Fight against Torture and Ill-treatment

The prevention and eradication of all forms of torture and ill-treatment worldwide is at the heart of the European Union’s human rights policy.

The absolute ban on torture and ill-treatment is enshrined in core UN human rights conventions. It is reflected at EU level in the Charter of Fundamental Rights , which states that ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.

Despite the efforts by the international community, torture and other ill-treatment persist in all parts of the world. The EU is firmly committed to the absolute prohibition of all forms of ill-treatment and uses all its available tools of diplomacy and cooperation assistance to eradicate torture. We raise the matter consistently in our political and human rights dialogues with third countries, and encourage all countries to ratify the Convention and its optional protocol. All our Member States have committed to do so.

The EU's Guidelines against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment serve to protect and promote human rights in third countries. Adopted in 2001 and revised in 2012, the Guidelines serve to identify ways and means to effectively work towards the prevention of torture and other ill-treatment within the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

On international level the EU is active in relevant UN working groups and also sponsors an annual resolution on torture at the UN General Assembly. At home measures are in place to prevent the use, production and trade of equipment designed to inflict torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The regulation (EC)1236/2005 banning the trade of equipment designed to inflict torture or capital punishment and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is currently being amended (COM (2014)1).

The EU also works closely with civil society. Under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) the EU provides considerable funding to civil society groups working to end torture or rehabilitate torture victims. Previous projects have for example strived to:

  • Enhancing capacity building of relevant State officials, such as staff and professionals within the police, the justice system, the prisons service and medical personnel.
  • Strengthening of co-ordination and effectiveness between relevant National Human Rights institutions or National Preventive Mechanisms to combat practices of torture and ill treatment.
  • Providing holistic rehabilitation to torture survivors and their families
  • Promoting the international and regional framework on torture prevention through educational, information and/or awareness-raising programs on the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT) and other relevant international and/or regional human rights
  • Advocating for instruments and tools (e.g. the Robben Island Guidelines, the Istanbul Protocol), in view of their adoption, ratification, effective domestication and implementation.