Rule 91. Corporal Punishment

Rule 91. Corporal punishment is prohibited.
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
The prohibition of corporal punishment is set forth in the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.[1] The prohibition is recognized by Additional Protocols I and II as a fundamental guarantee for civilians and persons hors de combat.[2] Corporal punishment constitutes a war crime in non-international armed conflicts under the Statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.[3] The prohibition of corporal punishment is contained in numerous military manuals.[4] It is also provided for in the legislation of some States.[5]
The prohibition of corporal punishment is not explicitly spelled out in international human rights treaties. However, human rights case-law has held that corporal punishment is prohibited when it amounts to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.[6] In its General Comment on Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment “must extend to corporal punishment, including excessive chastisement ordered as punishment for a crime or as an educative or disciplinary measure”.[7] The prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is non-derogable under human rights law.
[1] Third Geneva Convention, Article 87, third paragraph (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 32, § 1353); Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 32 (ibid., § 1354).
[2] Additional Protocol I, Article 75(2)(iii) (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 1356); Additional Protocol II, Article 4(2)(a) (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 1357).
[3] ICTR Statute, Article 4(a) (ibid., § 1361); Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Article 3(1)(a) (ibid., § 1358).
[4] See, e.g., the military manuals of Argentina (ibid., § 1365), Australia (ibid., § 1366), Benin (ibid., § 1367), Canada (ibid., § 1368), Colombia (ibid., § 1369), Croatia (ibid., § 1370), France (ibid., §§ 1371–1372), Israel (ibid., § 1373), Italy (ibid., § 1374), Madagascar (ibid., § 1375), Netherlands (ibid., § 1376), New Zealand (ibid., § 1377), Nicaragua (ibid., § 1378), Romania (ibid., § 1379), Spain (ibid., § 1380), Sweden (ibid., § 1381), Switzerland (ibid., § 1382), Togo (ibid., § 1383), United Kingdom (ibid., §§ 1384–1385) and United States (ibid., § 1386).
[5] See, e.g., the legislation of Azerbaijan (ibid., § 1387), Bangladesh (ibid., § 1388), Ireland (ibid., § 1389), Mozambique (ibid., § 1390), Norway (ibid., § 1391) and Poland (ibid., § 1392).
[6] See, e.g., European Court of Human Rights, Tyrer case (ibid., § 1401) and A. v. UK case (ibid., § 1402).
[7] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 20 (Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) (ibid., § 1400).