The Signature of Evil

This book explores the notion of torture in international law with the intention of discovering the precise meaning of this most infamous and yet still very prevalent practice.
Steven Dewulf
book | published | 1st edition
September 2011 | xx + 618 pp.


ISBN 9781780680217


Winner of the Henri Rolin Prize 2013
Winner of the Ciardi Prize 2012

Special mention from Jury of the Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award 2011

In The Signature of Evil, the notion of torture in international law is explored, with the intention of discovering the precise meaning of this most infamous and yet still very prevalent practice. By devouring a wealth of international legal sources, and combining this with personal field research and a look at the historical, philosophical, cultural, political and social background of torture’s use and abolition, this book’s first ambition is to define the term. This leads to an extensive and impressive overview, in which torture’s constituent elements are carefully identified, thoroughly and meticulously scrutinised, and critically evaluated. On the basis of this synthesis and analysis, in which all possible uncertainties, problems and evolutions are highlighted and discussed, a redefinition is proposed, which does not shy away from setting foot on new terrain and trying what might be revolutionary roads. Some thought provoking ideas are suggested, and at times controversial choices are made, but all this is done in order to attain one all-important goal: enhancing torture’s absolute and non-derogable prohibition, and strengthening the international legal framework against unlawful abuse.

From the jury report of the Henri Rolin Prize 2013
‘… thorough and diligent research, professionalism and work of high quality, which in addition showed much legal imagination and originality in the treatment of the legal argument.’ […]‘despite an emotional topic, the author did not opt for an easy and too strong ideological approach, but remained with the intricacies of the law and used it as a weapon for an at times dazzling demonstration. The work is therefore an extraordinary contribution to the science of international law.’

From the jury report of the Ciardi Prize 2012
‘Steven Dewulf’s book is an innovative and colossal research on the crime of torture in international law under any possible aspect and considering the elements of the crime in light of current legal theory and practice. The book reveals a profound and genuine knowledge, especially (albeit not exclusively) at the theoretical level, of what torture is and how the law should evolve to better capture the essence of the phenomenon. Steven Dewulf’s book represents an original and fundamental contribution to the creation of a common global legal understanding of those ignominious practices which can be grouped under the term “torture”.’

From the preface by Christine Van den Wyngaert, Judge in the ICC
‘This book is quite fascinating reading. It is well written, the ideas are clearly developed and the arguments are persuading. It is a must-read for students of international criminal law, international humanitarian law and of international human rights law. The, at times, provocative and challenging ideas that are spread all over the book, can only stimulate further legal thinking in these disciplines.’

From the Jury report for the Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award 2011
‘This is a great book about a horrible subject. It clearly and eloquently maps out the size and severity of the problem of torture and engages in a careful analysis of the constitutive elements of torture as defined in current international law. It is written in a very accessible, and at times compelling, style. The jury finds that this book deserves a special mention for the high quality and the incisiveness of the analyses and for its most valuable contribution to a new conceptualisation of the notion of torture.’

‘[a] most compelling book.’
Jason Richland on (31 March 2012)

‘[a] uniquely detailed analysis of the definition of torture in international law. [Moreover] Dewulf provokes the reader to reflect deeply on what kind of behaviour or acts the international prohibition on torture ought to capture and on how these acts are distinguishable from other forms of ill treatment prohibited under international law. [a] solid platform for debate.’
Michelle Farrell in Irish Yearbook of International Law 2011, 195

Table of Contents

There are no separate chapters available for this publication.