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The United Nations Convention Against Torture

A Commentary

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The United Nations Convention Against Torture

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The prohibition of torture - the right to physical and mental integrity - is guaranteed in the strongest terms under international law. It is protected as an absolute right, non-derogable even in times of war or public emergency under many human rights treaties and is also generally accepted as a part of customary international law and even ius cogens. The main instrument to combat torture within the framework of the United Nations is the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). This Commentary explores the problematic definition of torture in the Convention, the substantive obligations of States parties, the principle of 'non-refoulement', provisions for international monitoring, and also the concept of preventative visits to all places of detention as contained in the Optional Protocol to the CAT. It also covers issues including the distinction between torture and cruel inhuman or degrading treatment and the principle of non-admissibility of evidence extracted under torture. Full article by article commentary on the Convention also provides historical context and thorough analysis of case-law and practice from international and regional courts and monitoring bodies. Relevant case-law from domestic courts are also discussed. Despite the broad ratification and the universal recognition of the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment we witness a 'global crisis' affecting the majority of countries worldwide. In recent years the protection of human rights is experiencing a particularly serious crisis - also affecting the phenomenon of torture - in which official narratives and public belief often trivialise and even endorse such practices in the name of security and the fight against terrorism, ignoring the suffering and damages it causes. On the other hand, the positive experiences in some States illustrate that torture can be eradicated if the provisions of CAT and OPCAT are taken seriously and are being fully implemented.

Author Biography

Manfred Nowak was appointed as independent expert leading the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty in October 2016. He is Professor for International Human Rights at the University of Vienna, where he is the scientific director of the Vienna Master of Arts in Human Rights and co-director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights. He serves as Secretary General of the Global Campus of Human Rights in Venice. Manfred Nowak has carried out various expert functions for the UN, the Council of Europe, the EU, and other inter-governmental organizations. He served for many years in various functions as UN Expert on Enforced Disappearances (1993 to 2006) and as one of eight international judges in the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo (1996 to 2003). He served as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (2004 to 2010), where he visited numerous institutions throughout the world where children were deprived of liberty in unimaginable conditions. Moritz Birk is Head of the department 'Human Dignity and Public Security' at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights. He joined the Institute in 2009 as Assistant to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (-2010) and has since implemented numerous research and technical capacity projects on torture and ill-treatment worldwide. e lectures. Before joining the Institute he worked with the UNHCR and human rights organisations in Ghana, Mexico, Senegal and Sweden. He holds an LL.M. in International Human Rights Law, studied law in Germany and France and is certified as organisational consultant. Giuliana Monina is researcher at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights - Human Dignity and Public Security Department. She joined in 2016 and has since focused on several research projects on the topics of torture and ill-treatment as well as migration and asylum. She has completed her legal studies at the Universities of Bologna. Before the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights, Giuliana was a practicing lawyer in Italy and has worked with several human rights organizations, including the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.
Release date NZ
November 14th, 2019
Edited by Giuliana Monina Edited by Manfred Nowak Edited by Moritz Birk
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
2nd Revised edition
Oxford University Press
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