measures to prevent torture are covered in the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it was felt that
further steps were needed to achieve the abolition of
torture and ill treatment worldwide.
The UN General Assembly adopted a declaration
in 1975 stating that:
act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment is an offence to human dignity
and shall be condemned as a denial of the purposes
of the Charter of the United Nations and as a violation
of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights "
Based on this declaration, work started on
a convention that would more firmly establish the prohibition
of torture and ill treatment in a treaty under international
law and create a mechanism for implementation of the treaty's
The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
defines torture as...
act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical
or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person
for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third
person information or a confession, punishing him
for an act he or a third person has committed or
is suspected of having committed,
Or intimidating or coercing him or a third person,
or for any reason based on discrimination of any
kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by
or at the instigation of or with the consent or
acquiescence of a public official or other person
acting in an official capacity.
It does not include pain or suffering arising only
from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
The Committee was established to supervise the implementation
of the convention. Within one year after ratifying the treaty,
a state is required to submit a report on the measures taken
to give effect to its obligations under the Convention.
States are encouraged under Article 19 to make a declaration
recognising the rights of individuals to make a complaint to
the Committee Against Torture, the monitoring body set up under
the treaty. So far only 39 states have made such a declaration.
Others have applied reservations
upon ratification, such as refusing to recognise the Committee
or agree to arbitration at the International Court of Justice
should a dispute arise between states.
In 1985, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights
on the Question of Torture was created. This person investigates,
monitors and publicly reports on incidences of torture. The
position is currently held by Mr. Theo C. van Boven from the