13 Under Article 16, States parties undertake ‘to prevent’ acts of ill-treatment.26 In the second sentence of Article 16(1), the drafters, after long and controversial discussions, specified the obligation to prevent as follows: ‘In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture of references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’ During the drafting, many States wished to add to this list of obligations those contained in Articles 3, 14, and 15.27 Since an agreement could not be reached, these references were deleted from the draft, and the words ‘in particular’ added in order to show that this reference is not exhaustive.28
14 There has been a lengthy discussion around the interpretation of the words ‘in particular’, arguing either that all rules of the Convention mutatis mutandis are applicable also to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment29 or that it does not go beyond the obligations covered by Articles 10 to 13.30
15 In its General Comment No 2 the Committee appeared to favour a broad interpretation stipulating that: ‘Article 16, identifying the means of prevention of ill-treatment, emphasizes “in particular” the measures outlined in articles 10 to 13, but does not limit effective prevention to these articles.’31 As reasons it states that the obligations to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment are ‘indivisible, interdependent and interrelated’,32 overlapping and largely congruent in practice. The definitional threshold between them is often not clear and according to experience the very same conditions that enable ill-treatment also facilitate torture. The Committee therefore concludes that ‘the measures required to prevent torture must be applied to prevent ill-treatment’.33 However, this broad interpretation has to be read in the context in which General Comment No 2 was drafted, namely in the light of the atrocities committed in the name of the so called ‘war on terror’ (eg the incidents of Abu Ghraib) and the threat to the absolute prohibition of torture.34 The purpose of the Committee’s extensive interpretation was thus to reject any attempts to justify torture and other forms of ill-treatment and to bolster its absolute prohibition. This is confirmed by the Committee’s subsequent practice where it has not upheld its view that all articles of the CAT apply equally to torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
(p. 447) 16 A literal interpretation of the term ‘in particular’ suggests that neither the Convention as a whole nor exclusively the articles mentioned in Article 16 should apply to other forms of ill-treatment. The wording explicitly leaves it open, suggesting that an applicability to other than the mentioned articles is possible.
17 When looking at the Convention as a whole it becomes clear that Article 16 cannot apply to all articles of the Convention as otherwise there would be no reason to separate between Article 2 and 16 in the first place. Moreover Article 16 refers to the obligation of States parties to ‘prevent’ other forms of ill-treatment not amounting to torture and specifically confirms the applicability of the key preventive articles 10 to 13 to other forms of ill-treatment. In that regard it stands clearly separate from the preceding Articles 4 to 9 that—despite their preventive effect—are primarily of a repressive (criminal) nature. The objective thus seems to be that the mainly preventive obligations can also apply to other forms of ill-treatment unlike the obligations of States parties to use domestic criminal law for the purpose of investigating any crime of torture and bringing the perpetrators to justice. The travaux préparatoires equally show that all the provisions relating to the criminal prosecution of the perpetrators of torture (Articles 4 to 9) would only apply to torture in the narrow sense of Article 1, with one argument being the difficulty to define cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, because these terms were not defined in the Convention.35 Only the three provisions, which were put in square brackets during the deliberations in the Working Group (Articles 3, 14 and 15), were considered controversial.
18 This means that the obligations deriving from Articles 4 to 9 apply exclusively to torture, as defined in Article 1. States are, therefore, not required to introduce the offence of inhuman treatment as a crime in domestic law and apply the principle of universal jurisdiction to these forms of ill-treatment. On the other hand, the obligations to prevent torture by means of education and training, by systematically reviewing interrogation rules and practices, by ensuring a prompt and impartial ex officio investigation, and by ensuring an effective complaints mechanism, as laid down in Articles 10 to 13, must be applied equally to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The applicability of the other provisions of CAT must be considered in light of their specific purpose; in particular, whether these obligations are more of a preventive or repressive (criminal) nature.
