Hooding is the practice of fully covering the head of a person. Hooding has been used in a number of countries with increasing frequency during the past 50 years.
The practice of hooding has been recognized as a form of torture and/or cruel, inhuman
and degrading treatment or punishment (CIDT) by a number of international
and regional human rights bodies.
The U.N. Committee Against Torture has determined that “hooding under special conditions” constitutes both torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.1 It noted that this finding would be “particularly evident” when hooding is used in combination with other coercive
interrogation methods. The Committee Against Torture has subsequently reaffirmed that blindfolding constitutes torture. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture has determined that “blindfolding and hooding should be forbidden”.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has noted that blindfolding “will frequently amount to psychological ill-treatment”, and that the practice should be abolished.
The European Court of Human Rights has determined that blindfolding a prisoner constitutes cruel or inhuman treatment when it is used in combination with other interrogation or detention methods and
can constitute torture when used with other techniques.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that playing the radio at full volume while hooding a detainee or otherwise subjecting her to light manipulation constitutes “mental torture”, as these techniques formed part of an overall effort to “obliterate the victim’s personality and demoralize her”.
The U.N. Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (The Istanbul Protocol) also recognizes the deprivation ofnormal sensory stimulation, such as sound, light, sense of time, isolation, manipulation
of brightness of the cell, abuse of physiological needs, restriction of sleep, food, water, toilet facilities, etc. as methods of torture.
In addition, the U.S. Department of State has described blindfolding as a form of torture and the new U.S. Army field manual on human intelligence collection also prohibits the use of sensory deprivation
and techniques such as placing of hoods or sacks over the heads of detainees or using duct tape over the eyes.
Despite international recognition of hooding as a form of torture and/or ill treatment, there have been a number of recent legal cases in which the use of hooding has been examined. The purpose of this statement is to provide legal experts and adjudicators with an understanding of the physical and psychological effects of hooding and other equivalent forms of sensory deprivation and whether hooding and other equivalent practices may constitute torture and/or CIDT.