UNCAT Signature and Ratification
Briefing Paper
August 2014

This briefing provides background information on the Convention, and describes the main
obligations deriving from ratification and the steps States should take on ratification.

1. What is the UN Convention against Torture?
All Member States of the United Nations have pledged to achieve the promise of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
The 1984 UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) provides States with detailed provisions
which establish the essential aspects of effective torture prohibition and prevention, to fulfil
this shared promise.

2. What are the main obligations of the UN Convention against Torture?
There are 16 substantive articles of the UNCAT and various additional procedural provisions.
However, the principal obligations may be grouped together under the headings of
prohibition, prevention, punishment, redress and reporting.
A. Prohibition: The status of the absolute prohibition against torture or to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is a non-derogable principle of
international law.
The prohibition includes not just the obligation of States not to torture (article 1), but
also the corollary obligations not to send persons to places where they may be
tortured (article 3), and the obligation not to benefit from the fruits of torture (article
15).
States should ensure the absolute prohibition against torture is adequately reflected
in their domestic legal order, and included in the training materials of all relevant
State actors (article 10).

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