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U.S. Tried To Soften Treaty On Detainees

Publication Date: 
September 08, 2009
The Washington Post
R. Jeffrey Smith

Allen Weiner, co-director of the Stanford Program in International Law, comments on U.S. concerns over language in an international treaty on "enforced disappearances":

From 2003 to 2006, the Bush administration quietly tried to relax the draft language of a treaty meant to bar and punish "enforced disappearances" so that those overseeing the CIA's secret prison system would not be criminally prosecuted under its provisions, according to former officials and hundreds of pages of documents recently declassified by the State Department.

The aim of the global treaty, long supported by the United States, was to end official kidnappings, detentions and killings like those that plagued Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, and that allegedly still occur in Russia, China, Iran, Colombia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. But the documents suggest that initial U.S. support for the negotiations collided head-on with the then-undisclosed goal of seizing suspected terrorists anywhere in the world for questioning by CIA interrogators or indefinite detention by the U.S. military at foreign sites.


Allen Weiner, another former State Department lawyer who is co-director of the Program in International Law at Stanford Law School, similarly said that many of the apparent U.S. concerns were "solvable" or could have been addressed in legal "reservations," whereby the U.S. government spelled out its plans to implement the treaty's language.