Is the prohibition against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment absolute in international human rights law? A reply to Steven Greer

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Abstract

In a recent article, Steven Greer questions whether the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is really ‘absolute’ in international human rights law, and argues that it is not. In this piece, I consider Greer’s arguments against the absolute character of the prohibition at law, and find them wanting. In doing so, I clarify what the legal prohibition’s absolute character entails, and what it does not, addressing misconceptions, and revisit the distinction between negative and positive obligations in human rights law. In responding to Greer’s arguments, conceptual clarifications are offered which carry significant implications in the context of counter-terrorism and human rights law more widely. At the same time, I underline that the absolute character of the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in human rights law does not close off critical engagement with the issue of individual (criminal) culpability vis-à-vis the prohibition at human rights law, or with the meaning of the terms torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479–498
JournalHuman Rights Law Review
Volume17
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

Keywords

  • torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, police, absolute rights, counter-terrorism, Gäfgen v Germany

ASJC Scopus subject areas