Torture as Crime under International Law & Torture Victims’ Rights

Fahd al-Kasasibah


Since the emergence of human rights, torture has received considerable attention and is being prohibited under a number of international and regional treaties and instruments, including the International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, and International Criminal Law. Despite the great attention paid to torture, results remain below expectations and torture is being committed on a large scale in many countries of the world, according to international and regional committees and non-government organizations. Hence, this study came to cast light on the world community’s interest in protecting the individual’s rights against torture and to emphasize that protecting individuals against torture in the present is incommensurate with the growing scope of torture, which confirms the wide gap between international regulations formulated over 40 years ago and actual practices in several countries.

Limitations of the Study

There were some limitations of the study as follows:

1-       Effective the beginning of the 19th century, torture was officially stopped in all advanced countries of Europe and it was prohibited by all laws and constitutions. However, torture reemerged in the 20th century in different forms and for different purposes.[1]

2-       Despite the endorsement of several regional and international agreements prohibiting torture, the gap is widening between international regulations and actual practices across the world due to the failure to implement these regulations. There is a clear difference between legal texts and implementation thereof. While legal texts incriminate torture, member states do not abide by them and sometimes exercise the most hideous forms of torture.

3-       Although international agreements prohibit torture, they do not provide texts that specify international judicial points of reference for the prosecution of persons who exercise torture, which causes the perpetrators to escape punishment.

4-       Another issue is the definition of torture. Although many states have been committed to international conventions and treaties and integrated them in their national legislation, they chose to take the narrow interpretation of torture that is restricted to the use of violence, and many states did not state other forms of inhuman treatment in their national legislation.

Significance of the Study

Examining torture as a crime under international law is particularly significant in relation to the right to protection against torture and giving it top priority by the world community. The issue of torture is becoming increasingly significant because torture continues and is taking place on a larger scale and because of the psychological and physical impact of torture, which is degrading human dignity and leads to taking criminal justice systems off course.

The study is also significant because it is not limited to legal frameworks or torture-related theories, as it addresses the practical aspects of the issue and the international community’s efforts to safeguard respect for human rights, particularly the individuals’ right to protection against torture in a world that witnesses the cruelest forms of torture in history.

Keywords : Torture / torture victims / international law / humans rights

[1] In 2000, Amnesty International issued a report making references to acts of torture and mistreatment recorded in more than 130 states. See Al-Madud, Hibah Abd-al-Aziz, Protection Against Torture Under International and Regional Agreements, Al-Halabi Publications, 2009, p14.

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