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U.S. FAILS TO COMPLY WITH BAN ON TORTURE

U.N. Committee Challenges U.S. on Treaty Obligations


19 May 2006
(Washington, D.C., May 17, 2006) – A high-level U.S. delegation's exchange with the U.N. Committee against Torture reveals that the United States is failing to meet its international obligations to end torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, Human Rights Watch said today. The committee is expected to issue its conclusions and recommendations on U.S. practices by the end of this week.

In a submission to the committee yesterday, Human Rights Watch highlighted areas where the United States response fell short of its legal commitments under the Convention against Torture. Of particular concern, Washington continues to insist that past instances of torture and abuse were limited to a "few bad apples," justifies its practice of holding terrorist suspects in incommunicado detention in secret facilities, and refuses to denounce the interrogation method known as "waterboarding" – a form of mock drowning – as torture.

"The United States should be embarrassed to stand before the international community and justify its use of forced disappearances – a practice that it rightly criticizes when carried out by other countries," said Jennifer Daskal, U.S. advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.


On May 5 and May 8, a delegation of 26 officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security faced questions from the U.N. Committee against Torture, the body of experts responsible for monitoring implementation of the global treaty prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The committee is due to issue its concluding recommendations and observations on May 19.

The Committee against Torture periodically reviews each of the 141 countries that have ratified the Convention against Torture. In previous years, the committee has expressed strong concerns about abusive interrogation techniques and secret or indefinite detention by countries that range from Sweden to Saudi Arabia.

In its last review of the United States in 2000, the committee focused largely on domestic issues, such as police ill-treatment and prison conditions. This year, these domestic issues were again on the committee's agenda, but were overshadowed by the U.S. record on ill-treatment of detainees in its campaign against terrorism worldwide.

"This spotlight on America's torture record should encourage the Bush administration to take serious steps to punish all those responsible for the mistreatment of detainees, and to implement new policies and practices that prevent such abuses from occurring again," said Daskal.

FULL REPORT

For more of Human Rights Watch's work on Torture and Abuse please visit:
http://hrw.org/doc/?t=torture

USA: TOO SLOW TO HELP, TOO EAGER TO KILL

31 Jan 2006

   USA: Too slow to help, too eager to kill
Systemic failure and the execution of severely mentally ill offenders

  Hundreds of severely mentally ill offenders in the US, are mired within a healthcare system that is too slow to help and a justice system that is too quick to pass death sentences, said Amnesty International today as it launched a major report on the use of the death penalty against mentally ill offenders in the US.

The report focuses on the systemic problems confronting the mentally ill and chronicles the cases of 100 severely mentally ill offenders who have been executed since 1977 -- 1 in 10 of the total number of executions carried out since then.

Citing pervasive systemic failures in both the healthcare and criminal justice systems, the report also highlights the grim situation of the mentally ill currently on death row, which according to the US National Association of Mental Health is 5 to 10 per cent of the US’s total death row population of approximately 3,400.

READ THE ARTICLE

U.S.: JUSTIFYING ABUSE OF DETAINEES

2 Feb 2005

New York, January 25, 2005) The Bush administration contends that no law prevents the Central Intelligence Agency from engaging in inhumane treatment of detainees abroad, Human Rights Watch said today.

"The prohibition of torture and inhumane treatment is absolute. It should never be read to legitimize the outsourcing of abuse to U.S. interrogators overseas." Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

In responses to U.S. Senate inquiries, White House Counsel and Attorney General-nominee Alberto Gonzales claimed that the prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment enshrined in a treaty the United States ratified in 1994 does not apply to U.S. personnel in the treatment of non-citizens abroad. While asserting that torture by all U.S. personnel was unlawful, Gonzales indicated that no law would prohibit the CIA from engaging in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment when it interrogates non-Americans outside the United States. The interpretation would permit the CIA to commit in secret detention facilities abroad many of the shocking forms of abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib.

The Bush administration claims it rejects torture and inhumane treatment, but it continues to seek legal loopholes to permit abuse by U.S. interrogators, said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. This latest example of legal gymnastics shows once more that abuses by U.S. interrogators are the result of policy choices made at senior levels.

READ THE ARTICLE

TORTURE AND ILL TREATMENT
2 Feb 2005


Having heard the persistent allegations of abuse against detainees in US custody in Afghanistan, Guantánamo, Iraq, and secret locations elsewhere, the world is watching to see how the USA will act to ensure redress, accountability, and non-recurrence.

