Just How Ill-treated Were You? An Investigation of Cross-fertilisation in the Interpretative Approaches to Torture at the European Court of Human Rights and in International Criminal Law

In: Nordic Journal of International Law
Michelle Farrell School of Law and Social Justice at University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

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The prohibition on torture in international human rights law seems a fairly straightforward candidate for productive use in international criminal law. The Convention against Torture contains an elaborate definition of torture and human rights institutions have developed substantial jurisprudence on the prohibition and definition of torture. Indeed, the ad hoc Tribunals and the drafters of the Rome Statute have employed the human rights law approach to torture to varying degrees. But the conception of torture reached by human rights bodies is problematic and unsuitable for usage where individual criminal responsibility is sought. It is unsuitable because the human rights law understanding of torture is subjective and victim-derived. Human rights bodies do not scrutinize intent, purpose and perpetration, central aspects of international criminal legal reasoning. The communication on torture between these bodies of law to date shows that cross-fertilisation, without detailed reasoning, is inappropriate - because rights are different to crimes.

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