Remarks at a Third Committee Interactive Dialogue on Torture (via VTC)

Matthew Olmsted
ECOSOC Advisor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 15, 2020


Thank you, Dr. Melzer, for your work on this important issue. We take this opportunity to register our categorical rejection of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. As Secretary Pompeo stated September 23: the human rights enshrined in our founding documents abhor the notion of torture in any form. America’s values are universal values, and they are based on the sanctity and protection of individual rights.

The United States played a leading role in enacting the Convention against Torture and we remain trailblazers in the campaign to end torture and related practices worldwide. We are staunch advocates for the rights of the victims of torture. We continue to provide support to the UN Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture and other programs that assist in the rehabilitation process, as well as advance the elimination of torture through effective awareness campaigns and human rights training for security and law enforcement officers. No society can be free, nor any individual secure, when torture is permitted.

We call on all countries to ensure their policies and practices conform to the Convention Against Torture; investigate credible claims of torture; hold violators accountable; and condemn nations that fail to do so. In China, more than one million Uyghur Muslims and others have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang with credible reports of torture, forced labor, and involuntary sterilization. In Belarus, NGOs have documented over 500 cases of torture of those unjustly detained following public protests. In Venezuela, the UN Fact Finding Mission’s September report concluded that there was a reasonable basis to conclude that the illegitimate Maduro regime committed systematic human rights violations, including torture, amounting to crimes against humanity.

While we appreciate the Special Rapporteur’s work, we disagree with many of your report’s conclusions and recommendations as they relate to lawful U.S. practices that cannot reasonably be considered torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (CIDTP), as well as references to our actions with regard to the Assange and Manning cases.

Question: What steps can the international community take to help support documentation of reports of torture in order to promote accountability?