EU guidelines on torture and other cruel treatment

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EU guidelines on torture and other cruel treatment

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about EU guidelines on torture and other cruel treatment


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Human rights > Human rights in non-EU countries

EU guidelines on torture and other cruel treatment

Document or Iniciative

Guidelines to EU policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment(An up-date of the Guidelines). General Affairs Council of 18 April 2008 [Not published in the Official Journal].


The work of the European Union (EU) in the area of combating torture and ill-treatment includes active support for the reinforcement and implementation of international instruments and for the work of the establishments concerned. The EU undertakes measures within its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), such as when it adopted the regulation on trade in instruments of torture.

As far as combating torture and ill-treatment is concerned, the operational strand of the CFSP comprises:

  • periodic reports of non-EU countries in which the EU Heads of Mission include an analysis of the atrocities discovered as well as an evaluation of the impact of the Union’s preventive efforts;
  • an observation role for embassy representatives in trials where it is feared that the defendant has been subjected to torture or ill-treatment;
  • the evaluation of reports from relevant establishments, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs, with a view to identifying situations where EU action is necessary.

The EU’s objective is to ensure that non-EU countries take effective measures against torture and ill-treatment and respect their obligations. In order to ensure the promotion of international law, it implements the following measures:

  • establishing political dialogue that includes discussions with non-EU countries and regional organisations. The Council has also adopted guidelines on human rights dialogues that aim to establish clear conditions and principles in this area;
  • inviting non-EU countries to undertake measures to combat torture and ill-treatment, through confidential or public demarches. The EU will request additional information if there are any human rights violations;
  • promoting collaboration with civil society in bilateral and multilateral cooperation, in particular within the framework of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The EIDHR supports NGOs in combating torture and rehabilitating victims of torture.

The EU also encourages non-EU countries to take internal measures, such as:

  • introducing measures that prohibit and condemn torture and ill-treatment, including the adoption of laws, administrative measures and restrictions in relation to the production and sale of equipment used for these activities;
  • respecting international standards and procedures, including adhering to international conventions, the Statute of the International Criminal Court and cooperating with the relevant UN and/or Council of Europe mechanisms;
  • guaranteeing detention conditions that are in conformity with human rights and banning secret places of detention. The EU is in favour of domestic mechanisms whereby civil society representatives and independent bodies may visit places of detention;
  • ensuring that their legal system conforms to international standards and procedures, and combating impunity;
  • establishing measures for groups requiring special protection, such as women, children and refugees;
  • setting up procedures for complaints of torture, guaranteeing compensation, establishing and reinforcing national institutions, ensuring effective training for professionals, etc.

Furthermore, the EU continues to raise these issues with multilateral organisations such as the UN, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It also continues to support the relevant international and regional mechanisms, as well as the relevant voluntary funds.


Respect for human rights is one of the key priorities in the EU’s external relations; in particular, it features among the main objectives of the CFSP. Combating torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment forms a necessary part of this work, despite the existence of numerous international instruments that prohibit this type of serious violation of human dignity. The actions of the EU, strongly supported by all of its countries, aim to prevent and eliminate torture and ill-treatment and to combat the impunity of those responsible. This work complements action to combat the death penalty.

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