The Committee welcomes the State party’s unequivocal commitment to abide by the universal prohibition of torture and ill-treatment everywhere, including Bagram and Guantanamo Bay detention facilities, as well as the assurances that U.S. personnel are legally prohibited under international and domestic law from engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment at all times, and in all places. The Committee notes that the State party has reviewed its position concerning the extraterritorial application of the Convention, and stated that it applies to ‘certain areas beyond’ its sovereign territory, and more specifically to ‘all places that the State party controls as a governmental authority,’ noting that it currently exercises such control at ‘the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and over all proceedings conducted there, and with respect to U.S.-registered ships and aircraft.’ The Committee also values the statement made by the State party’s delegation that the reservation to article 16 of the Convention, whose intended purpose is to ensure that existing U.S. constitutional standards satisfy the State party’s obligations under article 16, ‘does not introduce any limitation to the geographic applicability of article 16,’ and that ‘the obligations in article 16 apply beyond the sovereign territory of the United States to any territory under its jurisdiction’ under the terms mentioned above.’Source: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
However, the Committee is dismayed that the State party’s reservation to article 16 of the Convention features in various declassified memoranda containing legal interpretations on the extraterritorial applicability of U.S. obligations under the Convention issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) between 2001 and 2009, as part of deeply flawed legal arguments used to advise that interrogation techniques, which amounted to torture, could be authorized and used lawfully. While noting that these memoranda were revoked by Presidential Executive Order 13491 to the extent of their inconsistency with that order, the Committee remains concerned that the State party has not withdrawn yet its reservation to article 16 which could permit interpretations incompatible with the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.
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