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Cuba: Torture

Volume 702: debated on Monday 16 June 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Malloch-Brown on 2 June (HL3559), what is their definition of torture; and why they do not class beating or fear of beating in Cuban prisons as torture in that Answer. [HL3896]

The definition of torture in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) is:

“For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”.

Former political prisoners have accused the Cuban Government of cruel and degrading treatment and torture. No independent body, including the International Committee of the Red Cross or the UN Special Rapporteur, has access to Cuban prisons and to date no conclusive evidence has emerged. We are therefore unable to verify such claims. I refer the noble Lord to my response of 2 June (Official Report, col. WA 8) for details of our human rights dialogue with Cuba.