Torture Prevention

Torture Prevention

Despite being prohibited under international law, torture is widespread throughout the world. Acts that amount to torture are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity,* whose role is supposed to uphold the law in favour of people’s rights . Legal professionals are essential to ensuring that reports of torture are properly documented ad investigated, perpetrators are brought to justice, and victims are acknowledged and receive integral reparations.

The IBAHRI focuses on torture prevention training and technical assistance, as part of its ongoing work regarding human rights and the administration of justice. Through these activities, the IBAHRI facilitates a holistic understanding of the content and use of international tools and standards by legal stakeholders and National and Local Torture Preventive Mechanisms, promotes prompt and impartial investigations into allegations of torture and ill treatment, and advocates for the independence of forensic services from law enforcement agencies.

* Definition of Torture: UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: ‘Article 1 - 1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "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, 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.’


Around the world


Development of a Set of Guidelines on Non-Coercive Interviewing and Procedural Safeguards

In March 2016, Human Rights Council Resolution 31/31 (A/HRC/31/L.26/Rev.1) called for the implementation of safeguards to prevent torture during police custody and pre-trial detention. In October 2016, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez presented his thematic report to General Assembly (A/71/298) calling for the development of a universal protocol on investigative interviewing and attendant legal safeguards.

In this context, the Anti-Torture Initiative (ATI), Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) and Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) launched of a process to develop a set of guidelines for non-coercive interviewing by law-enforcement officers, and attendant legal and procedural safeguards. The aim is to ensure that persons detained and questioned for investigative purposes are not subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment.

The process is led by a Steering Committee composed of 15 experts and practitioners in the fields of criminal justice, law enforcement, psychology, human rights and torture prevention: Ray Bull, Mark Fallon, Veronica Hinestroza, Juan E. Méndez, Zaza Namoradze, Gavin Oxburgh, Pau Perez-Sales, Asbjørn Rachlew, Therese Maria Rytter, Mary Schollum, Rebecca Shaeffer, Ruth Ssekindi, Lilian Stein, Sean Tait, and Mark Thomson.

This video (in Spanish) features IBAHRI Senior Programme Law Veronica Hinestroza, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and Psychiatrist Dr. Pau Perez-Sales in conversation about the initiative.


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Development of a Supplement to the Istanbul Protocol

The IBAHRI is taking part in the development of a supplement to the Istanbul Protocol. The project started in February 2018 and aims to strengthen the Protocol with updates and clarifications based on practical experience and the needs of Protocol stakeholders. It will be finalised in 2019, and is being led by Physicians for Human Rights, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, REDRESS, the UN Committee against Torture, UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

Istanbul Protocol

Previous to this process, in March 2017, working with the Anti-Torture Initiative of the Washington College of Law, and with the support of the British Embassy in México, the IBAHRI brought together international and national experts for a two-day meeting in Mexico City on ‘Cross-Regional Perspectives on Implementation and the Enhancement of the Istanbul Protocol’.

The experts discussed the role of the Istanbul Protocol in combating torture and lessons learned from its implementation in a number of jurisdictions. Among other relevant issues, the experts addressed, questions regarding the legal prohibitions of torture and other ill-treatment; the implementation of effective legal, administrative, and judicial safeguards against torture; the undertaking of forensic medical evaluations; and prospects for advocacy, training, and monitoring, as well as ongoing efforts by relevant stakeholders around the world to strengthen and enhance the Istanbul Protocol.

The Istanbul Protocol is a set of international UN standards for the effective investigation and documentation of torture and for the reporting of these findings to the judiciary and other investigating bodies.

These two videos present conversations with key global experts, who attended the two-day meeting, on how the Istanbul Protocol can be used effectively, some of the challenges that medical and legal professionals face in its implementation, and reflections on the future of this practical tool.


The Istanbul Protocol is a set of international United Nations standards for the effective investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and for the reporting of these findings to the judiciary and other investigating bodies.

In these two videos, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and the Anti-Torture Initiative of the Washington College of Law present conversations with key global experts on how the Istanbul Protocol can be used effectively, some of the challenges that medical and legal professionals face in its implementation, and reflections on the future of the Istanbul Protocol.

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IBA and UN Human Rights Office partnership for the prohibition of torture marking International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

In the run up to the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June 2018, the International Bar Association (IBA) partnered with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights Office) to raise awareness about the absolute prohibition of torture, the damaging repercussions of its practice on the rule of law, and the active role that the legal profession can have in preventing its use and recurrence.

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