Legal work in the fight against torture

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Legal efforts in Denmark

DIGNITY works to ensure that Denmark upholds its international obligations in accordance with the UN Convention against Torture (1984) and the European  Convention on Human Rights (1950). Our legal experts sound the alarm when national practices or laws are at risk of conflicting with international conventions and standards. The work entails drawing up responses to legislative drafts, legal advice, trainings (for instance at the Danish Police Academy and the  Faculty of Law at Copenhagen University) and advocacy, which includes the collection and dissemination of research results and other relevant knowledge. For instance, DIGNITY focuses on the widespread use of solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure in Danish prisons, and advocates for the use of alternative measures.

In collaboration with several Danish civil society organisations, DIGNITY’s legal team produce shadow reports and other material to be used in the reoccurring examinations of Denmark within the United Nations. Here, the experts of the UN and other member states are made aware of areas of concern and positive and negative developments, so that they may recommend and demand improvements. It particularly entails reporting to the UN Committee Against Torture, the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child, and the Universal Periodic Review-process.

Law students: DIGNITY employs legal student assistants, volunteers, and masters’ thesis students as part of its Talent Programme. We welcome applications of interest on a rolling basis.

Legal efforts abroad

In DIGNITY’s partner countries, including countries in the Middle East and North Africa, we support local partners in their efforts to prevent torture and establish effective legal guaranties, which can protect citizens against abuse. Among other things we work to minimize the use of pre-trial detention, as there is a high risk of torture or other inhuman, degrading treatment during this period.

DIGNITY works with local public prosecutors and judges to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge about international conventions and human rights standards. Such knowledge ensures that torture cases are correctly identified and documented, which heightens the chance that victims will receive the help and redress they are entitled to.

INTERNATIONAL Norms

DIGNITY is also engaged in the development of international norms at the United Nations and regional levels, and provides substantial input to the annual UN-resolutions on torture at the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. Recently, DIGNITY has contributed to the drafting of a resolution on police custody and detention proceedings (2016) and the negative consequences of corruption on the freedom from torture (2018) adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.

DIGNITY is also represented in an international expert group to develop universal standards for police questioning (e.g. the use investigative interviewing) and legal safeguards in police custody to ensure that no one is subjected to torture, or cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment.

Results

Tunisian politicians have (with the support from DIGNITY) adopted an important reform of the country’s procedural law. The reform means improved rights for those arrested, and is a safeguard against torture.

An EU-report from 2017 have shown that Jordan’s use of pre-trial detention has been lowered by 17 % from 2015 to 2016, among other things thanks to a new case-monitoring system implemented by the Jordanian Ministry of Justice with the support from DIGNITY.

DIGNITY in international committees:

DIGNITY has experts represented in the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and the UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT).

THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF TORTURE

DIGNITY works based on the UN definition of torture, which is to be found in the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment from 1948:

“For the purposes of this Convention, 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.”

Research and publications

Solitary Confinement as a Disciplinary Sanction

Conference Report  | Download

Discussion Paper | Download

Reference list | Download

Fact sheets | Download

Articles

Therese Rytter and Andrea Huber, Women in the Criminal Justice System and the Bangkok Rules, Chapter in the Book: Gender Perspectives on Torture: Law and Practice, published by Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law: Anti-Torture Initiative at the Washington College of Law at the American University  (2018).

Materials

PCATI/DIGNITY | 2016
Documenting Torture While Providing Legal Aid: A Handbook for Lawyers

This handbook aims to assist lawyers worldwide, and to offer ideas and suggestions — based on PCATI’s extensive field experience — of how to provide the best legal aid while attempting to promote accountability of perpetrators and justice for the victims. 

Download

DIGNITY TRAINING COLLECTION

COLLECTION OF MATERIAL ABOUT PROHIBITION AND PREVENTION OF TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMANE AND DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT

I: Prohibition and Prevention of Torture and Ill-treatment in International and Regional Human Rights Treaties

Download

DIGNITY TRAINING COLLECTION

COLLECTION OF MATERIAL ABOUT PROHIBITION AND PREVENTION OF TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMANE AND DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT

II: Other Relevant UN Standards Supplementing the Human Rights Treaties

Download

DIGNITY TRAINING COLLECTION

COLLECTION OF MATERIAL ABOUT PROHIBITION AND PREVENTION OF TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMANE AND DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT

III: Overview of thematic torture resolutions by the UN Human Rights Council; omnibus resolutions by the UN General Assembly, and thematic reports by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture 1990 - 2016

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