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07 December 2005

U.S. Ban on Torture Applies Worldwide, Rice Says

In Ukraine, secretary of state clarifies U.S. policy during news conference

By Jeffrey Thomas
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – The United States bans its personnel from subjecting detainees to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment no matter where in the world they happen to be, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a news conference in Ukraine December 7.

Allegations of torture at secret CIA prisons have threatened to overshadow the announced purpose of Rice’s four-nation visit to Europe: to highlight the enduring importance of trans-Atlantic relations and U.S. efforts to partner with Europe to address common challenges around the globe.

“As a matter of U.S. policy, the United States’ obligations under the CAT [United Nations Convention Against Torture], which prohibits, of course, cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment, those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States,” Rice said. She acknowledged that the issue has been raised throughout her trip.

In previous news conferences and interviews, Rice has defended the United States against allegations and news reports that the CIA has run secret prisons for those detained in the War on Terror, including in at least two Eastern European countries. (See related article.)

Before departing on her trip to Germany, Romania, Ukraine and Belgium, Rice issued a public statement that the United States neither tortures nor condones the torture of anyone. (See related article.)

The secretary defended a practice known as “rendition,” which refers to transport of suspects by methods other than traditional judicial procedures from one country to another so that they can be questioned or tried.

Rice has refused to comment on reports that some CIA flights carrying detainees to alleged secret detention centers might have flown over European airspace, and she has refused to confirm or deny the existence of such detention centers.

"We cannot discuss information that would compromise the success of intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations," she said in her pre-departure statement.

Her statement in Ukraine -- applying the Convention Against Torture to all U.S. personnel no matter where they are in the world -- may allay concerns that the CIA is free to use interrogation methods expressly forbidden the U.S. military or that the United States regards the pact as applying more narrowly to what U.S. personnel do on U.S. soil but not to what they do outside the United States.

CONCERNS OVER PROPOSED RUSSIAN LEGISLATION

During her press conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Rice also expressed U.S. concern about proposed Russian legislation that would require nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to re-register with a government commission empowered to monitor NGO activities. The bill, which many NGOs have opposed, has to go through further steps in the Russian Duma and then be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.

“We would certainly hope that the importance of nongovernmental organizations to a stable, democratic environment would be understood by the Russian government,” Rice said, adding: “Democracy is built, of course, on elections and it's built on parliaments and it's built on principles like rule of law and freedom of speech.  But it is also built on the ability of citizens to associate themselves freely and to work to bring their government into a particular direction.”

Rice contrasted Russian treatment of NGOs with Ukraine, where “civil society is active and it is working hard,” she said, “and it is one reason that we have such hope and optimism for the future of Ukraine.”

ECONOMIC, TRADE RELATIONS BETWEEN UNITED STATES, UKRAINE

Rice spoke of accelerating the pace of the development of economic and trade relations between the United States and Ukraine, which she called “a strategic partner and an important country within Europe.”

“I believe that we are making good progress, and we are certainly committed to Ukraine's full integration into the international economy and ultimately into Euro-Atlantic structures,” she said.

“We want very much to see the Ukrainian economy succeed,” she said.

A transcript of the press conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is available on the State Department Web site.

For additional information on U.S. policy in the region, see Central Asia-Caucasus.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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