Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture

This Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture (ACPPT) was adopted by the Organization of American States’ General Assembly on 9 December 1985 and entered into force on 28 February 1987.

Article 2 of this regional Convention incorporates a definition of torture that is broader than its counterpart in the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The Inter-American Convention does not require the pain or suffering to be “severe”, does not require the torture to have been applied for any specified purposes and includes methods “intended to obliterate the personality of the victim or diminish his physical or mental capacities”, irrespective of whether such methods cause pain. And although the treaty text refers to “other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment”, the IACPPT does not provide a definition thereof, or demarcate torture from other forms of ill-treatment.

The ACPPT provides for an absolute prohibition of torture that cannot be suspended regardless the circumstances. Furthermore, its Article 8 grants victims of torture the right to an impartial examination of their case and determines that the authorities shall investigate the allegations without delay and, if appropriate, prosecute the perpetrator(s).

Under the ACPPT, State Parties have the duty to enact legislation that provides for suitable compensation for torture victims and States Parties in breach of their duties under the ACPPT cannot escape their obligation to provide redress by invoking domestic legal provisions. However, Article 14(1) CAT seems to grant a broader right, in that it additionally requires that victims of an act of torture “obtains redress” and have “an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.”

While a separate enforcement mechanism is not envisaged in the ACPPT, it provides for a State Party reporting system on the practice of torture to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Moreover, the Inter-American Court has taken on jurisdiction of this treaty.