Update: 02.05.2019

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

Of 10 December 1984 (entry into force 26 June 1987) 


German / French / Italian / English

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment obliges contracting states to take all appropriate steps to protect and prevent and punish torture of persons, deprived of freedom, from attacks on their bodily and psychological integrity.  


166 contracting states (as of 2 May 2019; current count)

Defining «Torture»

The convention defines torture as «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, 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».

Obligations of Contracting States

The contracting states must refrain from acts of torture everywhere and at all times. Police forces and prison staff must be appropriately tutored during their training and monitored regularly. Upon probable cause of torture, contracting states are obliged to conduct independent investigations. Alleged torturers are to be punished or extradited to a country that opens a criminal procedure against this person. Victims of torture are to be financially reimbursed properly. Finally, there is great practical importance in the prohibition to extradite a person to a country, where there is a high chance that he or she will become a victim of torture. 

Complaint Process

The contracting parties are obliged to give periodic reports of their compliance with the obligations of the Convention to the Committee against Torture. The first report is released one year after the entry into force of the convention (Art. 19) and every four years thereafter. Since 1994 the Committee issues closing remarks and recommendations. The convention provides for and Individual - and Inter-State complaint Process. 

Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT)

Text: German / French / Italian / English

On 18 December 2002 the UN General Assembly adopted the optional protocol. It provides for a preventive visit system to the prisons in the states that ratified the optional protocol. It entered into force on 22 June 2006. Until today, 80 states have ratified the protocol (as at 29 September 2015, current count).

© humanrights.ch / MERS - Hallerstr. 23 - CH-3012 Bern - Tel. +41 31 302 01 61