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US accused of creating ‘climate of torture’ - report to UN torture committee

Amnesty International has accused the United States of creating a “climate of torture” today (Wednesday 3 May), as it published a new report on the USA’s record on torture and other ill-treatment.

The United Nations specialist committee against torture is set to examine the USA’s record in complying with its international obligations to prevent and punish torture (5 and 8 May) - the first time during the “war on terror” that it has done so. Amnesty International’s report is part of the evidence-gathering process.

Meanwhile the US State Department is reported to be sending a 30-strong-delegation to Geneva to defend the country’s record.

Amnesty International USA Senior Deputy Executive Director Curt Goering said:
“Although the US government continues to assert its condemnation of torture and ill-treatment, these statements contradict what is happening in practice.

“The US government is not only failing to take steps to eradicate torture it is actually creating a climate in which torture and other ill-treatment can flourish - including by trying to narrow the definition of torture.”

Besides looking at the USA’s domestic torture record, Amnesty International’s 47-page report examines the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite a series of deaths of detainees held in US custody, no US agent has yet been prosecuted for "torture" or "war crimes".

Curt Goering added:
“The heaviest sentence imposed on anyone to date for a torture-related death while in US custody is five months - the same sentence that you might receive in the US for stealing a bicycle. In this case, the five-month sentence was for assaulting a 22-year-old taxi-driver who was hooded and chained to a ceiling while being kicked and beaten until he died.”

Amnesty International’s report calls for the US to withdraw “reservations” it has entered to the UN Convention against Torture, including its "understanding" of Article 1 of the convention, which could restrict the scope of the definition of torture by the US.

The organisation also called on the US to clarify to the UN committee that under its laws no one, including the President, has the right or authority to order the torture or ill-treatment of detainees under any circumstances.

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