The Unhelpful Committee Against Torture
The U.S. government often exhibits a silly kneejerk hostility to international institutions. But sometimes, its suspicions and skepticism is totally justified. The latest example of unhelpful U.N. overreach: the U.N. Committee Against Torture’s recommendation that the U.S. stop detaining individuals at Guantanamo Bay (which Roger noted below).
Here is the Committee’s key conclusion:
22. The Committee, noting that detaining persons indefinitely without charge, constitutes per se a violation of the Convention, is concerned that detainees are held for protracted periods at Guantánamo Bay, without sufficient legal safeguards and without judicial assessment of the justification for their detention. (articles 2, 3 and 16)
The State party should cease to detain any person at Guantánamo Bay and close this detention facility, permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible, ensuring that they are not returned to any State where they could face a real risk of being tortured, in order to comply with its obligations under the Convention.
Thus, even if, as the White House maintains, the U.S. is providing detainees with absolutely humane treatment and does not engage in any coercive interrogations at all, the U.S. is “per se” in violation of the Convention Against Torture.
In other words, a nation engaged in a military conflict violates the Convention Against Torture if it ever detains an individual without providing “a judicial assessment of the justification for their detention,” no matter whether that individual is mistreated in any way. It is not obvious that even complying with the Geneva Conventions would satisfy this committee.
I should also note that the U.S. spent a lot of time arguing that the reports of torture at Guantanamo Bay and detentions elsewhere are exaggerated or plain false. The Committee did not even acknowledge these factual claims, preferring to simply accept any allegations as more or less true. The Committee does not bother to note that it has turned down invitations to visit Guantanamo Bay to engage in fact-finding of its own.
In a final display of its complete lack of self-awareness, the Committee tartly advises the U.S. to “reconsider its express intention not to become party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.” In fact, the Committee’s somewhat ridiculous performance here only provides more fodder for critics of U.S. participation in the ICC or any international institution. The chances of the U.S. joining the ICC – which was never high –has just been reduced still further.