This Friday, the world will mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This day is commemorated every year to reaffirm the universal commitment to the total eradication of torture, which is categorically prohibited under international law.
On Wednesday, the largest-ever group of civil society organizations from scores of countries urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to call out the United States for failing to provide justice for both the perpetrators and the victims of the CIA’s abhorrent torture program.
In 1984, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which entered into force on June 26, 1987. The Reagan administration signed the treaty and sent it to the Senate for ratification with this statement:
The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called “universal jurisdiction.” Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.
The United States ratified the treaty in 1994 and Congress passed a federal anti-torture statute which defines the crime of torture, albeit slightly differently than does the treaty, and prescribes harsh punishments for anyone – U.S. citizen or not – who commits an act of torture outside of the United States. The U.S. has since generously contributed millions of dollars to the U.N. Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture so that survivors may rebuild their lives.