For the past decade, there has been growing concern about the arbitrary use of immigration detention in countries worldwide, including the United States. As UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer explained in his 2018 report to the UN Security Council: “While not every case of arbitrary detention will automatically amount to torture or ill-treatment, there is an undeniable link between both prohibitions . . . experience shows that any form of arbitrary detention exposes migrants to increased risks of torture and ill-treatment.”
Yet, there has been very little analysis of the immigration detention system in the U.S. under international law prohibiting torture and ill-treatment. The backgrounder below, titled, “Arbitrary & Cruel: How U.S. Immigration Detention Violates the Convention against Torture and Other International Obligations,” attempts to fill this gap.
The backgrounder analyzes the U.N. Convention against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment (Convention against Torture) and other international and regional legal authorities. It draws on CVT’s decades-long clinical experience providing care to survivors of torture, including formerly detained asylum seekers, and highlights reports of wide-ranging abuses at centers such as Stewart and Irwin County Detention Centers, located in Georgia where CVT has operated a survivor of torture program since 2016.
The backgrounder ultimately concludes that the U.S. immigration detention system is arbitrary and exposes migrants to torture and other forms of ill-treatment in violation of the U.S.’ obligations under international law. Indeed, it reaches the inescapable conclusion that the system’s defects are structural and pervasive to a degree that the system must be phased out entirely to ensure U.S. compliance with international law.