Government Defies Recommendations of U.N. Committee on Torture

November 7, 2007 12:00 am

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Group Calls One Year Follow-Up Report a Whitewash

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today blasted the government’s one year follow-up report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture. The report was recently submitted to the committee in Geneva and was made public Tuesday. Following a 2006 committee review that found widespread evidence of U.S sponsored policies involving torture and abuse, the committee gave the U.S. one year to report on its progress in ending these practices. But the new report proves the U.S. is still not in compliance with the treaty, said the ACLU.

“With the debate over waterboarding front and center, it is shocking to see the U.S. government continue to defend its shameful record of sanctioning secret and indefinite detention and its lack of accountability for torture and abuse,” said Jamil Dakwar, Advocacy Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. “The torture committee attempted to give the U.S. government a chance to correct its wrongs, but unfortunately the Bush administration responded with nothing more than empty gestures and hollow words.”

In its short submission to the torture committee, the U.S. reiterated its position that the Convention against Torture is not fully applicable to its treatment of individuals held in the Bush administration’s fight against terrorism. The ACLU found that the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody was facilitated by the government’s decision not to apply the Geneva Conventions, and to narrowly interpret or deliberately ignore prohibitions in the Convention Against Torture. In a series of legal memoranda, senior administration lawyers, led by former White House Counsel and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, developed a framework to justify the administration’s circumvention of international legal prohibitions of torture and abuse. The framework included three secret memos issued in May 2005 by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel relating to the interrogation of detainees in CIA custody.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture is the world’s leading human rights body tasked with holding countries accountable for torture and other abusive practices. The committee, which meets twice a year to examine countries’ compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, met in May 2006 to review U.S. compliance with the treaty, which the U.S. ratified in 1994.

In its 2006 review, the Committee Against Torture found the U.S. was in stark violation of the treaty and issued an exceptionally long and comprehensive list of concerns and recommendations in order to bring the U.S. into compliance. The committee gave the U.S. government one year to provide detailed information on its response to the committee’s recommendations regarding specific issues, both on the domestic and extraterritorial level.

According to the ACLU, today’s response from the U.S. reveals that it has failed to respond to the torture committee’s directives from last year, including:

  • Ensuring that no one is detained in any secret detention facility;
  • Prohibiting the transfer or the rendition of persons to countries where they could be at risk of being tortured and providing detailed records on all diplomatic guarantees assuring that a person will not be tortured if expelled, returned, transferred or extradited since 9/11;
  • Closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, and either permitting access by the detainees to a fair judicial process or releasing them as soon as possible while ensuring that they are not returned to any state where they could face a real risk of being tortured;
  • Ending gender-based humiliation and the mistreatment of women detainees, including the federal Bureau of Prisons’ policy of shackling of women during childbirth in certain circumstances;
  • Promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigating all allegations of acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law enforcement personnel and bringing perpetrators to justice;
  • Addressing sentences of life imprisonment for children, which could constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Ensuring that reports of brutality and ill-treatment of members of vulnerable groups by law enforcement personnel-including those related to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina-are independently, promptly and thoroughly investigated and that perpetrators are prosecuted and appropriately punished.

“The U.S. government’s report demonstrates that its progress is woefully inadequate,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “Nowhere did the government report any significant improvements in preventing the abusive conditions of confinement in this country, the problem of sexual assault in our prisons, or the use of restraint devices that have endangered many detainees and prisoners held domestically.”

In 2006, the ACLU presented the committee with its detailed report, Enduring Abuse: Torture and Cruel Treatment by the United States at Home and Abroad, which documents U.S. failure to comply with the treaty against torture within the U.S. and abroad.

The ACLU’s report to the Committee Against Torture is available online at:

The U.S. follow-up report to the Committee Against Torture is available online at:

For more information, over 100,000 government documents turned over to the ACLU as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit are available online in a searchable database at:

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