Your right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman way

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

In the UK, human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. The Act gives effect to the human rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 3 - the right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way is one of the rights protected by the Human Rights Act.

Read this page to find out more about what this right means under the Human Rights Act.

What rights are protected under article 3?

Article 3 says you mustn’t be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way. Article 3 protects you if you've suffered ill-treatment which is very severe. Whether something is severe enough to be a breach of article 3 depends on the circumstances of your case - for example:

  • how old you are

  • whether you're a man or a woman

  • how long the treatment has lasted

  • your health

  • how the treatment has affected you physically or mentally.

What's meant by inhuman treatment?

Inhuman treatment is ill-treatment which causes you severe mental or physical suffering. The ill-treatment doesn't have to be deliberate or inflicted on purpose.

What's meant by degrading treatment?

Degrading treatment is treatment which is grossly humiliating or undignified. Very severe forms of discrimination or harassment could be degrading treatment.

Duty to take positive steps

Article 3 also imposes a positive obligation on public authorities to protect you from serious ill-treatment by other individuals.

For example, the courts have said that a local authority must take positive steps to protect children from abuse and neglect by a parent or foster carer if they know they're at risk. If the local authority fails to protect children from abuse or neglect in this situation it could be a breach of article 3.

When could you use article 3?

Examples of where there could be a breach of article 3 include:

  • serious physical or mental abuse

  • inhuman detention conditions - for example, in police cells, mental health hospitals or in prison

  • use of excessive force on patients or detainees

  • serious neglect in a care home or hospital

  • malnutrition and dehydration

  • the deportation of someone to a country where there is a real risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.


Your mother is in a local authority funded care home. She recently had a stroke and needs help with washing and eating. Last time you visited her she seemed vey distressed and frail. She was unwashed and her clothes were dirty. She says the care workers often don't help her to wash or eat as they don't have time.

This could be a breach of your mother's right not be treated in an inhuman or degrading way. You could complain to the care home that they're breaching her article 3 rights. You could also contact the local authority about your mother's treatment.

Article 3 is an absolute right. This means public authorities must always respect this right.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

The EASS helpline can provide advice and information on human rights and discrimination issues.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

Scottish Human Rights Commission

You can find more information on human rights on the website of the Scottish Human Rights Commission at