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The Istanbul Protocol: international guidelines for the investigation and documentation of torture

31-08-2002
The Istanbul Protocol is the first set of international guidelines for the investigation and documentation of torture.

The Protocol provides comprehensive, practical guidelines for the assessment of persons who allege torture and ill treatment, for investigating cases of alleged torture, and for reporting the findings to the relevant authorities. The Protocol was developed over three years with the involvement of more than 40 organizations, including the IRCT.

Annexed to the Protocol are Principles for the effective investigation and documentation of torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. These Principles summarize the most salient features of the Protocol and represent minimum standards for States in order to ensure the effective documentation of torture.

The Protocol was submitted to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 9 August 1999. The Istanbul Principles have subsequently received support in resolutions of the Human Rights Commission and the General Assembly, and the Protocol has been published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its Professional Training Series.

The IRCT has been an active proponent of the importance of the Protocol as a valuable tool for the effective investigation and documentation of torture. In international forums and in dialogue with national governments, the IRCT has urged for the implementation of the Protocol and Principles as standard procedure for all Government officials who undertake forensic investigations.

The IRCT provided training on the Istanbul Protocol in 2001 as part of the first phase of the technical cooperation programme between the UN and the Government of Mexico. A significant outcome of this training was the development of a 'short-form' torture detection procedure, used to rapidly identify those cases where torture or ill treatment may have occurred and where the full investigation procedure as described in the Protocol should be applied.

In April 2002, the IRCT entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Medical Association, to work together towards the global implementation of the Istanbul Protocol. Together with other institutional partners, inter alia the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and Physicians for Human Rights, the IRCT hopes to promote the implementation of the Protocol in a select group of countries in the coming two years.

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