1994 October 21

U.S. Ratifies UN Convention Against Torture


On this day, the United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (often referred to as the CAT). The full title of the Convention is The Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The UN General Assembly had adopted the Convention on December 10, 1984.

Anti-Torture day is commemorated each year on June 26 (see June 26, 1997).

Many human rights activists and international law experts argued that the interrogation practices of President George W. Bush in the war on terror involved torture, in violation of the UN Convention. See especially the Bush administration’s notorious “torture memo” of August 1, 2002. U.S. ratification of the Convention Against Torture made it a part of U.S. law, and thereby applicable to war on terrorism policies.

Other important UN human rights agreements include the Convention Against Genocide (December 9, 1948, and the U.S ratification on November 4, 1988); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (December 18, 1979), which the U.S has never ratified because of conservative opposition; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (March 30, 2007), which the U.S. has not ratified because of opposition from conservatives (November 5, 2013).

In December 2014 the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a 525 page redacted report on torture by the CIA during the War on Terror under President George W. Bush.

Article 1 of the Convention: 1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term ‘torture’ means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

Read about the memos authorizing torture by Americans under President George W. Bush: Karen J. Greenberg and Joshua L. Dratel, eds., The Torture Papers (2005)

Read the text of the Convention Against Torturehttp://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/39/a39r046.htm

Read the 2014 Senate Torture Report: http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf

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