Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

UN treaty

CAT is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1984. The UK ratified (agreed to follow) CAT in 1988.

By ratifying CAT, the UK agrees to prevent acts of torture in connection with activities that include:

  • returning, expelling or extraditing someone to another country where there are real grounds to believe he or she will face torture
  • arrest, detention and imprisonment
  • interrogation
  • the training of police (civil or military), medical staff, public officials and anyone else who may be involved in the arrest, detention and questioning of a person

How the treaty is monitored

The implementation of CAT is monitored by the Committee Against Torture. Around every five years the Committee reviews how well each state is putting into practice the rights in CAT. Find out more about the previous review cycles.

There are six stages in the treaty cycle. Civil society organisations can engage throughout this process. We have produced a guide for civil society with information on how to participate. There is also further information for civil society organisations on the UN website.

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) treaty cycle

The CAT review cycle is currently at stage 3: stakeholders respond to the List of Issues.

  • The UK has accepted the simplified reporting procedure for the next CAT review.
  • Stakeholder reports were due to be submitted to the UN on 24 January 2022. We understand that the UN only agreed this deadline in late December 2021 and unfortunately did not communicate this widely with stakeholders.

3. Stakeholders respond to list of issues

  • The UK will be expected to submit its state report by 17 May 2023.
  • Other stakeholders will have an opportunity to respond to the List of Issues. Due to UN backlogs, it is not yet clear when the deadline for submissions will be.
  • Based on the current timetable, we estimate that the UN review will take place in 2024.

Optional protocols

CAT has one Optional Protocol. This is an additional treaty that establishes the UN Sub-committee on Prevention of Torture and national preventive mechanisms (NPMs). Under this Optional Protocol, governments must set up NPMs to monitor the treatment of people deprived of their liberty, with a view to strengthening protection against torture and ill-treatment. This has been ratified by the government and there is a UK National Preventive Mechanism.

Find out more about the Optional Protocol.

Declaration under Article 22

Governments can make a declaration under Article 22 of CAT. This agrees to let people make individual complaints to the Committee Against Torture if they believe their rights have been violated. It can only be used when all domestic channels have been exhausted. The UK has not made a declaration.

General comments

The Committee Against Torture has issued a number of General Comments on CAT. These provide further detail on how it should be interpreted. The comments cover issues such as the obligation of the State to take effective measures to prevent torture and the right of victims of torture and ill-treatment to obtain redress.

Last updated on 08/12/2022