CCPR General Comment No. 20: Article 7 (Prohibition of Torture, or Other
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment)
Adopted at the Forty-fourth Session of the Human Rights Committee,
on 10 March 1992

[Replaces general comment 7 concerning prohibition of torture and cruel treatment or
This general comment replaces general comment No. 7 (the sixteenth session,
1982) reflecting and further developing it.
The aim of the provisions of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights is to protect both the dignity and the physical and mental integrity
of the individual. It is the duty of the State party to afford everyone protection
through legislative and other measures as may be necessary against the acts prohibited
by article 7, whether inflicted by people acting in their official capacity, outside their
official capacity or in a private capacity. The prohibition in article 7 is complemented
by the positive requirements of article 10, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, which
stipulates that “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and
with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”
The text of article 7 allows of no limitation. The Committee also reaffirms
that, even in situations of public emergency such as those referred to in article 4 of the
Covenant, no derogation from the provision of article 7 is allowed and its provisions
must remain in force. The Committee likewise observes that no justification or
extenuating circumstances may be invoked to excuse a violation of article 7 for any
reasons, including those based on an order from a superior officer or public authority.
The Covenant does not contain any definition of the concepts covered by
article 7, nor does the Committee consider it necessary to draw up a list of prohibited
acts or to establish sharp distinctions between the different kinds of punishment or
treatment; the distinctions depend on the nature, purpose and severity of the treatment
The prohibition in article 7 relates not only to acts that cause physical pain but
also to acts that cause mental suffering to the victim. In the Committee’s view,
moreover, the prohibition must extend to corporal punishment, including excessive
chastisement ordered as punishment for a crime or as an educative or disciplinary
measure. It is appropriate to emphasize in this regard that article 7 protects, in
particular, children, pupils and patients in teaching and medical institutions.
The Committee notes that prolonged solitary confinement of the detained or
imprisoned person may amount to acts prohibited by article 7. As the Committee has
stated in its general comment No. 6 (16), article 6 of the Covenant refers generally to
abolition of the death penalty in terms that strongly suggest that abolition is desirable.
Moreover, when the death penalty is applied by a State party for the most serious

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