American Convention on Human Rights

Relevant articles

The American Convention on Human Rights guarantees the rights to respect for physical, mental and moral integrity and freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment (article 5). It states that children have a right to the measures of protection required by their condition as minors by their families, societies and the state (article 19) and guarantees the rights of all people to equal protection in law (article 24) and to judicial protection against the violation of fundamental rights recognized by the Convention or by the constitution or laws of the state concerned (article 25).

Art. 5: "(1) Every person has the right to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected.

"(2) No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment...."

 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights

In a 2005 judgment (Caesar v Trinidad and Tobago), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which applies and interprets the American Convention on Human Rights, condemned judicial corporal punishment, ruling that a 1992 sentence to 15 strokes of the cat-o-nine tails constituted a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights and holding that corporal punishment by flogging is a form of torture.

In a 2009 resolution in response to a request from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for an advisory opinion on corporal punishment, the Court declined to provide an advisory opinion, but stated that states’ obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as other international treaties and past decisions of the Court, are clear that “children have rights and are an object of protection”, that they have the same rights as all human beings, that the state must protect these rights in the private as well as the public sphere, and that this requires legislative as well as other measures.

In monitoring the situation of human rights in the Americas, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called for prohibition of all corporal punishment. In its 2009 Report on Corporal Punishment and Human Rights of Children and Adolescents, the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child called on states to fufil their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child by “act[ing] immediately on the problem of corporal punishment by placing explicit and absolute legal bans on its use in all contexts” (para. 3). The report states:

“the State’s obligation to prohibit the use of corporal punishment as a way to discipline children and adolescents under the custody and protection of the State’s public institutions – detention centers, hostels, orphanages, hospitals, schools, military schools, etc. – is absolute.”(para. 36)

In 2011, the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child published a Report on Juvenile Justice and Human Rights in the Americas which examined how corporal punishment and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment continue to be used to discipline children and adolescents deprived of their liberty despite this violating international law. The report recommends explicit prohibition of corporal punishment.

 

Further information

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