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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 treaty was not self-executing and required implementing legislation to be enforced by U.S. courts. In order to ensure U.S. compliance with CAT obligations to criminalize all acts of torture, the United States enacted chapter 113C of the United States Criminal Code, which prohibits torture occurring outside the United States torture occurring inside the United States was already generally prohibited under several federal and state statutes criminalizing acts such as assault, battery, and murder. The applicability and scope of these statutes were the subject of widely-reported memorandums by the Department of Defense and Department of Justice in 2002. The memorandums were criticized by some for taking an overly restrictive view of treatment constituting torture. In late 2004, the Department of Justice released a memorandum superseding its earlier memo and modifying some of its conclusions. In January 2009, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order providing that when conducting prospective interrogations, U.S. agents are generally forbidden from relying upon any interpretation of the law governing interrogations issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001 and the final day of the Bush Administration, absent further guidance from the Attorney General.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law

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