Principles of Medical Ethics relevant to the Role of Health Personnel,
particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment
Adopted by General Assembly resolution 37/194of 18 December 1982
Principle 1
Health personnel, particularly physicians, charged with the medical care of prisoners
and detainees have a duty to provide them with protection of their physical and mental
health and treatment of disease of the same quality and standard as is afforded to those
who are not imprisoned or detained.
Principle 2
It is a gross contravention of medical ethics, as well as an offence under applicable
international instruments, for health personnel, particularly physicians, to engage,
actively or passively, in acts which constitute participation in, complicity in, incitement to
or attempts to commit torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment.<1>
Principle 3
It is a contravention of medical ethics for health personnel, particularly physicians, to be
involved in any professional relationship with prisoners or detainees the purpose of
which is not solely to evaluate, protect or improve their physical and mental health.
Principle 4
It is a contravention of medical ethics for health personnel, particularly physicians:
(a) To apply their knowledge and skills in order to assist in the interrogation of prisoners
and detainees in a manner that may adversely affect the physical or mental health or
condition of such prisoners or detainees and which is not in accordance with the
relevant international instruments; <2>
(b) To certify, or to participate in the certification of, the fitness of prisoners or detainees
for any form of treatment or punishment that may adversely affect their physical or
mental health and which is not in accordance with the relevant international instruments,
or to participate in any way in the infliction of any such treatment or punishment which is
not in accordance with the relevant international instruments.
Principle 5
It is a contravention of medical ethics for health personnel, particularly physicians, to
participate in any procedure for restraining a prisoner or detainee unless such a
procedure is determined in accordance with purely medical criteria as being necessary
for the protection of the physical or mental health or the safety of the prisoner or
detainee himself, of his fellow prisoners or detainees, or of his guardians, and presents
no hazard to his physical or mental health.
Principle 6
There may be no derogation from the foregoing principles on any ground whatsoever,
including public emergency.
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<1> See the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to
Torture and Other Cruel. Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (resolution
3452 (XXX), annex).
<2> Particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (resolution 217 A (111)), the
International Covenants on Human Rights (resolution 2200 A (XXI). annex), the
Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (resolution 3452 (XXX), annex)
and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (First United Nations
Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders: report by the
Secretariat (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.1956.IV.4, annex I.A).