Friday, 16 November 2018

This is Rehabilitation as a Right to Torture Victims

Rehabilitation as a right

 The right to rehabilitation is embodied in Article 14 of the Convention against Torture (“CAT”). Reparation, compensation and redress are also part of Article 14: 

 Article 14 stipulates: 

1. Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and

has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. In the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of torture, his dependents shall be entitled to compensation.

2. Nothing in this article shall affect any right of the victim or other person to compensation which may exist under national law.

It is clear from the wording of Article 14(1) that rehabilitation is a crucial aspect of a victim’s remedy for torture.

 Support for and confirmation of this right are found in the UN’s Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (the “UN Basic Principles”) 1. Adopted by General Assembly, Resolution 60/147,on 16 December 2005.

This document indicates that rehabilitation is a distinct component of the wider right to reparation for survivors of abuses).

Article 18 provides:

“...victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international

humanitarian law should...be provided with full and effective reparation...which include the following forms: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of nonrepetition”.(Emphasis added).

Further support can be found in the Statute of the International Criminal Court (adopted July 1998 and entered into force July 2002) at Article 75(1) which provides that:

“The Court shall establish principles relating to reparations to, or in respect of, victims, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation”. (Emphasis added). 

The State’s obligation

In this context, the right to rehabilitation for survivors of torture is linked to the ‘right to remedy’, as opposed to the right to health or employment and so on. The ‘right to remedy’ is recognised in both international[1] and regional3 human rights conventions. International humanitarian law expressly provides for a judicial remedy where “grave breaches”, including torture.

 What is meant by “as full rehabilitation as possible”?

There is little in the way of guidance on how the right to rehabilitation should be interpreted in practice. The need to develop this standard is clear. Although the UN Convention against Torture refers to ‘rehabilitation’, it does not define the term. The practice of the UN Convention’s treaty body, the Committee against Torture, provides little more in the way of clarification. While the Committee has indicated that clinical rehabilitation forms a part of any “full rehabilitation” 5, it has not elaborated further on how the term should be understood. Where the Committee has specifically identified a need to provide medical and psychological treatment to survivors of torture, this has not been situated within the express context of “rehabilitation”.

The right to rehabilitation contained in Article 14 of the UN Convention against Torture is qualified by the words “as full…as possible”. The words relate to the ambit of the provision, and provide guidance as to the nature of the obligations imposed on the State by the right to rehabilitation.


[1] for example, Article 2(3) (a) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (1966), which requires State Parties “To ensure that any persons whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.” In addition, the right to a remedy in respect of both general and specific breaches of Human Rights Conventions can be found in the International Covenant on Civil and

Political Rights (Article 9(5) and 14(6)), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (art 6), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 39), the Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, (Article 14); the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights (Articles 68 and 63(1)) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Article 21(2)).