U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT): Overview and Application to Interrogation Techniques [Updated January 25, 2008]   [open pdf - 171KB]

"The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) requires signatory parties to take measures to end torture within their territorial jurisdiction and to criminalize all acts of torture. Unlike many other international agreements and declarations prohibiting torture, CAT provides a general definition of the term. CAT generally defines torture as the infliction of severe physical and/or mental suffering committed under the color of law. CAT allows for no circumstances or emergencies where torture could be permitted. The United States ratified CAT, subject to certain declarations, reservations, and understandings, including that the treaty was not self-executing and required implementing legislation to be enforced by U.S. courts. In order to ensure U.S. compliance with CAT obligations to criminalize all acts of torture, the United States enacted 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340 and 2340A, which prohibit torture occurring outside the United States (torture occurring inside the United States was already generally prohibited under several federal and state statutes criminalizing acts such as assault, battery, and murder). The applicability and scope of these statutes were the subject of widely-reported memorandums by the Department of Defense and Department of Justice in 2002. In late 2004, the Department of Justice released a memorandum superseding its earlier memo and modifying some of its conclusions. Assuming for the purposes of discussion that a U.S. body had to review a harsh interrogation method to determine whether it constituted torture under either CAT or applicable U.S. law, it might examine international jurisprudence as to whether certain interrogation methods constituted torture."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32438
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