Torture is a crime under international law; it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. The prohibition of torture has attained the status of customary international law; it is binding on every state, regardless of whether or not it has ratified international treaties on the topic. Furthermore, the systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.
All major human rights instruments contain provisions setting out the absolute prohibition of torture and several provide additional protection for those detained by the state, obliging authorities to ensure additional safeguards to those in their power. States are to guarantee certain minimum conditions in detention, in relation to, for instance, medical care and the prohibition of incommunicado detention. In addition, governments should provide clear safeguards during interrogation and custody and keep procedures for detention and interrogation under regular review.
The prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment has generated rich jurisprudence in the different human rights supervisory bodies. Some instances of violations are clearer than others; when it is proven that physical violence has been inflicted the determination is easier, while the severity of mental anguish endured is difficult to establish. Here the subjective nature of ill-treatment comes into play although clearly certain affronts to human dignity, such as rape, should always be classified as torture.
Although the prohibition of torture is internationally accepted, torture and ill-treatment by those in power is still widely practiced. States are under an obligation to investigate allegations of torture and should promote the development and implementation of national and international standards which provide effective and enforceable remedies for torture victims. States, individually and within the international community as a whole, must redouble their efforts to eradicate torture world-wide and make accountable the perpetrators and all those who aid and abet acts of torture.