Practice Relating to Rule 90. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
Uruguay’s Basic Information for the Pre-Deployment of Personnel Involved in UN Stabilization Missions (2014), in a section entitled “What is international humanitarian law?”, states:
In the workshop on pre-deployment, we will show a brief audiovisual presentation as an overview of the topic. It is important to remember that international humanitarian law (IHL) is a set of rules that, for precisely humane reasons, seeks to limit the effects of armed conflicts. It protects people not involved or no longer involved in combat and limits the means and methods of warfare. IHL is often also called “law of war” and “law of armed conflict”.
Although during peacekeeping operations or missions we are not in a traditional war scenario, we are in a place where there are conflicts of another kind and our participation may require us to apply these rules. The United Nations is clear in establishing that peacekeeping personnel are subject to and must respect and enforce the rules of IHL.
9.1 BASIC HUMANITARIAN RIGHTS
– The right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
– The right of the wounded, shipwrecked or sick, prisoners and anyone who has laid down their weapons not to be subjected to abusive or degrading treatment[.]
In its Annex 7, entitled “Human rights”, the Basic Information also states:
BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS
Right to freedom from physical harm
This is a right that cannot be restricted and must be explained in detail to ensure that it is understood by all parties involved in the conflict in all circumstances. Torture under the orders of a superior is also illegal and is not subject to any kind of legal protection.
[emphasis in original]
Uruguay’s Law on Cooperation with the ICC (2006) states:
A person who commits any of the following acts with the intention to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, religious, political, or trade union group or a group with their own identity based on gender, sexual orientation, cultural or social reasons, age, disability or health, is punished with fifteen to thirty years’ imprisonment:
B) Torture … , inhuman or degrading treatment or causing serious bodily or mental harm to one or more members of the group.
The Law also lists the following crime under the heading “Crimes against Humanity – Isolated Acts”:
Any person who is a State agent or who is not a State agent but acts with the authority, support or acquiescence of one or more State agents and who imposes any form of torture on a person who is deprived of their liberty, in the perpetrator’s custody or under the perpetrator’s control or who appears before authorities as expert witness or other kind of witness must be punished with twenty months’ to eight years’ imprisonment.
The Law further states:
26.2. Persons and objects affected by the war crimes set out in the present provision are persons and objects which international law protects in international or internal armed conflict.
26.3. The following are war crimes:
2. Torture or inhuman treatment.
In 2013, in a statement before the UN General Assembly during a meeting on the prevention of armed conflict, the permanent representative of Uruguay stated:
Two years of war have gone by – two years of unbearable suffering for the Syrian people … . Unfortunately, we are too accustomed to reading and hearing figures and numbers. That is why I believe that we need to strive to put human faces on the tragedy and to think of the thousands of women who have been raped, children who have been murdered and victims who have been tortured – human beings who have been brutalized and dehumanized.
Uruguay’s Law on Cooperation with the ICC (2006) lists the following crime under the heading “Crimes against Humanity – Isolated Acts”:
22.2. Torture is understood as:
A) Any act which inflicts severe physical, mental or moral pain or suffering.
B) Subjecting a person to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
C) Any act designed to destroy the victim’s personality or diminish their physical and mental capacity even if it does not cause pain or physical anguish or any act listed in Article 291 of the Penal Code undertaken with the aim to ascertain facts, to punish or to intimidate.
22.3. Torture does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanction.