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What is the ICRC's position on torture and ill treatment?

15-02-2005 FAQ

The ICRC rejects the use of torture and other forms of ill treatment under any circumstances. It believes the respect for human life and dignity precludes any justification for ill treatment.

These are the arguments that the ICRC uses to justify its stance:

  • Torture and ill treatment violate the most basic principles of humanity and of respect for human life and dignity, which must be preserved at all times.

  • Torture and ill treatment are prohibited everywhere at all times. This is one of the most universal features of both international and national law.

  • The suffering caused by torture and other forms of ill treatment may have profoundly disturbing effects on victims that can last for years. The physical and psychological damage caused can result in the need for long-term rehabilitation.

  • The international image of a State using ill treatment is likely to suffer, affecting its credibility and ability to engage in relations with other States.

  • Torture and other forms of ill treatment may reduce a population's willingness to cooperate with authorities. The use of ill treatment may actually weaken those who practise it by fuelling resentment among those it wishes to contain.

  • Any use of torture and other forms of ill treatment leads to an erosion of its prohibition that could result in its more widespread use.

  • Specialists disagree on the effectiveness of torture and other forms of ill treatment and raise serious doubts about the quality of information obtained. 

The ICRC therefore strives to prevent and put an end to torture and all other forms of ill treatment.

In particular, the ICRC has a mandate to visit detainees in order to monitor their conditions of detent ion and treatment. Based on these visits, the ICRC engages authorities in a confidential dialogue aimed at ensuring the humane treatment of detainees.

If necessary, the ICRC applies pressure on the authorities to investigate claims of torture/ill treatment, and, where applicable, to punish the perpetrators and take measures to prevent a recurrence of any ill treatment.