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EU guidelines on torture and other cruel treatment

EU guidelines on torture and other cruel treatment


Guidelines to EU policy towards non-EU countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment



They create an operational tool to be used by the EU in contacts with non-EU countries in order to combat torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment (e.g. beating while in custody).


The EU combats torture and ill treatment through the support of international instruments (e.g. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva Conventions, Statute of the International Criminal Court, etc.), and through measures within its common foreign and security policy (CFSP), such as the regulation of trade in instruments of torture.

EU actions for combating torture and ill-treatment in relations with non-EU countries consist of the following:

  • establishing political dialogues with non-EU countries and regional organisations. The guidelines on human rights dialogues establish clear conditions and principles in this area;
  • taking political initiatives (démarches) and issuing public statements urging relevant non-EU countries to undertake effective measures against torture and other ill-treatment;
  • promoting collaboration with civil society in bilateral and multilateral cooperation, in particular under the EU’s action plan on human rights and democracy (2015-2019) which supports NGOs in combating torture;
  • observation roles for EU embassy representatives in trials where it is feared that the defendant has been subjected to torture or ill-treatment.

Under these guidelines, the EU urges non-EU countries to take the following measures:

  • prevent, prohibit and condemn torture and ill-treatment;
  • adhere to and implement international norms and procedures (e.g. United Nations Convention Against Torture);
  • create safeguards and procedures relating to places of detention;
  • provide rehabilitation and reparation for victims;
  • establish domestic legal guarantees;
  • combat impunity;
  • establish groups requiring special attention (e.g. refugees, asylum seekers, or prisoners);
  • allow detention-monitoring mechanisms;
  • establish national institutions for the prevention of torture;
  • strengthen the justice system;
  • provide effective training for law enforcement, military and health personnel in dealing with torture and ill-treatment;
  • prevent any form of intimidation or reprisal;
  • conduct autopsies.


Respect for human rights is one of the key priorities in the EU’s external relations. Combating torture and ill-treatment is a necessary part of this work, despite the existence of numerous international instruments that prohibit this type of serious violation of human dignity.

The actions of the EU, strongly supported by all of its countries, aim to prevent and eliminate torture and ill-treatment and to combat the impunity of those responsible. This work complements the EU action to combat the death penalty.


Guidelines to EU Policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment — An up-date of the Guidelines 6129/1/12 REV1, 20 March 2012

last update 08.03.2016