(Geneva, May 19, 2006) The United Nations Committee against Torture today issued a strong and thorough critique of the U.S. record on torture. Human Rights Watch urged the United States to adopt the committee’s recommendations.
Of note, the committee called upon the United States to close all secret prisons, hold accountable senior military and civilian officials who authorized, acquiesced or consented to acts of torture committed by their subordinates, and end its practice of transferring detainees to countries with known torture records. The committee also criticized the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and called for its closure. The committee rejected U.S. claims that the Convention against Torture did not apply to U.S. personnel acting outside of the United States or during wartime.
"The Committee against Torture repudiated every argument made by the Bush administration to justify its controversial detention and interrogation policies,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Washington should seize this opportunity to end these illegal practices and regain the moral high ground in its fight against terrorism.”
The committee also criticized practices that were the subject of its last review in 2000, including the practice in the United States of housing children in adult jails and prisons, and the prolonged isolation of prisoners housed in so-called “supermax” prisons. The committee expressed concern that executions by lethal injection could be accompanied by severe pain and suffering.
The committee asked the United States to report in one year on compliance with a number of its recommendations, including its recommendation that the U.S. close Guantanamo Bay, register detainees captured in the fight against terrorism, and end its practice of reliance on “diplomatic assurances” – unmonitored and unenforced promises from a government – to transfer individuals to countries with known records of torture.
The Committee against Torture is an international body of experts that monitors state compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Conclusions and Recommendations issued on May 19, 2006 were in consideration of the second periodic report of the United States to the committee.
Human Rights Watch urges the United States to seriously review the committee’s Conclusions and Recommendations and promptly institute the changes in policy and practice recommended by the committee.