Ensure torture does not go undetected: CTI’s New Tool on Initial Medical Assessment of Detainees upon Admission

The Convention against Torture Initiative (CTI) in collaboration with DIGNITY (Danish Institute Against Torture) releases its 10th tool in its series of UNCAT Implementation Tools on the ‘Initial Medical Assessment of Detainees upon Admission’. CTI’s new publication aims to assist governments across the globe to implement strategies for effective medical assessments of detainees by sharing international standards and existing promising State practices.
medical examination, stethoscope, medicine and therapy, background

The latest entry in CTI’s UNCAT Implementation Tool series offers guidance to States on how to provide for an effective initial medical assessment (IMA) of detainees upon admission to pre-trial and prison facilities. Such IMAs play an important role in ensuring appropriate medical care during detention and imprisonment, as well as in documenting signs or allegations of torture and other ill-treatment upon arrival at the detention facility. IMAs are thereby serving as a deterrent against acts of torture and other ill-treatment that may take place before a detainee is transferred to a pre-trial detention facility or a prison. An effective initial medical assessment, therefore, contributes to the identification and subsequent prosecution of acts of torture and plays an important part in the prevention of torture and other ill-treatment, two core obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). Furthermore, the IMA may prevent ill-treatment by identifying and attending to the health conditions of an arriving detainee requiring urgent attention and can also protect staff and management of an institution against false allegations of torture.

Such medical assessments are an important means for the early identification of cases of torture and other ill-treatment and provides an opportunity for the referral of any such cases to the relevant authorities for investigation and prosecution, thereby contributing to the effective implementation of the UN Convention against Torture.

Gayethri Pillay, Head of CTI Secretariat

CTI’s new tool is tailored for government policymakers, legislators, as well as prison authorities and staff. It explains the different purposes and key requirements for an effective initial medical assessment (IMA) and shares a range of positive State practices already in place in different regions of the world.

In this tool, guidance can be found on:

  • The purposes of the IMA, including its role in the prevention of torture and other ill-treatment, and the identification of detainees with special needs or communicable diseases such as COVID-19;
  • How to conduct an IMA in practice, including who should carry it out and within which timeframe upon admission, as well as the different elements of an IMA;
  • Follow-up on signs and allegations of torture or other ill-treatment detected during the IMA and referral of such cases to relevant authorities; as well as

The tool also contains key recommendations for States on implementation strategies in order to provide for effective IMAs, including measures to be taken on the policy, administrative and practical levels. 

You can read the tool in English here. Other language versions will be available soon.


CTI ‘UNCAT Implementation Tools’ are part of a series of practical tools designed to share good practices among States on the implementation of UNCAT, by offering thematic guidance and ideas for State practitioners and policymakers.

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