Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991

(Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate)


One Hundred Second Congress of the United States of America

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Friday, the third day of January, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-two

An Act

To carry out obligations of the United States under the United Nations Charter and other international agreements pertaining to the protection of human rights by establishing a civil action for recovery of damages from an individual who engages in torture or extrajudicial killing.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991'.


(a) Liability- An individual who, under actual or apparent authority, or color of law, of any foreign nation--

(1) subjects an individual to torture shall, in a civil action, be liable for damages to that individual; or

(2) subjects an individual to extrajudicial killing shall, in a civil action, be liable for damages to the individual's legal representative, or to any person who may be a claimant in an action for wrongful death.

(b) Exhaustion of Remedies- A court shall decline to hear a claim under this section if the claimant has not exhausted adequate and available remedies in the place in which the conduct giving rise to the claim occurred.

(c) Statute of Limitations- No action shall be maintained under this section unless it is commenced within 10 years after the cause of action arose.


(a) Extrajudicial Killing- For the purposes of this Act, the term `extrajudicial killing' means a deliberated killing not authorized by a previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. Such term, however, does not include any such killing that, under international law, is lawfully carried out under the authority of a foreign nation.

(b) Torture- For the purposes of this Act--

(1) the term `torture' means any act, directed against an individual in the offender's custody or physical control, by which severe pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering arising only from or inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions), whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on that individual for such purposes as obtaining from that individual or a third person information or a confession, punishing that individual for an act that individual or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, intimidating or coercing that individual or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind; and

(2) mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from--

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

(C) the threat of imminent death; or

(D) the threat that another individual will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Vice President of the United States and
President of the Senate.

Documentation Note: H.R. 2092, approved March 12, was assigned Public Law No. 102 - 256.

See also the Alien Tort Claims Act

Economic and Social Rights

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This document has been published on 09Nov02 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights