U.S. Accused of Trying to Derail
Tue Jul 23, 7:26 PM ET
By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Human rights groups accused the United
States on Tuesday of trying to derail a new draft international
treaty against torture that has taken a decade to negotiate.
The treaty, which is to be debated in the U.N. Economic and
Social Council beginning on Wednesday, would set up an international
system of inspections for all sites where prisoners were held, to
insure that torture was not taking place.
The United States opposes the draft and plans to seek a vote
demanding that negotiations be reopened, U.S. officials said.
Amnesty International denounced the U.S. strategy as "appalling."
"To reopen negotiations at this time could only lead to watering
down the text, so that it will fail to fulfill its aim -- to prevent
torture and ill-treatment still so prevalent around the world," said
Martin McPherson, the head of Amnesty International's legal program.
"Yet again the (George W.) Bush administration is on a collision
course with its allies over an important new mechanism to protect
human rights," said Rory Mungoven, global advocacy director for
Human Rights Watch.
The U.S. stand was the latest in a wave of go-it-alone actions
that have infuriated Washington's closest allies, including
rejection of the Kyoto pact on global warming ( news
sites) and the treaty creating a new International Criminal
Court aimed at combating genocide and war crimes.
The U.S. plan to try to reopen negotiations on the anti-torture
pact puts it in the company of treaty foes including Cuba, Iran,
China and Nigeria, human rights activists said.
Among backers of the treaty as drafted are most European Union (
sites), Latin American, Caribbean and African states, they said.
INFRINGEMENT ON STATES' RIGHTS
U.S. officials said Washington was seeking a renegotiation of the
anti-torture text because it would infringe on states' rights by
authorizing international inspections of state prisons without the
approval of state governments.
The United States also had procedural objections, the officials
While Washington wanted to work by consensus -- in essence
requiring unanimous support for any step, the Economic and Social
Council rules require only majority support for approval, they said.
The text was drafted by a working group of U.N. member-nations
and has already been approved by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights
To take effect, it must now be approved by the 54-nation Economic
and Social Council and then the 189-nation U.N. General Assembly.
Afterward, it must be signed and ratified by enough governments,
with the required number set by the treaty itself.
The pact would supplement an existing Convention Against Torture
which went into force in 1987 and was ratified by the United States
But the Bush administration has been embarrassed recently by
widespread criticism of its treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda
detainees at a U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A heated international debate erupted after the release of photos
of the tightly manacled and blindfolded detainees, who were captured
when the United States invaded Afghanistan ( news
sites) following Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
It was not yet clear whether the Economic and Social Council's 54
members would embrace or reject the U.S. plan, U.N. diplomats and
rights activists said.