Practice Relating to Rule 90. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
South Africa’s LOAC Manual (1996) provides: “Inhuman and degrading practices are grave breaches of [the 1977 Additional Protocol I].”
The manual further states that “torture or inhuman treatment and … wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health” are grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
Regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, the manual states: “It is forbidden to obtain further information through … physical or mental torture or coercion.”
South Africa’s Revised Civic Education Manual (2004) states:
The following acts are regarded as grave breaches [of the law of armed conflict and, consequently, war crimes]:
a. … torture, or inhumane treatment of any persons.
b. The causing of great suffering or serious injury to body or health of any person.
c. Inhumane and degrading practices involving outrages upon the personal dignity of an individual or group of persons.
The manual further provides: “POWs [prisoners of war] are required only to give their name, serial number and date of birth, and no other information. It is forbidden to obtain further information through threats, physical or mental torture, or coercion.”
South Africa’s ICC Act (2002) reproduces the crimes listed in the 1998 ICC Statute, including genocide by “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group”, and “torture” as well as “other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health” as crimes against humanity, and the war crimes of “torture or inhumane treatment” and “wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health” of persons protected under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as well as “committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” in international armed conflicts, and “cruel treatment and torture” and “committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” of “persons taking no active part in the hostilities” in non-international armed conflicts.
In its judgment in the Mohamed case in 2001, the Constitutional Court of South Africa stated: “South African law considers a sentence of death to be cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment”.