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Friday, 8 November, 2002, 05:15 GMT
UN presses ahead with torture treaty
Torture victim in Zimbabwe
The US says culprits can hide the evidence
The United Nations has moved one step closer to adopting a treaty on torture which would set up a regime for global prison inspections - an initiative dismissed as ineffective by the United States.

Its Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee passed the draft treaty by 104 vote to 8 with 37 abstentions and it will now go before the General Assembly in December, where routine approval is expected.


This protocol does not produce real results against torture

Richard Boucher
US State Department
The United States argues that the treaty does not provide for surprise prison inspections and it objects to having to pay for the new regime.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US abhorred "the despicable practice of torture" but considered the new treaty ill-advised as it gave advance notice of inspections to suspected states.

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

The period of notice would give offenders a chance to "clean everything up", he added.

America has also argued that opening up prisons in its own states to international inspection would violate their rights under the US Constitution.

Dubious company

Another US argument is that the new treaty will soak up resources which could be deployed to better effect on other anti-torture mechanisms.


America has nothing to gain by trying to undermine this important human rights initiative

Rory Mungoven
Human Rights Watch
When the UN committee voted on Thursday, it roundly rejected - by 98 to 11 votes with 37 abstentions - a US amendment which would have removed funding for the treaty from the general UN budget and put it on the shoulders of parties to the protocol instead.

After the vote, Mr Boucher said that the US could not support the new treaty which it had negotiated over for a decade, and certainly would not help fund it:

"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."

Human rights groups condemned America's stance saying it had effectively sided with states charged with abusing human rights such as China, Iran, Cuba and Sudan.

"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," said Rory Mungoven of Human Rights Watch.


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13 Jul 02 | Americas
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