Torture and ill-treatment are prohibited at all times and in all places; in wartime and in peacetime; against one’s own nationals, and against the nationals of another country; on one’s own sovereign territory or on the sovereign territory of another nation. Any exception to this rule, let alone one formulated by a country as powerful as the United States of America, would lead to an unraveling of a global compact that recognizes torture and ill-treatment to always be wrong. Such an unraveling would be dangerous to us all.

There is little doubt that, under the current circumstances, the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General would send a message out to the world that the US government is unapologetic and unconcerned about a growing perception that the USA is a state that is prepared to use torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Tolerance for torture and ill-treatment should have no place at the helm of the US justice system.

READ THE ARTICLE

U.S.A: CONGRESS TRIES TO UNDERMINE WAR CRIMES COURT
Spending provision threatens millions in aid to ICC countries

  New York, December 8, 2004
­ The United States intensified its assault on international justice with Congress’ approval yesterday of the “Nethercutt Amendment,” Human Rights Watch said today. This provision, part of an overall spending bill, mandates withholding antiterrorism funds and other aid from countries that refuse to grant immunity for U.S. citizens before the International Criminal Court.

At the same time that the Bush administration is seeking to place the United States above international law, serious allegations of prisoner abuse by U.S. troops from Iraq to Guantanamo Bay continue to be made. Under these conditions, U.S. efforts to obtain immunity for its citizens have become even harder for its allies to accept, Human Rights Watch said. The International Criminal Court (ICC)—which can prosecute only the most serious crimes and only if a country is unwilling or unable to do so—could have no role in jurisdiction over these crimes by U.S. forces because of various limitations on its authority.

READ THE ARTICLE

COURT: RELEASE MAN WRONGLY CONVICTED

Saturday January 31, 2004
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A federal appeals court is demanding the immediate release of a man found to have been wrongly convicted of murder 24 years ago on the testimony of a jailhouse informant.

Goldstein, 55, has remained in custody despite findings by two federal judges and a federal appeals panel that he was wrongly convicted.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court ordered that Goldstein be released without bail in December. State prison officials instead turned him over to Los Angeles County jailers.

The 9th Circuit demanded Goldstein's immediate release, saying it found serious problems with his original trial, especially the use of informant Edward F. Fink.

Fink, a heroin user with a lengthy criminal record, had testified in more than 10 cases that people had confessed crimes to him while they shared his jail cell.

Evidence suggests that Fink had struck a deal with prosecutors to get a lighter sentence in exchange for his testimony.

           READ THE ARTICLE

UNITED STATES: REAFFIRMING CIVIL LIBERTIES

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT
Jan 2004

  "December 18 was a banner day for human rights in the U. S. judicial system. On the same day, two court decisions each dealt a blow to the Bush administration's attempts to flout human rights standards in the name of counterterrorism.

Human Rights Watch advocates have been energetically opposing the erosion of civil liberties by the Bush Administration in the wake of September 11. They have also met regularly with officials at the Pentagon, the Justice Department and Congress to insist that due process and civil liberties be respected in the response to terrorism. Human Rights Watch has also participated in litigation, both as co-plaintiff and friend of the court, challenging the U.S. government's detention policies and urging the courts to protect basic rights.

"The threat to basic rights protections in the United States is very real," said Wendy Patten, Human Rights Watch's U.S. advocacy director. "Increasingly the courts are rebuking the Bush administration for overreaching, and we're making real headway in the court of public opinion, too." [ MORE ] http://hrw.org/update/2004/01/index.htm "

"ENEMY COMBATANTS"

19 December 2003

FEDERAL COURTS CHALLENGE DETENTION POLICIES



Two federal appeals courts yesterday issued significant challenges to the US administration's detention of so-called "enemy combatants" without charge or trial or access to lawyers or family members. These decisions affirm basic principles of justice which the US government must not ignore.

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in the case of Jose Padilla that the US government had no inherent constitutional authority to detain a US citizen as an 'enemy combatant' on US soil outside a combat zone. Such a decision by the executive, the court held, could only be taken if authorized by an act of Congress, noting that present law expressly forbids such detentions.

Later the same day, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in the case of a foreign national held in Guantánamo Bay that the US government did not have unchecked power to imprison any persons, including foreign nationals.


