University of Minnesota

International Council of Nurses, Statement on Nurses and Torture (1989; reviewed in 1991; replaced, 1998).


Main category: E1
Related categories: B3, B7

Violations of human rights have become more pervasive and scientific discoveries have brought about more sophisticated forms of torture and methods of resuscitation.

Although nurses may not voluntarily participate in any form of physical or psychological torture, they must know what is expected of them and what action they must take to safeguard human rights (1).

Nurses need to know that, although the apparent motive for much of the treatment during and after torture is the protection of the victim, it is often carried out more as protection of the torturers.

The nurse may be called upon to act alone or to assist in the following situations:

The nurse's primary responsibility is to those people who require nursing care. If the victim of cruel, wanton, degrading or any other inhuman procedure of treatment (in the independent opinion of the nurse) requires nursing care, then no motive should prevail against the nurse giving such care to the highest standard possible.

The national nurses' associations (NNAs) need to ensure that their structure provides a realistic mechanism through which nurses can seek confidential advice, counsel, support and assistance in dealing with these difficult situations. Verification of the facts reported will be an important first step in any particular case.

The Responsibility of the Nurse

The nurse shall not countenance, condone or voluntarily participate in:

Adopted in 1989
Last reviewed in 1991

Related Position Statements:
  • The nurse's role in safeguarding human rights
  • The nurse's role in the care of detainees and prisoners

(1) International Council of Nurses, The Nurse's Role in Safeguarding Human Rights, Position Statement, adopted in 1983, reviewed in 1991

(2) Amnesty International, Code of Professional Ethics, 2nd Edition, London, Amnesty International Publications, 1984



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