The prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment or punishment is an absolute, non-derogable guarantee and applies in all circumstances, including wartime or times of national emergency. The term “torture” has been defined in article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) as:
“[…] 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.”
The practice of torture is widespread all across the MENA region and is mostly practiced after the arrest and before the first presentation before a judicial authority by State agents or with their instigation and/or acquiescence. Cases documented by Alkarama to either the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (SRT) or the Committee against Torture (CAT) follow the same pattern. Individuals are usually taken to unknown locations and denied any contacts to the outside world for a certain period of time, during which they are tortured by the security services in order to extract confessions. These confessions are then used as incriminating evidence against the victim. In other cases, torture is practiced during all stages of detention for punitive purposes against, amongst others, human rights defenders, journalists, peaceful demonstrators or political opponents.
Acts of violence against individuals can also be considered as cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, when they do not reach the standards of severity specific to torture. Such treatments are equally prohibited at all times and include mistreatments ranging from beating to particularly harsh conditions of detention.