Reporting Killings as Human Rights Violations Handbook

Combating Torture

A Manual for Judges and Prosecutors

By Conor Foley

Manual links: website home page
Table of Contents - Search - Introduction - 1: The Prohibition of Torture in International Law - 2: Safeguards Against Torture - 3: The Role of Judges and Prosecutors - 4: Conducting Investigations and Inquiries - 5: Prosecuting Suspected Torturers and Providing Redress - Appendices

Glossary of terms as used in this manual

Allegation (of torture)

A claim (as yet neither proved nor disproved) that an incident of torture has occurred.

Amicus curiae brief

A submission by a non-party to judicial proceedings which is designed to inform the judicial body about a specific matter relating to the proceedings.

Applicant

Person making an application under an individual complaint procedure.

Application

Letter or other form of submission asking a judicial body to consider a case under an individual complaint procedure.

Arrest

The act of apprehending a person for the alleged commission of an offence or by the action of an authority.

Asylum

Asylum is sought by individuals who do not wish to return to a country, usually their own, where they are at risk. If granted, it means being allowed to remain in a country which is not their own. It may be temporary or permanent.

Communication

Letter or other form of submission transmitting information to an international body. The term is often used within the UN to refer to applications under an individual complaint procedure. The person who writes a communication is often referred to as the author of the communication.

Complainant

Person making a complaint under an individual complaint procedure.

Corroboration

Evidence which supports or confirms the truth of an allegation.

Court judgment

Legally-binding decision in which a court expresses its conclusions in a case.

Criminal charge

Official notification given to an individual by the competent authorities that he or she has committed a criminal offence.

Crimes against humanity

Serious acts, such as torture, committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, whether or not they are committed in the course of an armed conflict.

Declaration

A particularly formal resolution, usually of the United Nations General Assembly, which is not as such legally-binding, but sets out standards which states undertake to respect.

Deportation

Expulsion from a country.

Derogate

To temporarily suspend or limit.

Detention

Depriving a person of personal liberty except as a result of conviction for an offence.

Domestic law or legal system

National law or legal system; law or legal system which is specific to a particular country.

Enforcement (of obligations)

Making the obligations effective; ensuring that they are respected.

Entry into force (of a treaty)

The moment at which treaty obligations begin to apply.

Fact-finding

Carrying out an investigation to discover the facts.

Gross violations of human rights

Particularly serious violations of human rights, such as torture or extra-judicial killing.

Implementation (of obligations)

The way in which obligations are carried out or respected, or measures aimed at achieving this.

Impunity

Being able to avoid punishment for illegal or undesirable behaviour.

Incommunicado detention

Being held by the authorities without being allowed any contact with the outside world.

Individual complaint

A complaint relating to a specific set of facts affecting an individual or individuals.

Instrument

A general term to refer to international law documents, whether legally binding or not.

Inter-governmental body

A body or organisation composed of the governmental representatives of more than one country.

Judicial procedure

A procedure before a judicial body.

Jurisdiction (of a state)

Area or persons over which a state exercises its authority.

Jurisdiction (of a judicial body)

Matters which fall within the jurisdiction of a judicial or quasi-judicial body are those which it is has the authority to examine.

Leave

Permission.

Legally-binding

If something is legally-binding on a state, this means that the state is obliged to act in accordance with it, and there may be legal consequences if it does not do so.

Litigation

The process of bringing and conducting a case before a court.

Lodging a complaint

Registering a complaint.

Mandate

The authorised powers of a mechanism -- the document which explains what the mechanism is authorised to do.

Merits

The stage of an individual complaint procedure at which the judicial, or quasi-judicial, body examines the facts of a case and decides if a violation has occurred.

Monitoring

Seeking and receiving information for the purpose of reporting on a subject or situation.

Non-governmental actors

Private persons or groups acting independently of the authorities.

Observations

Comments, assessment.

Perpetrator

The person who has carried out an act.

Petition

Request for action, e.g. request for a matter to be investigated.

Provisional measures

Temporary measures which can be requested by a judicial or quasi-judicial body before having completed its consideration of a case, in order to avoid irreparable damage.

Quasi-judicial procedure

A procedure before a body which considers cases in a similar way to a judicial body, but which is not composed of judges and the decisions of which are not of themselves legally-binding.

Ratification

The process through which a state agrees to be bound by a treaty.

Recommendation

A suggested course of action. Recommendations are not legally-binding.

Reparation

Measures to repair damage caused, eg. compensation.

Reservation

At the time of agreeing to be bound by a treaty, a state can register a reservation: a statement intended to modify its obligations under the treaty in some way.

Resolution

Official decision of an international body, often adopted through a vote. It is usually a recommendation and therefore not legally binding.

Rules of procedure

The detailed rules which a judicial or quasi-judicial body adopts, setting out the way in which proceedings before it should be carried out.

Sanction

A penalty imposed for a state's failure to respect its legal obligations.

State responsibility

Holding a state accountable under international law.

State Party (to a treaty)

State which has agreed to be bound to a treaty.

Supervisory body

A body set up to supervise the ways in which states implement their obligations under a treaty.

Transmission (of an allegation)

Sending the allegation, e.g. to the state concerned.

Treaty

International law document which sets out legally-binding obligations for states.

Treaty article

The term used to refer to individual sections of a treaty.

Treaty body

A body set up by a treaty.

Violation (of obligations)

Failure by a state to respect its obligations under international law.

War Crimes

Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions 1949, committed in the course of an armed conflict against persons or property protected by the Conventions, and other criminal violations of the rules of war.

 

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Manual links: website home page
Table of Contents - Search - Introduction - 1: The Prohibition of Torture in International Law - 2: Safeguards Against Torture - 3: The Role of Judges and Prosecutors - 4: Conducting Investigations and Inquiries - 5: Prosecuting Suspected Torturers and Providing Redress - Appendices
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