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"In truth the leitmotiv": the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment in international humanitarian law

30-09-2007 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 867, by Cordula Droege

The principle of humane treatment, as Jean Pictet wrote in 1958, is in truth the leitmotiv of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. It includes the prohibition of torture, cruel or inhuman treatment and outrages upon personal dignity. This article examines the interpretation of these notions by referring to the existing instruments and jurisprudence on the prohibition of ill-treatment.

   

Cordula Droege
is legal adviser in the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

 
Abstract 
The principle of humane treatment, as Jean Pictet wrote in 1958, is in truth the leitmotiv of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Article 3 common to these Conventions and other provisions of International Humanitarian Law embody this absolute and minimum rule by prohibiting torture, cruel or inhuman treatment and outrages upon personal dignity. These notions can be interpreted in meaningful and practical ways through the existing instruments and jurisprudence on the prohibition of ill-treatment. Their assessment must take into account the need to respect the human being in all his or her physical, mental and moral integrity, mindful of all the circumstances of the case.  

   
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