1984 December 10

UN Adopts Convention Against Torture


The United Nations adopted the Convention Against Torture, often abbreviated CAT, on this day. Officially the Convention Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or other Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the CAT was ratified by the U.S. Senate, and thereby became American law, on October 21, 1994.

U.S. ratification became particularly important during the War on Terror under President George W. Bush, when many human rights activists argued that the “enhanced interrogation” tactics it employed violated the Convention Against Torture. For a start on this ugly chapter in American history, see the infamous “torture memo” on August 1, 2002.

The Convention Against Torture (excerpt): “Article 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 the full Convention Against Torture: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/39/a39r046.htm

Learn about torture and the Bush administration: Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War On Terror (2006)

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