            READ THE ARTICLE

U.S. SHOULD STOP SANCTIONING ALLIES OVER ICC

New York, December 10, 2003

    The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is penalizing more than 20 friendly nations for supporting the International Criminal Court (ICC), Human Rights Watch said today.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Human Rights Watch urged the Bush administration to grant broad waivers for all states that are currently being penalized. The United States has been pressuring governments that have ratified the ICC treaty to sign bilateral agreements exempting U.S. citizens from the court's authority. Many governments have resisted signing because it would violate obligations under the ICC treaty.

"It makes no sense for the United States to continue penalizing emerging democracies trying hard to support the rule of law," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program. "Why waive sanctions for NATO members but punish states like Mali, Benin, and Ecuador that urgently need support?"

"... The United States is protecting itself from a phantom threat, with a cure that's worse than the imagined illness."

To read Human Rights Watch's letter to Secretary of State Powell, go to: http://hrw.org/press/2003/12/us120903-ltr.htm

EXECUTIONS ON HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

Amnesty International
9 December 2003


   On 10 December 1948, the international community adopted a vision of a world free from state killing and cruelty. What does it say about the USA's present-day attitude to such aspirations that it is set to mark the 55th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by killing two more people in its death chambers?

READ THE ARTICLE

STOP PRISON RAPE IN THE UNITED STATES

According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, more than two million men and women are now behind bars in the United States. The country that holds itself out as the "land of freedom" incarcerates a higher percentage of its people than any other country. Human Rights Watch's 2001 report "No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons," charges that state authorities are responsible for widespread prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse in U.S. men's prisons. The 378-page report is based on more than three years of research and is the first national survey of prisoner-on-prisoner rape.

Representative Frank Wolf (D-Virginia) is a lead co-sponsor of the Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2003, which was introduced in the House of Representatives on April 9. Human Rights Watch recently provided 65 copies of the report to Congressman Frank Wolf, who plans to share them with other members of Congress, urging them to support the legislation. This bill encourages federal, state and local authorities to take effective measures to prevent and punish rape, and is supported by a diverse coalition of groups opposed to prison rape.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you live in the U.S., urge your members of Congress to support the Prison Rape Reduction Act of 2003 (H.R. 1707). For more information and a sample letter visit http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison/action.html

Read "No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons" at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison

Amnesty International
18 July 2003
US leads worldwide execution of child offenders

(A child offender is a person who committed a crime when they were less than 18 years old. It does not mean that the offence was committed against a child.)

"Two thirds of the world's known executions of child offenders in the past decade occurred in the USA, including the only four in the past 18 months," Amnesty International said. "This is now the only country that openly continues to carry out such executions within the framework of its regular criminal justice system."

International Criminal Court: US campaign fails to derail new system of international justice
Amnesty International
1 July 2003

Recent history records the murder and suffering of millions of victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Shamefully, the enormous scale of such crimes has been fuelled by impunity, where people are allowed to plan and commit these acts knowing they will not be prosecuted.

The International Criminal Court enjoys enormous support from the international community - less than five years after the Statute's adoption almost half the international community has ratified it and many more are in the process. Despite a continuing worldwide campaign by the United States against the Court, the newly elected 18 judges and Prosecutor - all of whom enjoy international respect and recognition - have begun work in The Hague.
READ THE REPORT

USA: A BAD EXAMPLE

18 August 2003
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

"The very core of American history, law and culture condemns the ideas of punishment before trial, denial of due process and secret government by fiat... Who is an enemy combatant? Today, it can be anyone the president wants. And that is terrifying."
    -- A former judge on the Superior Court of New Jersey.

   The US has displayed a troubling tendency to seek unchallengeable executive power for itself in the context of its "war on terror". It has created a parallel justice system in which the executive has the power to detain, interrogate, charge or try suspects under the "laws of war"

READ THE REPORT

9 June 2003

USA: One year in detention without charge

Today marks a full year in which Jose Padilla, a US citizen, has been held incommunicado in military custody in the USA as "enemy combatant" without charge, trial or access to his lawyer or family.

This case represents an unprecedented suspension of fundamental rights of US citizens in US custody.

READ THE ARTICLE
13 June 2003

USA and the INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

The USA could begin to demonstrate its stated support for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by complying with its recommendations in death penalty cases and on the question of the Guantánamo detainees.

There is no need for the US Government to look far to find ways to support human rights.

In July 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reiterated its request that the US Government "take the urgent measures necessary to have the legal status of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay determined by a competent tribunal". This would be a good place to start.

