Published at 30 Boston College Third World Law Journal 35 (2009)

Document Type



The Latin phrase nemo tenetur seipsum accusare means roughly “no man has to accuse himself.” It is the basis of our rights against self incrimination and forced inculpation. It protects against three practical problems associated with confessions: (1) untrustworthy confessions; (2) involuntary confessions; and (3) confessions provoked through unacceptable force. This article argues that the Nemo tenetur principle was intended primarily to avoid the third problem: confessions obtained through improper methods. It examines the arguments for and against justifying the principle as a protection against either untrustworthy or involuntary confessions. The article also develops a framework to aid in the identification of improper methods of interrogation. Finally, it concludes by applying this framework to three hypothetical cases and arguing that only confessions obtained through unacceptable force should be barred.