A dedicated Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; was completed in 1984 and entered into force in 1987.45 Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture defines torture, inhuman or degrading treatment in the following way:
An 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 of 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.46
This definition is extremely broad, and the nature and limits of behavior covered by this language has been much debated. The key properties of torture, however, are clearly presented: (a) the infliction of severe pain or suffering, (b) the presence of an intention to torture, (c) a purpose to extract information or a confession or to punish, and (d) some form of authorization by officials in power.
The codification of human rights within the United Nations is constantly evolving. The Convention established a UN Committee on Torture and appointed a Special Rapporteur on Torture to coordinate the UN’s efforts and to investigate individual complaints through country visits and annual reports.47 It should be noted that torture is also discussed in the International Bill of Rights in Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The ban on torture encompasses four separate human rights. The first is the right to be protected from torture, whether carried out by states or private individuals, by all legal, administrative and judicial means available (Convention Against Torture, Articles 2 and 4).48
The second is the right to have those accused of torture prosecuted, wherever they may be (Convention Against Torture 5, 6, and 8). This is a good example of the blurred line between a right and duty, because the right to prosecution enjoyed by individuals also imposes an obligation on all states either to extradite suspects to the proper jurisdiction or to prosecute them themselves.49
The third is the right of a person to not “be expelled, returned or extradited to another state” if there is suspicion that that person might be subject to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment (Convention Against Torture, Article 3). This principle of non-refoulement will be examined more closely later in this section (see “Non-Refoulement: Extraordinary Renditions and Outsourcing Torture”).50
The fourth is the “right of victims to obtain redress, fair compensation, including rehabilitation and the right of victims to make a complaint, to have it impartially investigated, and to be protected from retaliation for making complaints.” Forms of compensation can include financial awards, medical care, and other measures to restore a victim’s “dignity and reputation” in both the private and public spheres.51