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Definition of torture

Torture is the intentional severe physical or mental pain or suffering for purposes such as causing fear or intimidation, obtaining information or a confession, punishment, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind. Torture is subject to specific international rules where it is carried out by or with the consent or acquiescence of state authorities.

If acts are committed by a private person but the authorities fail to prevent and punish them, the State may be considered complicit or otherwise responsible for the acts.

Torture is often used to punish someone, to get information or a confession, to intimidate or is based on discrimination.

Common methods of torture include: beating, rape and sexual assault, electric shocks, stretching, submersion in water, sleep deprivation, suffocation, burns, isolation, threats, humiliation, mock executions, and witnessing the torture of others.

A key international convention which defines torture is the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984).

Article 1 of the Convention against Torture states that:

“... torture means any 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, 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. [...]”.

We can advise in individual cases whether what you have suffered may have amounted to torture. Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment is also prohibited and are matters we can also consider helping with.

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Torture can happen to anyone leaflet

Read our leaflet Torture Can Happen to Anyone





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