Freedom from torture

Torture is the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering (of a physical or mental nature) on a person. The prohibition on torture arises from the need to protect the inherent dignity of the human person, and protects both physical and mental integrity. International covenants such as Article 7 of the ICCPR recognise the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. In Australia, the Crimes (Torture) Act 1988 (Cth) prohibits torture and section 10 of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities protects citizens from torture and inhumane treatment. Torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment can be inflicted by private persons or by a government. In most countries, including Australia, torture is a criminal offence. Liberty believes, along with all civilised nations, that torture can never be justified and that freedom from torture is a basic human right, which should be protected at every level. Conduct that inflicts a certain level of humiliation or debasement of the victim which is not severe enough to constitute torture may nevertheless be cruel, inhumane, or degrading - and an affront to the inherent dignity of the human person. Such conduct is also contrary to human rights and prohibited by international conventions. While freedom from torture is protected in Australia, freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment is not. The use of capsicum spray or TASER guns to coerce citizens into particular behaviour, rather than by way of self defence or the defence of others, may amount to torture or inhumane treatment.