In 2015, Amnesty International surveyed the extent of torture worldwide and reported cases of torture and other ill-treatment in 122 countries from every world region. Torture is flourishing.

When a person is tortured, their dignity and integrity are cast aside – they become mere tools for achieving whatever purpose their abusers seek. Torture is the total denial of a person’s human rights.

As torture is thriving around the world, Combating torture and other ill-treatment: A manual for action comes at a crucial time in the fight against this abuse. To stop torture wherever it occurs, we need strong tools and robust laws.

The manual outlines the key steps that governments and campaigners can take to end torture and it also gives detailed information on legal safeguards and ideas for activism. The manual is published by Amnesty International and written in association with the Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC) at the University of Bristol.

You can’t think rationally because of the pain and the thirst. If a guard brings you some water or food, you feel like you’re in love with him.

A doctor and torture survivor from Syria

Combating torture and other ill-treatment: A manual for action

Amnesty International’s new manual will help anyone, anywhere, to expose and combat torture and other ill-treatment. As well as setting out the key international and regional standards against torture, the manual describes how Amnesty International campaigns against torture, including its most successful activism strategies.

In particular, the manual has been written for human rights defenders, lawyers, judges, law enforcement officers and other public officials, legislators, health professionals, law students and the media.

Combating torture and other ill-treatment: A manual for action is currently available in English as a free download from this page (see below). Versions in Arabic, French, Spanish and Ukrainian will be added below as they become available. We hope to translate the book into other languages in the future. If you are interested in translating the manual into another language, please email [email protected].

Activists march with Chicago torture survivors at Amnesty International USA’s 2014 human rights conference in Chicago, Illinois. © Scott Langley/Amnesty

A modern problem

Far from being a mediaeval practice eradicated in modern times, torture continues to thrive the world over, mostly in places where people are deprived of their liberty, but also outside such places. Nowhere are people totally free from the risk of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, whether directly by officials or through official complicity, inaction or failure.

Combating torture and other ill-treatment: A manual for action is the second edition of Amnesty’s successful campaigning tool. It has been fully updated and expanded to meet the challenges of fighting against torture today, and will be invaluable to anyone seeking to end torture in their country.

The first part of the manual looks at past efforts to eliminate torture, including Amnesty’s campaigns since the 1970s and the challenges to the prohibition of torture today.

The second part of the manual analyses the various legal instruments that exist to prohibit and combat torture and other ill-treatment. The prohibition exists in all circumstances, in every country of the world, including during conflict, anti-terrorism operations and other public emergencies. It also covers the safeguards that exist to protect people against torture and other ill-treatment, such as the right to legal counsel, to medical care, and to humane conditions of detention.

The final part of the manual describes the techniques used during Amnesty’s most recent campaign to ‘Stop Torture’ and the successes of that campaign. It sets out campaigning strategies that other organizations and activists can use, and describes some of the most pressing areas requiring activism today.

If we passively allow our governments to employ torture methods and take away the dignity and humanity of other human beings, we are bound to lose some of our own humanity.

Juan E. Mendéz, UN Special Rapporteur on torture.