READ THE ARTICLE
2 April 2003

USA: More double standards as another child offender set to be executed

In the same week that Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke of "the steadfast commitment of the United States to advance internationally agreed human rights principles worldwide", the USA is set to violate a fundamental principle of international law respected across the world, Amnesty International said today, as Oklahoma prepared to execute Scott Hain for a crime committed when he was 17.
READ ARTICLE
USA: The Guantánamo scandal continues
29 May 2003


"In March, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that states which show a high degree of respect for human rights are the most likely to contribute to international security," Amnesty International said.

"The administration should apply that sentiment to end the legal limbo of the Guantánamo detainees".

READ THE ARTICLE
USA: President Bush sanctions another killing
18 March 2003

As he prepares his country for war in Iraq, President George Bush has maintained his support for state-sanctioned killing at home, Amnesty International said after former soldier Louis Jones was killed by federal executioners in Indiana earlier today.

"We deeply regret that the President has once again failed to offer human rights leadership on this fundamental issue," Amnesty International said. "His repeated assertions that the USA will stand firm for the 'non-negotiable demands of human dignity' were drained of meaning as Louis Jones was taken from his cell and injected with poison by government employees."

READ THE REPORT

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT ON USA, 2002
January to December 2001

   "The death penalty continued to be used extensively. There were reports of police brutality and unjustified police shootings and of ill-treatment in prisons and jails. Human rights groups and others voiced concern at the lack of public information given about the circumstances under which more than 1,200 people, mainly foreign nationals, were detained during investigations into the 11 September attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Some detainees were held incommunicado in the initial stages of arrest. Congress passed wide-ranging ' 'anti-terrorist'' legislation, aspects of which were of concern to AI and other human rights groups.

In November President Bush passed an order establishing special military commissions to try non-US citizens suspected of involvement in ''international terrorism'' which would bypass international fair trial norms. AI called for inquiries into several incidents involving the killing of civilians by US and allied forces during military action in Afghanistan and into the killing of hundreds of prisoners in Qala-i-Jhangi fort following an uprising."

TO READ THE FULL REPORT CLICK HERE

23 MARCH 2003
DOUBLE STANDARDS FOR USA

  On 23 March, following the exposure of the US soldiers -- captured by Iraqi forces during the US-led attack on Iraq -- on Iraqi television being interrogated, President George Bush as well as prime minister Tony Blair accused Iraq of breaching the Geneva Convention by showing the captured on TV and demanded fair treatment for the POWs.

  When the first of the Afghan detainees arrived in Guantánamo in January 2002, the Pentagon released a photograph of the detainees in orange jumpsuits, kneeling before US soldiers, shackled, handcuffed, and wearing blacked-out goggles over their eyes and masks over their mouths and noses.

READ THE REPORT Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

JUSTICE NOT REVENGE
26 Sep 2001

   All victims, whether they are killed under the eyes of the world's media or perish in a remote conflict, have the right to justice. The response to the 11 September tragedy must not create new victims or be used as a pretext for an attack on human rights. Instead, it should lead governments to build an effective system of international justice that could end impunity for all perpetrators of gross human rights abuses, whether committed in the USA or the Middle East, in Chechnya or Sierra Leone.

SCAPEGOATING
14 Sep 2001

    " The violent attacks suffered by the USA represent the gravest violation of the most basic of human rights. Perpetrators must be brought to justice. But in seeking justice for the victims of this terrible crime, the world must exercise the highest respect for the rights of all individuals. International solidarity with the victims is not about seeking revenge but about cooperating within the rule of law in bringing those responsible to justice. Scapegoating individuals or communities will achieve nothing."

TERRORIST ATTACK
ON WTC

12 Sep 2001

   Amnesty International is outraged at the attacks carried out in the United States, involving the hijacking of civilian aircraft and resulting in thousands of men, women and children being killed, maimed or injured.

" We condemn these attacks in the strongest terms. Whether they have been carried out by a state or an armed political group, these attacks amount to the gravest abuses of fundamental human rights and basic principles of humanity," Amnesty International said.



EXECUTIONS A BARRIER TO JUSTICE
29 November 2001

As more and more countries abandon executions, many countries now prevent the return of American nationals to stand trial in USA if they are faced with the death penalty.

NEVADA

The authorities in Nevada should commute the death sentence of Thomas Nevius, whose appeal to the US Supreme Court was rejected yesterday despite serious allegations of racial discrimination and inadequate legal representation.

VIRGINIA

Prisoners in a Virginia supermaximum security prison are routinely zapped with stun guns, racially abused by guards, and cruelly and unnecessarily placed in restraints.