The General Comment elaborates on Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which states in full:
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
A careful look at the General Comment will be taken by a host of panelists at "Preventing Torture," a symposium to be held this Friday, March 28, 2008, at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. As cosponsors -- the New York City Law Review, a student journal at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, and the International Human Rights Committee of the city's bar association -- put it in their conference brochure:
The General Comment addresses key fault lines in the absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment that have been opened in the name of counter-terrorism. It also underscores the applicability of the Convention to sexualized and gender violence, where perpetrated by state officials as well as where state officials acquiesce to private violence, including domestic violence.
Speakers will address the authority, adequacy, and policy implications of the General Comment. Since the U.S. is a State party to the CAT, speakers will also address the relevance of the Comment to current laws and practices of the Bush administration and to positive reforms and initiatives needed to bring U.S. law and practice into compliance with its international commitments to eliminate torture and ill-treatment in every sphere.
Among those speakers will be several women who're experts on these questions, a number of whom we've featured in prior posts. Among the CAT members who'll speak are Felice Gaer (top left), former Vice-Chair and current Rapporteur of CAT, as well as Co-Rapporteur for General Comment No. 2, and Nora Sveaass (bottom left), President of the Norwegian Psychological Association's Human Rights Committee. Other panelists will include: Patricia Viseur Sellers, former Legal Advisor for Gender-Related Crimes, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; New York University Professor Margaret L. Satterthwaite, Research Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice; CUNY Professor Rhonda Copelon, Director of the International Women's Human Rights Clinic; and Columbia Professor Betty Reardon, Founding Director Emeritus of the Peace Education Program.