Cutaneous Manifestations of Torture and Intentional Abuse

  • Coleen Kivlahan
  • Jan GutermuthEmail author
  • Karlijn Clarysse


In 1984, Article 1 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [1] (UNCAT) defines torture as:

...any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

It is impossible to ascertain the precise number of people experiencing torture annually. Torture is frequently underreported. Reasons for failure to report include detention of victims, paucity of attorneys and physician experts to support documentation, and threats from perpetrators and death due to torture or its sequelae. Amnesty International documented torture in 141 countries [2] over the last 5 years. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT 2010) estimated that there are about 400,000 victims of torture living in the EU and a similar number in the USA [3]. No one is immune from the risk of torture, and reported cases include teachers, politicians, journalists, health professionals, human rights defenders, people in detention or prison, members of ethnic minorities, and student leaders [4].


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Coleen Kivlahan
    • 1
  • Jan Gutermuth
    • 2
    Email author
  • Karlijn Clarysse
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Family and Community Medicine, Primary Care ServicesUCSF School of MedicineSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Department of DermatologyUniversitair Ziekenhuis Brussel, Vrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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