Prevention of torture

The prohibition of torture is one of the most compelling principles of international law and preventing torture and other ill-treatment is the focus of two major international treaties.

Hence there are many prescriptions for the action that states should take to protect people from torture: making torture a crime, excluding evidence gathered through torture, refusing to return people to situations where they are at risk of torture, reviewing rules and procedures for custody and interrogation, and establishing a mechanism for regular visits to places of detention. But which of these measures actually work to prevent torture? Are particular combinations of measures effective, and does this vary in different situations? Are there other political or social preconditions to preventing torture?

The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) has commissioned Richard Carver, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and Governance at CENDEP, to lead a three-year multi-country study to determine whether torture prevention works and what are the factors that reduce the risk of torture. APT is a Geneva-based NGO that has had a major influence on the development of the international treaties against torture, as well as the development of national-level implementation of the treaty requirements. Management of the research process and publication of its findings are completely independent of the APT. The conclusions of the project will be published in an edited volume by an academic publisher, with research articles in peer-reviewed publications as the project progresses.

The stages of the project are as follows:

  • Exploratory stage identifying possible factors leading to reduction in risk of torture;
  • Pilot stage, with case studies in around five countries;
  • Finalization of research methodology;
  • Main research stage, with around 12 additional country case studies;
  • Review of findings and production of final report.

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights hosted an expert meeting in December 2012 to discuss the findings of the exploratory phase of the project and to make proposals for the further development of the research. Since the beginning of 2013, there have been research visits to Turkey, Argentina, Norway and the United Kingdom. In September, Richard Carver and Lisa Handley made a presentation on the research to the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo.

The main research has begun in January 2014, with research partners in the following countries: Chile, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, India, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Tunisia.

Please note that while this research is being carried out by a member of staff, it is not an official Oxford Brookes University project.