Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a critical provision that safeguards individuals from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This article serves as a fundamental safeguard against cruel and inhumane treatment and is applicable to all individuals within the jurisdiction of a state party to the ECHR.
Article 3 – Prohibition of Torture, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Absolute prohibition: Article 3 establishes an absolute and non-derogable prohibition on torture, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. This means that under no circumstances can state authorities or anyone else subject individuals to such treatment.
Scope of protection: Article 3 protects individuals from various forms of mistreatment, including physical and mental abuse, torture, and any treatment that humiliates or degrades human dignity. It covers a broad range of actions and circumstances that could lead to severe suffering or physical or psychological harm.
State responsibility: Article 3 primarily addresses the actions of state authorities, but it is not limited to them. It also applies to situations where private individuals or groups act in a manner that violates the prohibition against torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. States have a positive obligation to protect individuals from such treatment by third parties as well.
Extradition and deportation: Article 3 places limitations on the extradition or deportation of individuals to countries where they would face a real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. This principle is often referred to as the principle of non-refoulement and is a key aspect of asylum and immigration law.
Conditions of detention: Article 3 requires that the conditions of detention in prisons, police cells, and other detention facilities must not subject individuals to inhuman or degrading treatment. Overcrowding, inadequate healthcare, and poor living conditions in detention centres can violate Article 3.
Effective remedies: States must ensure that individuals who have been subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment have access to effective remedies, including the right to seek legal redress and compensation for the harm they have suffered.
Derogation: Like many provisions of the ECHR, Article 3 allows for derogation under exceptional circumstances, such as during times of public emergency. However, any derogation must be strictly necessary and proportionate to the situation.
Prohibition on torture: It is important to note that Article 3 is not limited to prohibiting torture but also extends to encompass inhuman or degrading treatment. While torture involves severe and intentional suffering, inhuman or degrading treatment covers a broader spectrum of actions that cause significant distress or suffering.
In summary, Article 3 of the ECHR is a fundamental provision that sets out the absolute prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It places strong obligations on state parties to prevent and address such treatment, whether it is carried out by state agents or private individuals, and ensures that individuals have access to effective remedies when their rights under Article 3 are violated.