Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

Ratification of CAT

The International Convention against Torture has been ratified or acceded to by 165 states (November 2018).


Relevant articles

Art. 1: “(1) 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….”

Art. 2: “(1) Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. (2) No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. (3) An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Art. 4: “(1) Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture. (2) Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.”

Art. 16: “(1) Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article I, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture of references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment….”


The Committee’s recommendations to states parties

In its examination of states parties on their implementation of CAT, the Committee Against Torture has consistently raised the issue of corporal punishment, initially primarily in relation to the penal system, then increasingly in schools and other institutions and in the home. As of June 2020, the Committee has made 98 observations / recommendations on corporal punishment to 77 states.

Extracts from the Committee's recommendations to states on corporal punishment of children can be accessed here by session. Recommendations are also included in the individual country reports.


Communications/inquiries under CAT

Under the Convention, communications can be made to the Committee claiming that the rights of an individual or group of people, including children, have been violated by the state. Information can also be submitted to the Committee indicating serious or systematic violations of the Convention by the state into which the Committee can make inquiries.

There have been no communications or inquiries concerning corporal punishment of children.


Further information