[JURIST] The UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) [official website] on Monday opened its 53rd session [report, PDF] and discussed the changes that have been made since the Convention Against Torture [text], an international legal framework to prevent torture and other types of inhumane treatment or punishment, was adopted 30 years ago. During the convention, UNCAT chairman Claudio Grossman expressed his recognition that torture and inhumane punishment continues in certain countries, including the US, and voiced his hopes that all countries in the UN would adopt the convention. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] specifically mentioned inhumane treatment by US officials in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, which violated the terms set out in the convention. In response to a statement by US President Barak Obama [official website] in which he attempted to justify inhumane treatment of prisoners of war after the 9/11 attacks, UNCAT explained that:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked by a State Party to justify acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. The Convention identifies as among such circumstances a state of war or threat thereof, internal political instability or any other public emergency. This includes any threat of terrorist acts or violent crime as well as armed conflict, international or non-international. The Committee is deeply concerned at and rejects absolutely any effort by States to justify torture and ill-treatment as a means to protect public safety or avert emergencies in these and all other situations.
UNCAT effectively addressed the issues of accountability and redress in situations involving inhumane treatment.
It has now been 20 years since the US ratified UNCAT and controversy continues to surround CIA programs, which were allegedly involved in torture against detainees. In July the European Court of Human Rights [official website] handed down two rulings [JURIST report] finding the Polish government in violation of European human rights laws based on the establishment of prison center linked to CIA’s extraordinary rendition program in Poland. Last October the lawyer for five Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] prisoners charged with plotting the 9/11 attacks asked [JURIST report] Obama in an open letter to declassify the CIA interrogation program that allegedly subjected prisoners to torture. The letter argued that the continued classification of this program is suppressing important evidence related to the case. In 2009 the US Department of Justice [official website] released [JURIST report] four top secret memos from the Office of Legal Counsel [official website] outlining controversial CIA interrogation techniques and their legal rationale. The previously undisclosed memos were released with redactions in response to the FOIA lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] during the Bush administration.