GC: n

S: (last access: 6 March 2013); (last access: 2 September 2014).

N: 1. torture (n.): early 15c., “contortion, twisting, distortion; a disorder characterized by contortion,” from Old French torture “infliction of great pain; great pain, agony” (12c.), and directly from Late Latin tortura “a twisting, writhing,” in Medieval Latin “pain inflicted by judicial or ecclesiastical authority as a means of punishment or persuasion,” from stem of Latin torquere “to twist, turn, wind, wring, distort” (see torque (n.)). The meaning “infliction of severe bodily pain as a means of punishment or persuasion” in English is from 1550s. The theory behind judicial torture was that a guilty person could be made to confess, but an innocent one could not, by this means. Macaulay writes that it was last inflicted in England in May 1640.
2. In seeking to define torture in international humanitarian law, the ICTY and ICTR have turned to the definition of torture contained in the UN Convention against Torture for guidance. The Convention definition contains a requirement that the actor be a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. The ad hoc tribunals have put forward various views as to whether this is an element of the definition of torture in international humanitarian law.
3. The prohibition of torture was already recognized in the Lieber Code. The Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg included “ill-treatment” of civilians and prisoners of war as a war crime. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits “cruel treatment and torture” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” of civilians and persons hors de combat. Torture and cruel treatment are also prohibited by specific provisions of the four Geneva Conventions. In addition, “torture or inhuman treatment” and “wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health” constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and are war crimes under the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
4. Collocations:
– torture noun:

  • Adj.: brutal | systematic | mental, physical.
  • Verb + torture: inflict | suffer.
  • Torture + noun: camp, chamber, room | victim.

– torture verb:

  • Adv.: badly, brutally, severely | routinely.

S: 1. OED – (last access: 5 September 2014). 2. (last access: 2 September 2014). 3. (last access: 2 September 2014). 4. (last access: 11 May 2015).


CR: violence