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inhuman treatment or punishment


Ill-treatment which is premeditated and applied for hours at a stretch and causing either actual bodily injury or intense physical and mental suffering.


ECtHR, Kudla vs Poland Application no. 30210/96


  • BG: нечовешко отношение или наказание
  • CS: nelidské zacházení nebo trest
  • DE: unmenschliche Behandlung oder Bestrafung
  • EL: απάνθρωπη µεταχείριση ή τιµωρία 
  • EN: inhuman treatment or punishment
  • ES: pena o trato inhumano
  • ET: ebainimlik kohtlemine või karistamine
  • FI: epäinhimillinen kohtelu tai rangaistus
  • FR: peine ou traitement inhumain
  • GA: íde nó píonós mídhaonna
  • HU: embertelen bánásmód vagy büntetés
  • IT: Trattamento inumano o pena inumana
  • LT: nežmoniškas elgesys ar baudimas
  • LV: necilvēcīga rīcība vai sodīšana
  • MT: trattament jew piena inumana
  • NL: onmenselijke behandeling of bestraffing
  • PL: nieludzkie traktowanie lub kara
  • PT: pena ou tratamento desumanos
  • SK: neľudské zaobchádzanie alebo trestanie
  • SL: nečloveško ravnanje ali kazen
  • SV: omänsklig behandling eller bestraffning
  • NO: umenneskelig behandling eller straff (b); umenneskeleg handsaming eller straff (n)

Related Term(s)


1. Prohibition on torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is recognised as a right of paramount significance under international human rights law and set out in all major international instruments dealing with civil and political rights, such as in Art. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The prohibition, contained in Art. 3 of the ECHR is the only Convention prohibition that is not subject to any limitations or derogations.
2. While the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) provides a definition of torture, there is no universally accepted definition of inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. The case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) provides at least a source of guidance even though the decision practice of the Court has changed over the time. On the basis of the degree of severity of ill-treatment the Court distinguished and defined three concepts prohibited by Art.3: (i) torture, (ii) inhuman treatment or punishment and (iii) degrading treatment or punishment. Further, the Court emphasized in the Selmouni vs. France judgement of 28 July 1999 that the hierarchy distinguishing the three categories of ill-treatment is fluid in nature and has to be assessed in harmony with societal pogress.
3. The concept of inhuman treatment and punishment is the least developped of the three concepts (degrading treatment, inhuman treatment, torture) for different forms of ill-treatment.
4. It is often difficult to identify the exact boundaries between the different forms of ill-treatment as this requires an assessment about degrees of suffering that may depend on the particular circumstances of the case and the caracteristics of the particular victim. According to the case law of the ECtHR various components can determine whether a particular treatment constitutes torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: the gravity of the treatment, the intentional infliction of the treatment, the severity of the pain, the arbitrariness of the violence, the prohibited purpose, the duration of the treatment and the level of cruelty of the act. The Court did not classify these examples as exhaustive, the prohibited purpose criterion of the torture definition of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) is not the only decisive factor.