IRRC No. 268

Efforts to eliminate torture through international law

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The idea of “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all” has been disseminated throughout the world since the Second World War and has influenced both international law and national legislation in many States. Nevertheless, torture, that most fundamental assault on the human person, has continued over the years to be practised, either systematically or occasionally, in many countries. Torture, in which a person is intentionally subjected to extreme physical pain or emotional distress, is used mainly to elicit information, break the will to resist, intimidate, humiliate and degrade. It is also used to mete out (illegal) punishment for real or supposed wrongdoings.2 Techniques of torture include withholding food and preventing sleep, abrupt alternation of extreme cold and heat or silence and noise, total isolation, causing mental confusion and distress through misinformation or other means, the use of brute force- sometimes resulting in permanent mutilation- rape, electric shocks, the application of chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, finally death threats.

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