Who are the torturers?

The 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines the perpetrators as people in an official capacity. Article 1 states:

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.

Since then, the UN Committee Against Torture and regional human rights courts have interpreted this definition, by finding that a State is responsible for acts committed by individuals acting in a private capacity, if the State fails to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish such acts. This is for example the case when the authorities refuse to prosecute a private individual who has inflicted severe harm, including rape, on a woman. In such a situation, the State is complicit or otherwise responsible for consenting or acquiescing to the violence.


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the CAT could not review any country in 2020.

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