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A.I. Reports on US Compliance with UN Convention Against Torture

In May 2000, a United States government delegation appeared before the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva to present its first report on the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture). When the government had presented its case, the Committee issued a list of conclusions and recommendations.

Amnesty International has issued two papers reflecting this report and its results: A Briefing for the UN Committee Against Torture, a document submitted by AI to the U.S. government before the US delegation presented its report and in which AI outlines its main concerns with respect to the state of human rights in this country; and for call to action by the UN Committee Against Torture, that AI published after the Committee had reached its conclusions. The last document actually consists of three parts: a one page statement by AI, a letter to the President from AIs General Secretary Pierre Sane and an addenda listing the Committee's conclusions and recommendations.

It is not surprising to find that many areas of concern expressed in the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee and by Secretary General Sane closely coincide with areas of concern expressed by AI in its original briefing paper to the government, viz.,

" The lack of a federal law declaring torture to be a crime.

" The lack of U.S. compliance with the terms of the Convention Against Torture, in particular its reservations with respect to Article 16 (defining cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and the state's obligation to prevent it). In the words of the Committee, "the effect of [this] is to limit the application of the Convention." AI, which has consistently opposed the death penalty, goes further to say, "The US reservation to Article 16 was made explicitly with reference to the continued use of the death penalty ... aspects of which the US Government acknowledged ... could constitute `cruel and inhuman' punishment... The reservation has far reaching implications and can apply to any US laws or practices which may breach international standards for humane treatment but are allowed under the US Constitution, for example, prolonged isolation or the use of electro-shock weapons."

" The failure to protect civilians from police ill-treatment and the ill-treatment of prisoners. The Committee notes, "much of this ill-treatment by police and prison guards seems to be based on discrimination."

" The failure to protect female prisoners from sexual assault by law enforcement and correctional personnel.

" The mistreatment of children in custody, particularly their being held with adults in the general prison population.

It would be interesting to see the report the US Government presented to the Committee. It was asked to "submit a second periodic report by 19 November 2000."

These documents are available from:

Amnesty International USA

322 Eighth Avenue, New York, New York 10001

The full names, document numbers are as follows:

1. A Briefing on the UN Committee against Torture, May 2000, AI Index: AMR 51/56/00, $7

2. A Call to Action by the UN Committee Against Torture, July 2000, AI Index: AMR 51/107/00

This last document includes Pierre Sane's letter to the President and the Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee Against Torture: United States of America. 15/15/00. CAT/C/24/6 (Concluding Observations Comments).

The price for the Briefing alone is $9, for the call to action alone is $3; for the two together is $10.

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