There is significant interdependence between the Refugee Convention and other human rights treaties. The concept of non-refoulement is present in many of them in various forms, often with broader application than that found in the Refugee Convention itself.

International instruments

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

The UDHR was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Unlike the Refugee Convention, the UDHR set out a clear right to asylum. Article 14 states: ‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. 

The UDHR is influential as a global statement on the rights of individuals, however it is not binding in international law.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Article 7 of the ICCPR states ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.

The ICCPR does not refer directly to the concept of refoulement, but it is read as a prohibition on the return of persons to their country of origin or to a third country where they may be subject to such treatment. 

It forms part of the complementary protection regime that applies to those who do not fit within the definition of ‘refugee’ within the Refugee Convention.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Article 37 of the CRC states ‘No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. This provision is similar to Article 7 of the ICCPR but applies specifically to children.

The CRC also forms part of the complementary protection regime.

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

Article 3 of CAT contains an explicit and absolute prohibition on returning a person to a country where they will be at risk of torture. 

It states: ‘No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he [or she] would be in danger of being subjected to torture’.

Regional instruments

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

Article 3 of the ECHR prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, but does not specifically mention non-refoulement. However the European Court of Human Rights has stated that the principle is incorporated within Article 3.

Organisation of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa

Article II(3) of this convention, in conjunction with Article I(1) and (2), prohibits rejection, return or expulsion on grounds similar to the five ‘convention reasons’ in the Refugee Convention.

American Convention on Human Rights

Article 22.8 of this convention prohibits the return of a person to a country of origin or third country if there is danger of the right to life or personal freedom being violated because of ‘race, nationality, religion, social status, or political opinions’.

There is no human rights treaty in the Asia-Pacific.



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Last updated November 2016.