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Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is the internationally agreed legal definition of torture:

“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” 


This definition contains three cumulative elements:

  • the intentional infliction of severe mental or physical suffering
  • by a public official, who is directly or indirectly involved
  • for a specific purpose.



Other international and regional treaties, as well as national laws, can contain broader definitions of torture, covering a wider range of situations.


Report on torture