Base fontsize
Larger fontsize
Set contrast

Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Please, read the general remarks about the special procedures first.

Rights and Intended Situations

In accomplishing his mission, the Special Rapporteur refers to the definition of torture of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984.

Article 1 of this Convention states that “the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”.

Implementation of the Procedure

Filing a complaint

A model questionnaire has been established and can be found here:

  • The complaint must at least contain the following information:
  • Identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the inquiry;
  • Full name, age, sex and place of residence or origin of the supposed victim;
  • Indication of as many details as possible (name, age, sex and place of residence or origin) if it refers to a group or community;
  • Date and place of the incident (approximately, if the exact date is unknown)
  • Detailed description of the circumstances of the incident under which the presumed violation took place;
  • Identity of the suspect(s) (name if known, title/position, presumed motivation);
  • As the case may be, measures taken at the national level (for example, if the police had been informed, in case that other national authorities are involved, as well as a possible position of the government);
  • As the case may be, measures taken at the international level (for example, whether other mechanisms have been called up)

Information and a completed questionnaire can be submitted (specifying the pertinent special procedure) to:

Special Rapporteur on Torture
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10
E-mail: urgent-action(at)

Consequences of the Complaint

Once the Special Rapporteur received credible information on a case of torture, he can address a communication, generally in form of a letter submitted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to the concerned government asking it to give information concerning the allegation and to take preventive measures or to initiate an investigation. The communications can deal with cases of individuals, groups or communities, the general trends and development of human rights violations in certain States as well as draft law or law in force subjected to apprehension. The communications are generally made in form of “urgent appeals” or “letters of allegation”. When there are multiple mandates for one case, the Special Rapporteur can submit joint communications.

“Urgent appeals” are used to provide information concerning current or imminent violations. They are submitted to inform the competent authorities as quickly as possible so that these can intervene to stop the human rights violation or to prevent it.

“Letters of allegation” are used to provide information concerning violations which have already taken place and which have had irreversible consequences for the supposed victim. This type of communication is used, for example, when the Special Rapporteur receives information on violations which have already been committed.

With both types of communication, the Special Rapporteur asks the concerned government to take all appropriate measures to investigate and remedy the alleged violations and to submit the results of its intervention. According to the response, the Special Rapporteur can decide to pursue the investigation or to give recommendations.

Last change: 16.12.08 - 16:04