The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
To inform the Special Rapporteur’s annual interim report to be presented to the General Assembly at its 76th Session in October 2021
The prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (hereafter: "torture and ill-treatment") is universally recognized as absolute and non-derogable and, since the end of World War II, States have made unprecedented efforts towards establishing domestic and international normative and institutional frameworks for its practical implementation. Nevertheless, today, torture and ill-treatment continue to be practised with almost complete impunity throughout the world, and victims of such abuse or their relatives hardly ever receive the redress, reparation and rehabilitation they are entitled to under international law (A/73/207).
The fact that those responsible for perpetrating, instigating, consenting or acquiescing to torture or ill-treatment – whether States, their officials and agents, or organizations, corporations and private individuals – are not being held to account means that, in practice, there is an "accountability gap" which severely undermines both the effectiveness of the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment and the credibility of States' international commitments in this respect. As a result, the lack of accountability compounds the pain and suffering inflicted by torture and ill-treatment, proliferating and prolonging the trauma and injustice endured by individual victims and wider communities.
The aim of securing accountability for torture and ill-treatment has been a critical motivation in the development of legal standards and institutional mechanisms for the effective implementation of prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. In these efforts, accountability for torture and related ill-treatment has been tied not only to redress, but also more broadly to ensuring justice, reconciliation and the rule of law, and preventing future violations. Nonetheless, normative, institutional and procedural shortcomings, as well as deliberate obstruction and purposeful evasion of accountability remain widespread globally and, in conjunction, maintain a structural accountability gap of systemic proportions.
In the light of these sobering observations, and in line with the Human Rights Council's encouragement to observe a victims-centred approach in the exercise of his mandate (HRC Res. 43/20), the Special Rapporteur considers it timely to dedicate his next interim report to the General Assembly to the topic of accountability for torture and ill-treatment. For the purposes of this report, accountability is understood in a broad sense:
- as referring to processes, mechanisms and other circumstances, in which relevant stakeholders are called upon to account for their acts or omissions in respect of torture or ill-treatment, and to face consequences and make amends for any violations;
- as being not only reactive but also proactive;
- as taking many forms: from legal accountability to political and public forms of accountability; and
- as pertaining not only to individuals, but also to States, institutions, organisations, and other collective entities that commit or enable torture or ill-treatment.
More particularly, the envisaged report aims to:
- provide an overview of the most important legal and practical challenges that are conducive to producing the current, systemic accountability gap for torture and ill-treatment;
- examine various functions (e.g. reparative or preventative) and forms (e.g. individual or collective/institutional, and legal, political, economic or social) which accountability can take; and
- based on a clarified, consolidated, and more comprehensive understanding of accountability, make recommendations on measures that can be taken to improve worldwide accountability for torture or ill-treatment.
Key questions and types of input/comments sought
In order to inform work on this report, the Special Rapporteur seeks to conduct wide expert and stakeholder consultations, including through the circulation of the following questionnaire.
Download the questionnaire (PDF): English
How and where to submit inputs/comments
Input/comments should be submitted through the mandate email:
email@example.com. They must be received by 15 May 2021 18:00 CEST.
E-mail subject line
Input for the report on accountability for torture and other ill-treatment
Electronic submissions only
Electronic submissions only
Treatment of inputs/comments received
All submissions will be published on the website of the Special Rapporteur, unless the provider requests confidentiality.
NGOs and Civil Society Organizations