12-Point Programme for the Prevention of Torture


This 12-point programme sets out measures to prevent the torture and other ill-treatment of people who are in governmental custody or otherwise in the hands of agents of the state. It was first adopted by Amnesty International in 1984, revised in October 2000 and again in April 2005. Amnesty International holds governments to their international obligations to prevent and punish torture and other ill-treatment, whether committed by agents of the state or by other individuals. Amnesty International also opposes torture and other ill-treatment by armed political groups.


Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (other ill-treatment) are violations of human rights, condemned by the international community as an offence to human dignity and prohibited in all circumstances under international law. Yet they happen daily and across the globe. Immediate steps are needed to confront these abuses wherever they occur and to eradicate them. Amnesty International calls on all governments to implement the following 12-point programme and invites concerned individuals and organizations to ensure that they do so. Amnesty International believes that the implementation of these measures is a positive indication of a government’s commitment to end torture and other ill-treatment and to work for their eradication worldwide.


1. Condemn torture and other ill-treatment

The highest authorities of every country should demonstrate their total opposition to torture and other ill-treatment. They should condemn these practices unreservedly whenever they occur. They should make clear to all members of the police, military and other security forces that torture and other ill-treatment will never be tolerated.


2. Ensure access to prisoners

Torture and other ill-treatment often take place while prisoners are held incommunicado – unable to contact people outside who could help them or find out what is happening to them. The practice of incommunicado detention should be ended. Governments should ensure that all prisoners are brought before an independent judicial authority without delay after being taken into custody. Prisoners should have access to relatives, lawyers and doctors without delay and regularly thereafter.


3. No secret detention

In some countries torture and other ill-treatment take place in secret locations, often after the victims are made to "disappear". Governments should ensure that prisoners are held only in officially recognized places of detention and that accurate information about their arrest and whereabouts is made available immediately to relatives, lawyers, the courts, and others with a legitimate interest, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Effective judicial remedies should be available at all times to enable relatives and lawyers to find out immediately where a prisoner is held and under what authority, and to ensure the prisoner’s safety.


4. Provide safeguards during detention and interrogation All prisoners should be immediately informed of their rights. These include the right to lodge complaints about their treatment and to have a judge rule without delay on the lawfulness of their detention. Judges should investigate any evidence of torture or other ill-treatment and order release if the detention is unlawful. A lawyer should be present during interrogations. Governments should ensure that conditions of detention conform to international standards for the treatment of prisoners and take into account the needs of members of particularly vulnerable groups. The authorities responsible for detention should be separate from those in charge of interrogation. There should be regular, independent, unannounced and unrestricted visits of inspection to all places of detention.


5. Prohibit torture and other ill-treatment in law

Governments should adopt laws for the prohibition and prevention of torture and other ill-treatment incorporating the main elements of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture) and other relevant international standards. All judicial and administrative corporal punishments should be abolished. The prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment and the essential safeguards for their prevention must not be suspended under any circumstances, including states of war or other public emergency.


6. Investigate

All complaints and reports of torture or other ill-treatment should be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by a body independent of the alleged perpetrators. The scope, methods and findings of such investigations should be made public. Officials suspected of committing torture or other ill-treatment should be suspended from active duty during the investigation. Complainants, witnesses and others at risk should be protected from intimidation and reprisals.


7. Prosecute

Those responsible for torture or other ill-treatment should be brought to justice. This principle applies wherever those suspected of these crimes happen to be, whatever their nationality or position, regardless of where the crime was committed and the nationality of the victims, and no matter how much time has elapsed since the commission of the crime. Governments should exercise universal jurisdiction over those suspected of these crimes, extradite them, or surrender them to an international criminal court, and cooperate in such criminal proceedings. Trials should be fair. An order from a superior officer should never be accepted as a justification for torture or ill-treatment.


8. No use of statements extracted under torture or other ill-treatment

Governments should ensure that statements and other evidence obtained through torture or other ill-treatment may not be invoked in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture or other ill-treatment.


9. Provide effective training

It should be made clear during the training of all officials involved in the custody, interrogation or medical care of prisoners that torture and other ill-treatment are criminal acts. Officials should be instructed that they have the right and duty to refuse to obey any order to torture or carry out other ill-treatment.


10. Provide reparation

Victims of torture or other ill-treatment and their dependants should be entitled to obtain prompt reparation from the state including restitution, fair and adequate financial compensation and appropriate medical care and rehabilitation.


11. Ratify international treaties

All governments should ratify without reservations international treaties containing safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its first Optional Protocol; and the UN Convention against Torture, with declarations providing for individual and inter-state complaints, and its Optional Protocol. Governments should comply with the recommendations of international bodies and experts on the prevention of torture and other ill-treatment.


12. Exercise international responsibility

Governments should use all available channels to intercede with the governments of countries where torture or other ill-treatment are reported. They should ensure that transfers of training and equipment for military, security or police use do not facilitate torture or other ill-treatment. Governments must not forcibly return or transfer a person to a country where he or she would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

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