The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666;

On Anniversary of Treaty Ratification, US Should Ensure Prohibition of Torture Meets International Standards


Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the U.S. ratification of the
United Nations Convention Against Torture, but U.S. policy continues to
fall short of ensuring full compliance with the treaty. For example, an
appendix to the Army Field Manual (AFM) can still facilitate cruel
treatment of prisoners and detainees at home and abroad, says the
American Civil Liberties Union.

The Convention Against Torture and
Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT) is the most
comprehensive international human rights treaty dealing exclusively
with the issues of torture and abuse. It came into effect in 1987, and
has been ratified by 146 countries. The treaty was initially signed by
the Reagan administration in 1988 and was ratified by the Senate on
October 21, 1994, but with reservations, understandings and
declarations (RUDs) that failed to make the treaty fully applicable.
The Bush administration exploited these RUDs to justify abusive
interrogation policies including the use of waterboarding, stress
positions, extreme isolation and sleep deprivation. In 2006, the
Committee Against Torture, which reviews country compliance with CAT,
criticized the U.S. for failure to uphold the treaty and called for
full compliance.

After taking office, President Obama
admirably issued an executive order prohibiting torture. But under an
appendix to the 2006 revised U.S. Army Field Manual - the most recent
edition - practices considered incompatible with CAT and international
law are still allowed, including force-feeding, psychological torture,
sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation. Under Appendix M to the AFM,
detainees can be 'separated' or held in isolation from other detainees
for 30 days, or longer with authorization, and allowed only four hours
of continuous sleep per night over 30 days, which can be prolonged upon

The following can be attributed to Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program:

"In recent years, the United States
has shamefully evaded international human rights commitments and
exempted itself from universally recognized standards of humane
treatment. Fifteen years after ratifying CAT, the Obama administration
has an opportunity to change course and ensure that the U.S. does not
interpret any of the CAT's provisions in a way that fails to uphold
human rights obligations. To fulfill its human rights requirements, the
administration must also fully investigate crimes of torture committed
in violation of U.S. and international law and withdraw the Army Field
Manual's Appendix M."

For more on the Committee Against Torture's recommendations and follow-up letters to the U.S. government, please see:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666