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Report No. 273

(iv) Treatment of Prisoners and Detainees

2.44 In Antti Vuolanne v. Finland 51 , the Human Rights Committee examined a case involving the solitary confinement of a Finnish infantryman. The Committee held that for punishment to be degrading, the humiliation or debasement involved must exceed a particular level and must, in any event, entail other elements beyond the act of deprivation of liberty. In determining the severity of the alleged maltreatment, the court should consider all the circumstances of the case at hand, including the duration and manner of treatment, its physical and mental effects and the sex, age and state of health of the victim.

2.45 In contrast, the Human Rights Committee found, in Polay Campos v. Peru52, that displaying the victim publicly in a case and isolating him for 23 hours a day in a small cell with only 10 minutes of sunlight a day violated Arts. 7 and 10 of the ICCPR.

2.46 In International Pen & Others v. Nigeria53, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights held that where the State had detained individuals sentenced to death in leg irons and handcuffs and had denied access to attorneys and necessary medicines, is violative of Article 5 of the African Charter.

2.47 The European Court of Human Rights has also developed caselaw on presumptions regarding ill-treatment inflicted by State actors. For example, it has stated that "[W]here an individual is taken into custody in good health but is found to be injured by the time of release, it is incumbent on the State to provide a plausible explanation of how those injuries were caused and to produce evidence casting doubt on the victim's allegations, particularly if those allegations were corroborated by medical reports, failing which a clear issue arises under Art.3 of the Convention."54

2.48 Interrogation of suspects of terrorist activities between 1971 and 1975 in Northern Ireland involving a combination of five particular techniques - wall-standing, hooding, subjection to white noise, deprivation of sleep and deprivation of food and drink has been held by the European Court of Human Rights an inhuman and degrading treatment and practice of torture which violated Article 3. The court described 'degrading' as 'involving treatment such as to arouse feelings of fear, anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating or debasing the victim and possibly breaking their physical or moral resistance' 55. The Court said that inhuman or degrading treatment must 'go beyond that inevitable element of suffering or humiliation connected with a given form of legitimate treatment or punishment' to be deemed a violation of Article 3.56

2.49 The 'ill-treatment must attain a minimum level of severity' to fall within the scope of Article 3 and that such assessment of this minimum is relative and depends on 'all circumstances of the case' 57 . In considering the issue of whether a punishment or treatment is 'degrading' within the meaning of Article 3, the Court noted that it would also have to take into account whether its object 'is to humiliate and debase the person concerned and whether, as far as the consequences are concerned, it adversely affected his or her personality in a manner incompatible with Article 3.'58

2.50 In order to avoid violation of Article 3, the authorities are under an obligation to protect the health of persons deprived of liberty by providing requisite medical care during detention59 . In the case of mentally ill persons, the assessment of whether the treatment concerned is incompatible with Article 3 has to take into consideration 'their vulnerability and their inability, in some cases, to complain coherently or at all about how they are being affected by any particular treatment.'60

2.51 Denying adequate medical treatment and force feeding while on hunger strike and not producing the relevant documents in respect of his medical treatment has been held to be violative of Article 361.

2.52 The Commission has gone through in detail the scenario prevailing across the world with regard to various international conventions on torture. The Commission has noted that though India has signed the Convention against Torture, it is yet to be ratified. Not ratifying the Convention may lead to difficulties in cases involving extradition, as the foreign courts may refuse extradition or may impose limitations, in the absence of anti-torture law in line with the Convention, while granting extradition62.

Implementation of United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment through Legislation Back

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