UN report criticizes US compliance with anti-torture treaty News
UN report criticizes US compliance with anti-torture treaty

[JURIST] The UN Committee Against Torture [official website] released a report [text, PDF] on Friday that found the US has fallen short of full compliance with the Convention Against Torture international treaty [text]. Police brutality [JURIST report], detention facilities, military interrogations and the criminalization of torture itself were several of the top concerns. The committee raised particular concern regarding the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] detention facility, urging the US to cease the indefinite holding of suspects of terrorism-related activities without official charge or trial, to “appropriately prosecute those responsible” for detainee mistreatment and to “ensure effective redress for victims.” The panel called on the US to abolish unreasonable sleep deprivation during military interrogations as well as the practice of sensory deprivation, as scientific studies have shown that it induces psychosis. The committee also urged the US to federally criminalize torture:

Notwithstanding the State party’s statement that under U.S. law, acts of torture are prohibited by various statutes and may be prosecuted in a variety of ways, the Committee regrets that a specific offence of torture has not been introduced yet at the federal level. The Committee is of the view that the introduction of such offence, in full conformity with Article 1 of the Convention, would strengthen the human rights protection framework in the State party.

The panel recommended the re-introduction of the Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act [text, PDF], a bill previously proposed to Congress in 2012 that defines torture and criminalizes acts of torture by law enforcement officers and others acting under the color of law.

Last month the UN discussed changes [JURIST report] made to the original Convention Against Torture since its 1987 adoption and urged universal ratification. Torture remains a human rights issue worldwide despite a call from UN officials [JURIST report] in June to end torture in celebration of International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In October the Supreme Court of Canada ruled [JURIST report] that citizens cannot sue foreign governments for torture as a result of the country’s State Immunity Act, which gives foreign states immunity from the jurisdiction of any Canadian court. Also in October the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] warned [JURIST report] that, despite the fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, abuses such as abductions, torture and ill-treatment still affect local civilians daily.