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From owner-imap@chumbly.math.missouri.edu Sun Nov 10 13:14:28 2002
Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2002 12:11:43 -0600 (CST)
From: tecumseh_rh@hotmail.com (Tecumseh)
Subject: US Loses Battle Against UN Anti-Torture Treaty
Organization: http://groups.google.com/
Article: 146951
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

US Loses Battle Against UN Anti-Torture Treaty

By Rory Mungoven, Human Rights Watch, AFP, Friday 8 November 2002

The United States lost its battle against a new international treaty aimed at eliminating torture and improving prison conditions as a UN committee overwhelmingly approved the pact.

America has nothing to gain by trying to undermine this important human rights initiative and positioning itself alongside some of the world's worst violators.

The UN General Assembly's Third Committee, which deals with human rights questions, voted 104 to 8 with 37 abstentions to adopt the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

The committee also soundly rejected -- 98 to 11 with 37 abstentions -- a US amendment that would have removed funding for the treaty from the general UN budget and forced the parties to the protocol to shoulder its costs.

The votes set the stage for a showdown on the floor of the UN General Assembly next month when all the members of the world body are to vote on adopting the treaty that would create a regime for global prison inspections.

The State Department had said that Washington would abstain from Thursday's vote on the protocol if its financing amendment was approved but reiterated major objections to the treaty.

We have concerns about a number of elements and over a 10-year negotiating period we have worked hard with the international community to fix the major problems, spokesman Richard Boucher said.

He stressed that the United States abhorred the despicable practice of torture and would continue to be a leading advocate against it, but said Washington could not support the new treaty.

Boucher said the prison inspection system itself was inadequate as it did not provide for surprise visits to detention facilities but would rather have experts look at them in scheduled trips on a rotating basis.

It's a flawed inspection process that shows little likelihood of really finding the evidence of torture and working to combat torture, he said.

There would be plenty of opportunity to ... clean everything up before they (the experts) got there, he said.

Given that objection and Washington's inability to correct the deficiencies at earlier stages in the UN process, Boucher said the United States is adamantly opposed to requiring all UN members, including itself, to pay for the treaty.

We've basically decided that because this protocol does not produce real results against torture, we're not going to be a party to it and not being a party, we don't think we should have to pay for it, he said.

Under the UN's sliding scale of assessments, the United States will have to pay 22 percent of the cost of the new prison inspections regime if the General Assembly adopts the protocol.

Human rights groups have denounced the US position, accusing Washington of siding with nations charged with rights abuses -- such as China, Iran, Cuba and Sudan -- against some of its closest allies, particularly in Europe.

New York-based Human Rights Watch and London-based Amnesty International say the United States is trying to derail the treaty with its financial amendment.

They said the US amendment could deter poorer countries -- who could most benefit from the inspection program -- from signing up to the treaty.

Prevention of torture should not be a privilege of wealthy countries, said Renzo Pomi, Amnesty International's representative at the United Nations.

Rory Mungoven of Human Rights Watch said the US stance would undermine Washington's credibility as a torture foe.

America has nothing to gain by trying to undermine this important human rights initiative and positioning itself alongside some of the world's worst violators, he said.