Remarks to the Third Committee Following a Briefing by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Lloyd Claycomb
Special Advisor
New York City
October 13, 2017


We reaffirm and continue to uphold the bedrock principle that torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment are categorically and legally prohibited always and everywhere, they violate U.S. and international law, and offend human dignity.

The United States ratified the Convention Against Torture subject to several understandings. One of those understandings is that the definition of torture in Article 1 is intended to apply only to acts directed against persons in the offender’s custody or physical control. We therefore disagree with the premise that the Convention’s prohibition on torture applies in extra-custodial situations as well as the conclusions stemming from that premise.

In the United States, the matter of police use of force is one largely controlled by the U.S. Constitution, other U.S. laws and obligations, interpretations by the U.S. Supreme Court and other judicial bodies of those laws, as well as police agency policies and procedures. However, we must express serious concern with language in the Special Rapporteur’s report, referencing “soft law” documents in the criminal justice field that were never intended to serve as legal instruments or binding obligations on Member States – but rather as voluntary standards and norms.

We would like to reiterate, however, that we strongly support the work of the Special Rapporteur and firmly believe that the absolute prohibition of torture is a peremptory norm that is binding on all States, and from which no derogation is permitted.