May 20, 1988
To the Senate of the United States:
With a view to receiving the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification, subject to certain reservations, understandings, and declarations, I transmit herewith the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Convention was adopted by unanimous agreement of the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1984, and entered into force on June 26, 1987. The United States signed it on April 18, 1988. I also transmit, for the information of the Senate, the report of the Department of State on the Convention.
The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.
The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called "universal jurisdiction.'' Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.
In view of the large number of States concerned, it was not possible to negotiate a treaty that was acceptable to the United States in all respects. Accordingly, certain reservations, understandings, and declarations have been drafted, which are discussed in the report of the Department of State. With the inclusion of these reservations, understandings, and declarations, I believe there are no constitutional or other legal obstacles to United States ratification. The recommended legislation necessary to implement the Convention will be submitted to the Congress separately.
Should the Senate give its advice and consent to ratification of the Convention, I intend at the time of deposit of United States ratification to make a declaration pursuant to Article 28 that the United States does not recognize the competence of the Committee against Torture under Article 20 to make confidential investigations of charges that torture is being systematically practiced in the United States. In addition, I intend not to make declarations, pursuant to Articles 21 and 22 of the Convention, recognizing the competence of the Committee against Torture to receive and consider communications from States and individuals alleging that the United States is violating the Convention. I believe that a final United States decision as to whether to accept such competence of the Committee should be withheld until we have had an opportunity to assess the Committee's work. It would be possible for the United States in the future to accept the competence of the Committee pursuant to Articles 20, 21, and 22, should experience with the Committee prove satisfactory and should the United States consider this step desirable.
By giving its advice and consent to ratification of this Convention, the Senate of the United States will demonstrate unequivocally our desire to bring an end to the abhorrent practice of torture.
The White House,
May 20, 1988.