Article 3 - Right not be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

What does this right mean?

Inhuman treatment is prohibited under this article which means that treatment which causes severe mental or physical harm must never occur. Degrading treatment means treatment that is grossly humiliating and undignified. Whether treatment reaches this threshold depends on various factors including the age, physical and mental health of the person who experiences harm and the power relationship involved. Duties under this right not only include refraining from an action or an omission which results in inhuman or degrading treatment, but also taking reasonable positive steps to prevent ill-treatment, to protect those at immediate risk of ill-treatment and to provide effective remedies where ill-treatment occurs.

When could this right be relevant?

  • Abuse or neglect

  • Lack of respect for privacy

  • Denial of essential medication or aids

  • Inappropriate use of force or restraint

  • Inadequate personal care

Story example of Article 3 issue

Priscilla is a strong willed character who has a habit of spitting when she gets angry or distressed. She has recently had a severe chest infection and with no family to support her at home she has been placed in a care home to recuperate fully with appropriate nursing support. One of the staff finds the spitting to be deeply offensive and tells Priscilla that she will not be changed or have her bathroom needs attended to until she stops getting distressed and spitting at staff. She refuses to allow her colleagues to intervene. As a result Priscilla has been left unwashed and bedridden. She has stopped eating her food and is losing weight fast.