19 The principle of non-refoulement in Article 3 is of preventive nature while at the same time clearly separated from the key preventive articles in the Convention. This confirms its specific importance for the prevention of torture as well as the particular nature of the obligation—relating to a risk of torture in another State. The systematic position and separation from the other preventive articles suggests that the applicability to ill-treatment was not intended. This interpretation is confirmed by the travaux péparatoires, showing that during the drafting process, many Governments, above all the United States, clearly stated that this principle only applies to the danger of being subjected to torture in the most narrow sense.36 Moreover, in its first General Comment to Article 3 of 1998, the Committee made clear that ‘Article 3 is confined in its application to cases where there are substantial grounds for believing that the author would be in danger of being subjected to torture as defined in article 1 of the Convention’.37 Consequently in its first decision (p. 448) in an individual case on this issue, BS v Canada, the Committee noted that Article 3 does not encompass situations of ill-treatment envisaged by Article 1638 and it has followed this line in its subsequent decisions, also in case law adopted after its General Comment 2 on Article 2.39
20 At the same time, the Committee in the case MMK v Sweden (regarding a complaint from a Bangladeshi citizen alleging a violation of Article 16 due to his ‘fragile psychiatric condition and severe PTSD’) observed that in very exceptional circumstances a removal per se may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and thus violate Article 16 (although such exceptional circumstances had not been presented in the complainant’s case).40 Thereby the Committee acknowledges the fact that the duty to prevent torture (Article 2) and other forms of ill-treatment (Article 16) overlap in practice and the definitional threshold is often not clear. This reasoning is confirmed by the revised General Comment No 1 to Article 3 of 2017 in which the Committee interprets Article 3 to apply only to cases of torture, while nevertheless referencing its General Comment No 2. The Committee found that ‘States parties should consider whether forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that a person facing deportation is at risk of experiencing could likely change so as to constitute torture before making an assessment on each case relating to the principle of “non-refoulement.” ’41 Moreover it clarifies that ‘the fact that Article 3 of the Convention only deals with torture should not be interpreted as limiting the prohibition against extradition or expulsion which follows from such other instruments’.42 The position of the Committee is therefore clear insofar as the application of Article 3 does not extend to other forms of ill-treatment. However, this does not exclude the protection from ill-treatment by Article 16 or other non-refoulement principles as derived from Articles 3 ECHR or 7 ICCPR. Seemingly for that reason, the Committee has also recommended to States in some Concluding observations to provide protection from refoulement beyond the scope of Article 3 to ensure that no person in need of protection is returned to a country where he/she is in danger of being subjected to acts of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.43
21 Nevertheless, the Committee’s position is narrower regarding the applicability of the prohibition of non-refoulement than positions of other international organs: the (p. 449) ECtHR has applied the prohibition of refoulement under Article 3 ECHR equally to the risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment,44 and the UN Human Rights Committee has followed this jurisprudence in relation to Article 7 CCPR.45 The UNSRT has stated: ‘States are prohibited from returning anyone to a situation where there are substantial grounds to believe that the person may be subject to torture or ill-treatment.’46
22 Regarding the right to remedy and reparation contained in Article 14 the Committee has held in its first case on the matter, Hajrizi Dzemajl et al v Yugoslavia47 in 2002 that its scope of application only refers to torture and not to other forms of ill-treatment.48 Nevertheless, it stipulated that the first sentence of Article 16 encompasses the positive obligation to grant redress and compensate the victims.49 The Committee has consequently stated that the State party has failed to observe its obligations under Article 16 when not providing the complainant with redress and fair and adequate compensation (but not of Article 14).50 However, ten years later the Committee took a different position in its General Comment No 3 of 2012, considering that it is ‘applicable to all victims of torture and acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.51 This position was however not retained and in the case Sergei Kirsanov v Russia the Committee again rejected the applicability of Article 14 to ill-treatment and only found a violation of Article 16.52
23 This result is confusing and unsatisfactory. The Committee clearly interprets the words ‘to prevent’ in Article 16 in a broad sense, to include the positive obligation to grant redress and compensate the victims of an act in breach of Article 16. This is also confirmed by the travaux préparatoires indicating that no State had a strong argument against including the right to remedy and reparation in the indicative list of provisions referred to in Article 16(1), but that concerns focused primarily at applying the concept of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in criminal law.53 Moreover, the words ‘in particular’ in the second sentence of Article 16(1) must have some normative sense, as confirmed by the Committee itself in its General Comment. The consequences of ill-treatment for the victim can be the same as with torture and it appears that the Committee intended to extend the scope of Article 14 to afford its broadest protection.54 Therefore, Article 14 must be interpreted to extend to other forms of ill-treatment.
(p. 450) 24 A similar argument can be made regarding Article 15 that has a preventive purpose and is placed among the preventive obligations rather than those of a repressive (criminal) nature.55 It is moreover one of the articles that many States wished to add during the drafting phase to be explicitly mentioned under the list of obligations in Article 16.56 However, even if one were to follow the view that Article 15 only applies to torture, in practice, if Article 15 were applied to other forms of ill-treatment, the result would not be different, because the provision aims at preventing confessions and other statements extracted during interrogation from being used as evidence in court. But extraction of confessions and information is the classical and most widespread purpose of torture. Any severe pain or suffering inflicted for the purpose of extracting a confession or other information therefore constitutes not only cruel and inhuman treatment but also torture.57