Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits torture, and "inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

Article 3 – Prohibition of torture No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


There are no exceptions or limitations on this right. The European Court of Human Rights has emphasized the fundamental nature of Article 3 in holding that the prohibition is made in "absolute terms—... irrespective of a victim's conduct".[1]

The Court has also held that states cannot deport or extradite individuals who might be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in the recipient state.[2]

The Court has further held that this provision prohibits the extradition of a person to a foreign state if they are likely to be subjected there to torture. This article has been interpreted as prohibiting a state from extraditing an individual to another state if they are likely to suffer the death penalty. This article does not, however, on its own forbid a state from imposing the death penalty within its own territory.


In Aksoy v. Turkey (1997) the Court found Turkey guilty of torture in 1996 in the case of a detainee who was suspended by his arms while his hands were tied behind his back.[3]

Selmouni v. France (2000) the Court has appeared to be more open to finding states guilty of torture ruling that since the Convention is a "living instrument", treatment which it had previously characterized as inhuman or degrading treatment might in future be regarded as torture.[4]

Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

This provision usually applies to cases of severe police violence and poor conditions in detention.

Ireland v. United Kingdom

In Ireland v. United Kingdom (1979–1980) the Court ruled that the five techniques developed by the United Kingdom (wall-standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and drink), as used against fourteen detainees in Northern Ireland by the United Kingdom, were "inhuman and degrading" and breached the European Convention on Human Rights, but did not amount to "torture".[5]

In 2014, after new information was uncovered that showed the decision to use the five techniques in Northern Ireland in 1971–1972 had been taken by British ministers,[6] the Irish Government asked the European Court of Human Rights to review its judgement. In 2018, by six votes to one, the Court declined.[7]

Life imprisonment

On 9 July 2013, UK prisoner Jeremy Bamber won an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights that whole life imprisonment (with no chance of parole) was in contravention of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Grand Chamber voted overwhelmingly in favour of the decision by 16–1, meaning that the UK government will now be forced to review 49 instances of whole life sentences.

Ataun Rojo v. Spain

In this case, which ran jointly with Etxebarria Caballero v. Spain in 2014, the court held unanimously that there had been "a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of the lack of an effective investigation into the applicants' allegations of ill-treatment".[8]

M.C. v. Bulgaria

In December 2003, the Court ruled in M.C. v. Bulgaria that a violation of Articles 3 and 8 of the Convention had occurred. The case discusses the existence of a positive obligation to punish rape and to investigate rape cases. Judge F. Tulkens expressed a concurring opinion in the case.[citation needed]

Šečić v. Croatia

In May 2007 the court reiterated the obligation to secure rights and freedoms. States must take measures to prevent ill-treatment, including ill-treatment administered by private individuals. States must also investigate those ill-treatments.[9]

See also


  1. Chahal v. United Kingdom (1997) 23 EHRR 413.
  2. Chahal v. United Kingdom (1997) 23 EHRR 413; Soering v. United Kingdom (1989) 11 EHRR 439.
  3. Aksoy v. Turkey (1997) 23 EHRR 553. The process was referred to by the Court as "Palestinian hanging" but more commonly known as Strappado.
  4. Selmouni v. France (2000) 29 EHRR 403 at para. 101.
  5. Ireland v. United Kingdom (1979–1980) 2 EHRR 25 at para 167.
  6. "British ministers sanctioned torture of NI internees". The Irish Times. 21 March 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  7. ECHR revision judgment on application No. 5310/71
  8. "Spain should adopt measures to protect persons held incommunicado". European Court of Human Rights. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  9. ECHR, 31 May 2007, Case of Šečić v. Croatia, §52-53