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The Convention Against Torture

WHAT IS THE CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE (CAT)?

You may have seen or heard the term CAT in connection to the asylum process, but what is it?

Introduction

The first step in seeking asylum protection in the U.S. is to file an I-589 asylum application. On the Form I-589 asylum application there is a little checkbox next to a question asking if you are also seeking WIthholding of Removal or  protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).  That is why it is important that you know what it is and how it may help you. If you don’t check that little box on the I-589 then you will waive your right to protection under the additional section of law. 

CAT is going to apply to anyone who is seeking asylum or fears returning to their home country for fear of persecution. 

In this post I will explain what the Convention Against Torture is, how it came to be, how it may help you, how you apply for it, and who is eligible. 

What is CAT?

The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, commonly known as the Convention Against Torture (CAT), is an international human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1984.

The Convention defines torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for purposes such as obtaining information, punishment, or intimidation, and which is carried out by a public official or a person acting with official authorization or consent. It also prohibits other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, which may not reach the threshold of torture but still violate human dignity.

The Convention requires state parties to take effective measures to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture, and to provide redress and rehabilitation for victims of torture. It also prohibits the use of evidence obtained through torture in legal proceedings.

As of February 2023, 169 countries have ratified or acceded to the Convention, making it one of the most widely accepted human rights treaties in the world.

How Does CAT Apply to Immigrants Entering the U.S.?

The Convention Against Torture applies to all people under the jurisdiction of a state party, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. This means that the United States is obligated to comply with the Convention in its treatment of all individuals within its territory or under its control, including immigrants and refugees.

Under the Convention, the United States is prohibited from deporting or extraditing any individual to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture. This is known as the principle of non-refoulement. The United States has incorporated this principle into its domestic law through the Convention Against Torture implementing legislation.

In addition, the United States has an obligation to ensure that individuals in its custody are not subjected to torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. This includes immigrants who are detained by the United States government. The United States is required to provide effective safeguards against torture and to investigate and prosecute any allegations of torture or other mistreatment of individuals in its custody.

Furthermore, the United States is obligated to provide redress and rehabilitation for victims of torture, including immigrants who have been subjected to torture or other forms of mistreatment. This includes access to medical care, legal assistance, and compensation for any harm suffered as a result of torture or mistreatment.

It is important to note that the United States has been criticized by human rights organizations for its treatment of immigrants, particularly with regard to the conditions in detention centers and the use of force by immigration enforcement officials.


APPLYING FOR CAT PROTECTION IN REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS

Who is Eligible for Protection Under CAT?

This is not a detailed an exhaustive guide. This is the basic information. If you are interested or think it may apply to you then you should speak with an immigration attorney or contact me (an immigration attorney) for more information about the convention against torture. 

Under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), any person who is in the United States, regardless of their nationality or immigration status, is eligible for protection against torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. This includes refugees, asylum seekers, and individuals who have entered the country without authorization.

The CAT defines torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for purposes such as obtaining information or a confession, punishing, intimidating, or coercing someone, or for any other reason when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of, a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Therefore, any individual who has reason to believe that they are at risk of being subjected to torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in their country of origin, or any other country to which they might be returned, may be eligible for protection under the Convention.

In the United States, an individual seeking protection under the CAT may file an application for protection with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The application is known as a “CAT application” or a “Convention Against Torture claim.” The applicant must demonstrate that it is more likely than not that he or she would be tortured if returned to their home country or to another country where they are likely to be subjected to torture. If the application is granted, the individual will be protected from deportation or removal to the country where they would face torture. 

How Do You Apply for CAT?

First, remember what I said earlier. You must check the box on the Form I-589 to inform the Court you are seeking that relief. 

If an individual is in removal proceedings in the United States and believes that they may be subjected to torture if they are returned to their home country or any other country, they may apply for protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) as part of their defense against removal. The CAT provides protection to individuals who would be at risk of torture if they were removed from the United States.

Here are the steps for applying for protection under the CAT in removal proceedings:

  1. Raise the CAT claim in immigration court: The individual must raise the CAT claim during their removal proceedings by notifying the immigration judge and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prosecutor. This can be done through a written or oral statement or by filing a formal application for relief under the CAT.
  1. Submit evidence: The individual must provide evidence to support their claim that they would be tortured if they were removed to their home country or to another country. This evidence may include medical or psychological reports, affidavits from witnesses or experts, news articles or reports about the conditions in their home country or the country they would be removed to, and any other relevant documentation.
  1. Attend a hearing: The immigration judge will schedule a hearing to consider the CAT claim. The individual will have the opportunity to testify and present evidence in support of their claim.
  1. Decision: The immigration judge will issue a decision based on the evidence presented. If the judge finds that the individual is more likely than not to be tortured if they are removed, the judge will grant the CAT protection, and the individual will be allowed to remain in the United States.

It’s important to note that the CAT protection is not a permanent status and must be reviewed periodically. The DHS may also appeal the judge’s decision, and the individual may be required to attend further hearings or appeals.

If you feel like it would benefit your readers, list a few examples of the concept you’re explaining in action. You can elevate this section by embedding images, videos, and/or social media posts.

Remember, this post is not a list post – so try to keep this list between three and five examples if you do decide to include it. 

What are the Benefits of Being Granted CAT?

Beyond, obviously, not be deported (removed) back to a country where you would be in danger. 

If an individual is granted protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), they are protected from being removed or deported to their home country or to any other country where they would be at risk of being subjected to torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Here are some of the benefits of CAT protection:

  1. Permission to remain in the United States: If granted CAT protection, the individual is allowed to remain in the United States and is protected from being removed to a country where they would be at risk of torture or other forms of mistreatment.
  1. Employment authorization: The individual may be eligible to apply for employment authorization, which would allow them to work legally in the United States.
  1. Eligibility for certain government benefits: Some individuals granted CAT protection may be eligible for certain government benefits, such as Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
  1. Reunification with family members: If the individual has family members who are also in danger of being tortured if they return to their home country, they may be eligible to apply for derivative CAT protection for their family members.

It’s important to note that CAT protection is not a permanent status and must be reviewed periodically. The individual may be required to attend further hearings or appeals, and their CAT protection status may be terminated if the conditions in their home country change or if they no longer meet the eligibility requirements for CAT protection.


Learn More About CAT

There are several resources available for individuals who want to learn more about the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and how it applies to protection for individuals in the United States. Here are a few places to start:

United Nations Treaty Collection: The United Nations Treaty Collection website provides the full text of the Convention Against Torture, along with other related documents and information. You can access the website here: https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-9&chapter=4&clang=_en

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): The USCIS website provides information on how to apply for protection under CAT, including eligibility requirements and the application process. You can access the website here: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/eligibility-and-application

Human Rights Watch: Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that advocates for human rights around the world. They have a section of their website dedicated to torture and abuse, which includes information on CAT and other relevant international human rights instruments. You can access the website here: https://www.hrw.org/topic/torture-and-abuse

National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC): The NIJC is a non-profit organization that provides legal services and advocacy for immigrants in the United States. They have a section of their website dedicated to CAT and other forms of relief from removal. You can access the website here: https://www.immigrantjustice.org/issues/asylum-and-refugees/convention-against-torture

American Bar Association (ABA): The ABA provides resources and information for attorneys and advocates working on immigration issues, including CAT claims. You can access the website here: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_services/immigration/projects_initiatives/protecting-rights-of-vulnerable-immigrants/resources/cat/



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