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U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT): Overview and Application to Interrogation Techniques

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The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment CAT requires signatory parties to take measures to end torture within their territorial jurisdiction and to criminalize all acts of torture. Unlike many other international agreements and declarations prohibiting torture, CAT provides a general definition of the term. CAT generally defines torture as the infliction of severe physical andor mental suffering committed under the color of law. CAT allows for no circumstances or emergencies where torture could be permitted. The United States ratified CAT, subject to certain declarations, reservations, and understandings, including that the Convention was not self-executing and therefore required domestic implementing legislation to be enforced by U.S. courts. To ensure U.S. compliance with CAT obligations to criminalize all acts of torture, the United States enacted sections 2340 and 2340A of the United States Criminal Code, which prohibit torture occurring outside the United States torture occurring inside the United States was already prohibited under several federal and state statutes of general application prohibiting acts such as assault, battery, and murder. Section 2340 defines United States to include areas covered under U.S. special and maritime jurisdiction, such as military facilities and other buildings in foreign States used for U.S. governmental purposes when a U.S. national is the offender or victim of an offense. Accordingly, sections 2340 and 2340A would generally appear not to apply to cases of torture that might occur in such facilities, because they are not outside the United States for purposes of U.S. law. Assuming that a U.S. body had to review a harsh interrogation method to determine whether it constituted torture under either CAT or applicable U.S. law, it might examine international jurisprudence as to whether certain interrogation methods constituted torture.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law

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