The admissibility of torture evidence : content and scope the exclusionary rule of Article 15 of the United Nations Convention against Torture

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Title: The admissibility of torture evidence : content and scope the exclusionary rule of Article 15 of the United Nations Convention against Torture
Author: Turunen, Emilia
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: Torture is still routinely used by public officials to solicit information and to obtain statements and confessions. One of the root causes of torture is the use of this torture tainted information. Allowing authorities to use evidence obtained by torture forms a strong incentive to continue the practice of torture. Therefore, removing this incentive is a crucial part of securing the absolute prohibition of torture and preventing such practice. While there has been much discussion on the issue of torture, the focus has centered mainly on the prohibition of torture and very little attention has been given to other related questions. In recent years there has been further research and discussion around the more procedural questions in relation to the prohibition of torture such as the admissibility of torture-tainted evidence. The general position is that the prohibition against torture is absolute and subsequently information obtained through torture is not admissible in legal proceedings. This thesis focuses on the exclusionary rule of Article 15 of the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) which prohibits the use of statements obtained by torture. The aim is to analyze the content and scope of application of Article 15 by identifying the key issues of interpretation concerning the exclusionary rule. This thesis will examine the issue of whether evidence obtained torture is ever admissible in any proceedings. Chapter 2 explains the background of UNCAT, and the general prohibition of torture as described in the convention. A brief overview of the drafting history, purpose, and content of the convention will be provided. Chapter 3 analyses the background, rationales and constitutive elements of article 15. In chapter 4 the key questions of interpretation in relation the exclusionary rule will be examined in detail. Chapter 5 provides insight to the exclusionary rule’s operation in practice and how the rule can be properly implemented. Chapter 6 concludes the key findings made in the previous chapters of the thesis and offers final remarks on the admissibility of evidence obtained by torture. Though seemingly straightforward, the wording of the exclusionary rule in article 15 UNCAT raises several questions of interpretation regarding the admissibility of evidence obtained by torture. Some of these questions can be answered by a comprehensive analysis of the relevant sources of interpretation. However, some require further guidance and remain open to discussion. Article 15 remains silent on certain elements of the exclusionary rule, such as its applicability to indirect evidence or evidence obtained by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The ambiguity is supported by the fact that the Committee’s own practice on these issues is not always consistent and clear. There is a clear disconnect between the requirements set by international law and reality of the exclusionary rule’s application in practice. This is in part a result of the lack of guidance in international law regarding the exclusion of torture-tainted evidence. Therefore, a general comment produced by the Committee against Torture on the inadmissibility of torture-obtained evidence would be welcomed.
Discipline: Kansainvälinen oikeus
International law

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