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December 06, 2005

Human Rights First Calls on Secretary Rice to Recognize U.S. Obligations under Convention Against Torture

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In a letter sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today, Human Rights First called on Rice to unequivocally recognize U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

Said Elisa Massimino, Washington Director of Human Rights First: “In remarks to reporters yesterday, Secretary Rice continued to equivocate regarding the obligations of the United States under the Convention Against Torture not to treat prisoners in its custody inhumanely. The Administration has erroneously claimed that Article 16 of the treaty, which bans cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, does not apply at all outside the United States – not to Guantanamo Bay, not to U.S. controlled prisons in Iraq or Afghanistan, and not to other secret U.S. controlled detention facilities in Europe or elsewhere around the world. This position is a misinterpretation of U.S. obligations under Article 16, and the Administration’s adherence to this policy is damaging to the United States’ position in the world.”

In the letter to Rice, Human Rights First said: “It is critical to make clear that conduct such as mock drowning, or ‘waterboarding,’ and other such abuses violate U.S. treaty obligations and will not be authorized or tolerated. To do so would reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the rule of law. It would also help restore the U.S. Government’s moral leadership, essential to its efforts to create a more secure world.”

The Convention Against Torture was drafted in the 1980’s with significant U.S. involvement and support. It now has been ratified by 140 countries, including the United States. Article 16 of the Convention imposes on every state an obligation to prevent cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in any “territory under its jurisdiction”. This obligation had the full support of Presidents Reagan, GHW Bush and Clinton.