Impact of the United Nations Convention Against Torture on Asylum in DC

Below, an experienced DC asylum attorney discusses the United Nations convention against torture and the impact it has on asylum applications in the United States.

United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT)

The United Nations Convention against Torture is an international document in which the U.S. tried to define what torture is. The Convention against Torture prohibits the United States from removing people to countries where they are more likely than not to be subjected to torture. This is the third protection that the U.S. offers for refugees requesting asylum. The second protection is withholding of removal and the third is the Convention against Torture.

In fact, with the Convention against Torture, like withholding of removal, you have to prove that it’s more likely than not that you’ll be subjected to torture. The difference between the Convention against Torture protection and withholding of removal is that you actually have to prove that the harm you’ll suffer meets the definition of torture that is set forth in the Convention against Torture. It is even more difficult to obtain than withholding in most cases.

Establishing Permanent Residency Through the CAT

It is similar to withholding of removal in that it does not provide permanent residency and it actually doesn’t even provide you with a legal work authorization here. You are only eligible for work authorization at the discretion of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It is a much more tenuous status than asylum and withholding of removal, and it also can be terminated if conditions in your home country change or something changes with your own status in the U.S.

Evidence in CAT-related Asylum Proceedings

The evidence for these types of applications are almost exactly the same as the type of things you would submit in an asylum application. That might include country condition reports, documentation of situations in that country from witnesses, and any other personal evidence that you can collect that establishes your personal experience with torture could be considered.

How US Courts Define Torture

There is a definition that is set forth in the Convention against Torture that includes any intentional or unlawful infliction of severe suffering or pain with the consent of a public official for purposes such as punishment, obtaining a confession, intimidation, or discrimination. The suffering can be physical or mental. It is actually a pretty narrow definition. It has to be both intentional and unlawful, so there are a lot of ways in which the government can poke holes in your story and try to prove that the persecution you experienced does not meet that definition.

Group Membership

Another interesting nuance of CAT-related asylum proceedings is that individuals are actually not required to prove that torture was the result of their membership in a certain group. If you’re just seeking protection under the Convention against Torture, you do not need to prove membership in a particular group like you do for an asylum.

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