Practice Relating to Rule 91. Corporal Punishment
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999) prohibits corporal punishment of POWs, civilians and protected persons in international and non-international armed conflicts.
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states in its chapter on the treatment of prisoners of war (PWs): “Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishment, imprisonment in premises without daylight and any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden.”
In its chapter on the treatment of civilians in the hands of a party to the conflict or an occupying power, and, more specifically, in a section entitled “Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories”, the manual states:
[The 1949 Geneva Convention IV] prohibits taking any measure, which will cause physical suffering to protected persons or will lead to their extermination. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation or medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person, but also to any other form of brutality, whether applied by civilians or by military personnel.
In the same chapter, in a section entitled “Additional Protocol I”, the manual states:
1. [The 1977 Additional Protocol I] provides that all persons in the power of a party to the conflict are entitled to at least a minimum of humane treatment without adverse discrimination on grounds of race, gender, language, religion, political discrimination or similar criteria. It states in part:
2. The following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever, whether committed by civilian or by military agents:
a. violence to the life, health, or physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular:
(3) corporal punishment;
e. threats to commit any of the foregoing acts.
In its chapter on non-international armed conflicts, the manual states:
Although [The 1977 Additional Protocol II]contains no provisions relating to enforcement or punishment of breaches, it does contain a statement of fundamental guarantees prohibiting at any time and anywhere:
a. violence to the life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment;
g. threats to commit any of the foregoing.
In its judgment in the Smith case in 1987, the Canada’s Supreme Court stated:
The criterion which must be applied in order to determine whether a punishment is cruel and unusual within the meaning of s. 12 of the Charter
is, to use the words of Laskin C.J. in Miller and Cockriell
, at p. 688, “whether the punishment prescribed is so excessive as to outrage standards of decency”. In other words, though the state may impose punishment, the effect of that punishment must not be grossly disproportionate to what would have been appropriate.
The Court further stated:
[S]ome punishments or treatments will always be grossly disproportionate and will always outrage our standards of decency: for example, the infliction of corporal punishment, such as the lash, irrespective of the number of lashes imposed.
In the Suresh case before the Supreme Court of Canada in 2002, the appellant challenged an order for his deportation, inter alia, on the grounds that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms precludes deportation to a country where a refugee faces torture. In its judgment, the Supreme Court held:
When Canada adopted the Charter
in 1982, it affirmed the opposition of the Canadian people to government-sanctioned torture by proscribing cruel and unusual treatment or punishment in s. 12. A punishment is cruel and unusual if it “is so excessive as to outrage standards of decency”: see R. v. Smith
,  1 S.C.R. 1045, at pp. 1072–73, per
Lamer J. (as he then was). It must be so inherently repugnant that it could never be an appropriate punishment, however egregious the offence. Torture falls into this category. The prospect of torture induces fear and its consequences may be devastating, irreversible, indeed, fatal. Torture may be meted out indiscriminately or arbitrarily for no particular offence. Torture has as its end the denial of a person’s humanity; this end is outside the legitimate domain of a criminal justice system … Torture is an instrument of terror and not of justice. As Lamer J. stated in Smith
, at pp. 1073–74, “some punishments or treatments will always be grossly disproportionate and will always outrage our standards of decency: for example, the infliction of corporal punishment”. As such, torture is seen in Canada as fundamentally unjust.