications by Honduras and Bolivia on May 23, 2006. As of June 2006, the Optional Protocol has 51 signatories and 20 ratifications. 

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also forbid torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.    

For more information


Full text of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment


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