UN convention against torture: our position statement

Account of progress in Scotland in giving effect to the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in advance of a review of the UK by the UN Committee Against Torture in May 2019.


The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT)[1] was adopted in 1984 and came into force in 1987. It was signed by the UK in 1988.

The Convention sets out a definition of torture and means states must take all necessary legislative, judicial, administrative and other appropriate measures to prevent acts of torture.

Its main features include:

  • torture can never be justified, even in exceptional circumstances
  • torture must be included as a specific crime in national criminal law
  • each state party must establish universal jurisdiction over any person found in its territory who is alleged to have committed the crime of torture – irrespective of their nationality or where the offence was committed
  • systematic review of interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices, as well as custody procedures
  • each state party to establish prompt and impartial investigations whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction
  • victims of torture have the right to complain and to have their case investigated promptly and impartially, as well as to receive redress and compensation

The UK has signed the Optional Protocol to UNCAT (OPCAT), which establishes a system of unannounced and unrestricted visits by independent international and national monitoring bodies to all places where persons are deprived of their liberty.

The UK National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) established under OPCAT includes six Scottish bodies: HM Inspector of Prisons, HM Inspector of Constabulary, Care Inspectorate, Mental Welfare Commission, Scottish Human Rights Commission and Independent Custody Visitors Scotland.

Implementation of UNCAT is monitored by the Committee Against Torture, which last reviewed the UK in 2013.[2] The next review is expected to take place in May 2019. This position statement is the Scottish Government’s response to the list of issues published by the Committee in May 2016.[3] The UK Government response, including contributions from the Scottish Government, was published in January 2018.[4]



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