United Nations (UN) standards for forensic medical evaluations of alleged torture and ill-treatment are provided in the UN Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (The Istanbul Protocol). The Istanbul Protocol standards are widely recognized by the UN, regional and national human rights bodies and are routinely applied in courts of law as part of the investigative procedures or scientific evidence.
Despite international recognition of Istanbul Protocol standards for the effective medical evaluation of alleged torture or other ill-treatment, there have been a number of recent legal cases in which the access to information relevant to the discovery of medical evidence material to the case has been denied, limited, and/or filtered by legal experts and adjudicators on the basis of “national security” or other concerns.
The purpose of this statement is to provide legal experts and adjudicators with an understanding of the need for access to all information, including complete medical and other health records, and relevant legal records, as a fundamental part of any forensic medical evaluation of allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The opinions expressed in this statement are based on international standards and the experience of IFEG members in documenting the physical and psychological effects of torture and ill-treatment of thousands of detainees.