From email@example.com Sat Jul 27 10:30:21 2002
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 23:39:08 -0500 (CDT)
From: GINA <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [generalnews] U.S. Loses Torture Treaty Fight
UNITED NATIONS—Worried about allowing inspectors to visit state prisons and jailed terror suspects, the United States tried but failed to block a U.N. vote on a plan to enforce a treaty on torture.
The protocol to the 1989 treaty passed Wednesday by a vote of 35-8 with 10 abstentions in the U.N. Economic and Social Council. The United States abstained.
A U.S. proposal to reopen 10 years of negotiations on the document was voted down 29-15, with the rest abstaining, amid wide criticism of the U.S. stance by European and Latin American allies.
The United States argued that language in the protocol could allow for international and independent visits to U.S. prisons and to terror suspects being held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
Such inspections are unlikely, because if the United States does not adopt the protocol, it will not be bound by its tenets.
Denmark, which read a statement on behalf of the European Union, accused the United States of intentionally stalling in order to kill the proposal. Costa Rica, which sponsored the plan, urged all delegations to vote against the American request.
Human rights advocates and diplomats argued that the protocol was essential to enforce the international convention on torture passed 13 years ago and since ratified by about 130 countries, including the United States.
Countries are supposed to enforce the convention on their own, but rights groups argue that that isn’t working everywhere. People were tortured or ill-treated by authorities in 111 countries last year, according to an Amnesty International report.
Technically, the protocol seeks visits to prisons as a way to help enforce the anti-torture convention, which the United States has ratified.
But the United States said elements of the plan were incompatible with the U.S. constitution. Privately, U.S. diplomats said allowing outside observers into state prisons would infringe on states’ rights.
The United States greatly regrets being put in the position of
abstaining, U.S. Ambassador Sichan Siv said after the debate.
The protocol was widely supported among Western European and Latin American countries. The United States was supported by some countries accused by Amnesty International of torture, including Nigeria and Iran. Other U.S. support came from Japan, China, Cuba, Cyprus, India, Pakistan and Egypt.
The text was accepted in an April vote by the Human Rights Commission in Geneva. The United States didn’t participate in that vote because it lost its seat on the commission last year.
The protocol now moves to the General Assembly, where it would need to be approved by a majority of the 190 member states. Then, it will require 20 ratifications before it can go into force.
Activists had feared that if the United States succeeded in reopening
the negotiations, it would mean a
death sentence for the
Joanna Weschler of Human Rights Watch, said:
This is actually a
great vote because the U.S. tried and failed.
Moves by the Bush administration to back out of the anti-torture plan, a protocol on climate control and talks on biological weapons have greatly frustrated its relationships at the United Nations.
On Monday, the administration cut support for the U.N. Population Fund, accusing the agency of sending money to Chinese agencies that carry out coercive programs involving abortion. The agency denies the accusation, and a U.S. government fact-finding mission found no evidence that agency money was being used in such a way.