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U.S. Fails to Comply With Ban on Torture

U.N. Committee Challenges U.S. on Treaty Obligations

A high-level U.S. delegation’s exchange with the U.N. Committee against Torture reveals that the United States is failing to meet its international obligations to end torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, Human Rights Watch said today. The committee is expected to issue its conclusions and recommendations on U.S. practices by the end of this week.

In a submission to the committee yesterday, Human Rights Watch highlighted areas where the United States response fell short of its legal commitments under the Convention against Torture. Of particular concern, Washington continues to insist that past instances of torture and abuse were limited to a “few bad apples,” justifies its practice of holding terrorist suspects in incommunicado detention in secret facilities, and refuses to denounce the interrogation method known as “waterboarding” – a form of mock drowning – as torture.

“The United States should be embarrassed to stand before the international community and justify its use of forced disappearances – a practice that it rightly criticizes when carried out by other countries,” said Jennifer Daskal, U.S. advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

On May 5 and May 8, a delegation of 26 officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security faced questions from the U.N. Committee against Torture, the body of experts responsible for monitoring implementation of the global treaty prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The committee is due to issue its concluding recommendations and observations on May 19.

The Committee against Torture periodically reviews each of the 141 countries that have ratified the Convention against Torture. In previous years, the committee has expressed strong concerns about abusive interrogation techniques and secret or indefinite detention by countries that range from Sweden to Saudi Arabia.

In its last review of the United States in 2000, the committee focused largely on domestic issues, such as police ill-treatment and prison conditions. This year, these domestic issues were again on the committee’s agenda, but were overshadowed by the U.S. record on ill-treatment of detainees in its campaign against terrorism worldwide.

“This spotlight on America’s torture record should encourage the Bush administration to take serious steps to punish all those responsible for the mistreatment of detainees, and to implement new policies and practices that prevent such abuses from occurring again,” said Daskal.

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