link to briefings documents at

U.N. Convention against Torture


back to index page


This convention bans torture under all circumstances and establishes the UN Committee against Torture. In particular, it defines torture, requires states to take effective legal and other measures to prevent torture, declares that no state of emergency, other external threats, nor orders from a superior officer or authority may be invoked to justify torture. It forbids countries to return a refugee to his country if there is reason to believe  he/she will be tortured, and requires host countries to consider the human rights record of the person's native country in making this decision.

The CAT requires states to make torture illegal and provide appropriate punishment for those who commit torture. It requires states to assert jurisdiction when torture is committed within their jurisdiction, either investigate and prosecute themselves, or upon proper request extradite suspects to face trial before another competent court. It also requires states to cooperate with any civil proceedings against accused torturers.

Each state is obliged to provide training to law enforcement and military on torture prevention, keep its interrogation methods under review, and promptly investigate any allegations that its officials have committed torture in the course of their official duties. It must ensure that individuals who allege that someone has committed torture against them are permitted to make and official complaint and have it investigated, and, if the complaint is proven, receive compensation, including full medical treatment and payments to survivors if the victim dies as a result of torture. It forbids states to admit into evidence during a trial any confession or statement made during or as a result of torture. It also forbids activities which do not rise to the level of torture, but which constitute cruel or degrading treatment.

The second part of the Convention establishes the Committee Against Torture, and sets out the rules on its membership and activities.

The Convention was passed and opened for ratification in February, 1985. At that time twenty nations signed, and five more signed within the month. At  present sixty five nations have ratified the Convention against torture and sixteen more have signed but not yet ratified it.

The full document may be found at


advertising disclaimer


© 2000, August

the address for this document is

390 words
prints as 2 A4 pages (on my printer and set-up)

link to briefings documents at