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Implementation of the Convention Against Torture
Section 208.18 sets out a number of provisions governing the implementation of the Convention Against Torture provisions. This section contains the definition of torture that will apply in both the withholding and deferral contexts, rules about the applicability of the new provisions, and a section clarifying that this rule does not expand the availability of judicial review to aliens who assert claims to protection under the Convention Against Torture.
Definition of Torture
Section 208.18(a) provides the definition of torture and of terms within that definition. Initially, consistent with the statute, it provides that the regulatory definition of torture incorporates the definition in Article 1 of the Convention, as interpreted and modified by United States reservations, understandings, declarations and provisos. The remainder of the definition section is drawn directly from the language of the Convention, the language of the reservations, understandings and declarations cont
ained in the Senate resolution ratifying the Convention, or from ratification history.
Section 208.18(a)(1) contains the first sentence of Article 1, providing the basic contours of the definition of torture. It does not attempt to list the types of acts that would constitute torture, but rather expresses basic elements that must be present in order for an act to be torture: It must be an act causing severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, intentionally inflicted on a person. Article 16, which refers to "other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which d
o not amount to torture," confirms that, as provided in § 208.18(a)(2), torture is an extreme form of cruel and inhuman treatment.
, S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20 at 23.
Section 208.18(a)(3) provides that torture "does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions." This is drawn from the second sentence of Article 1. The Senate adopted an understanding providing that "with reference to article 1 of the Convention, the United States understands that 'sanctions' includes judicially-imposed sanctions and other enforcement actions authorized by United States law or by judicial interpretation of such law. Nonetheless, the Unite
d States understands that a State Party could not through its domestic sanctions defeat the object and purpose of the Convention to prohibit torture." 136 Cong. Rec. 36198 (1990). Therefore § 208.18(a)(3) also provides that "[l]awful sanctions include judicially imposed sanctions and other enforcement actions authorized by law, including the death penalty, but do not include sanctions that defeat the object and purpose of the Convention Against Torture to prohibit torture." This paragraph does not requir
e that, in order to come within the exception, an action must be one that would be authorized by United States law. It must, however, be legitimate, in the sense that a State cannot defeat the purpose of the Convention to prohibit torture.
Senate understandings also provide that "the United States understands that international law does not prohibit the death penalty, and does not consider this Convention to restrict or prohibit the United States from applying the death penalty consistent with the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, including any constitutional period of confinement prior to the imposition of the death penalty." This understanding is embodied in § 208.18(a)(3)'s inclusion of t
he death penalty in the description of lawful sanctions that do not constitute torture. The purpose of the Senate's understanding on the death penalty is to clarify that the Convention does not prohibit the United States from applying the death penalty consistent with United States constitutional standards. This concept will likely have limited application in the context of Article 3 implementation. It means simply that the constitutionally sufficient imposition of the death penalty in the United States
is not torture. The understanding does not mean, however, that any imposition of the death penalty by a foreign state that fails to satisfy United States constitutional requirements constitutes torture. Any analysis of whether the death penalty is torture in a specific case would be subject to all requirements of the Convention's definition, the Senate's reservations, understandings, and declarations, and the regulatory definitions. Thus, even if imposition of the death penalty would be inconsistent with
United States constitutional standards, it would not be torture if it were imposed in a legitimate manner to punish violations of law. Similarly, it would not be torture if it failed to meet any other element of the definition of torture.
The definition of torture can, in limited circumstances, include severe mental pain and suffering. Section 208.18(a)(4) provides a detailed and restrictive definition of the type of severe mental harm that can constitute torture. This language is drawn directly from the Senate's understandings. See 136 Cong. Rec. 36198.
Section 208.18(a)(5) requires that, in order to qualify as torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe pain or suffering, a requirement clearly imposed by United States understandings. Id. Thus, an act that results in unanticipated or unintended severity of pain and suffering is not torture. See, e.g., S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20, at 19.
Section 208.18(a)(6) provides that, for an act to constitute torture, the victim of the act must be in the custody or physical control of the perpetrator. Thus, harm, even severe pain and suffering, inflicted on a person who is not within the perpetrator's custody or physical control, would not qualify as torture. Again, the language of this regulatory provision is taken directly from the Senate understandings. See 136 Cong. Rec. 36198.
Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture requires that torture must be 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." Senate understandings provide that "the term 'acquiescence' requires that the public official, prior to the activity constituting torture, have awareness of such activity and thereafter breach his legal responsibility to intervene to prevent such activity." 136 Cong. Rec. 36198. Section 20
8.18(a)(7) mirrors this requirement. Thus the definition of torture includes only acts that occur in the context of governmental authority. See, e.g., S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20, at 19.
Section 208.18(a)(8) provides that noncompliance with applicable legal procedural standards does not per se constitute torture. Again, this provision mirrors Senate understandings. 136 Cong. Rec. 36198.
Applicability of New Provisions
Section 208.18(b)(1) provides that aliens who are in exclusion, deportation, or removal proceedings as of the effective date of this rule may seek withholding under the Convention Against Torture, and if applicable be considered for deferral under the Convention, through the procedures established by this rule. Section 208.18(b)(2) also establishes special procedures to provide a reasonable opportunity to request consideration for protection under Article 3 for aliens who were either ordered removed prior t
o the effective date of this rule, or whose removal orders become final prior to the effective date of the rule. Such aliens will be given a 90-day window of time in which to file a motion to reopen before the immigration court or before the Board of Immigration Appeals, to apply for protection under this rule. Any motion filed by such an alien within 90 days of the effective date of this rule, March 22, 1999, will not be subject to the normal requirement that the motion must seek to present new evidence
that was unavailable and could not have been presented at the previous hearing. Nor will such a motion be subject to the normal time and numerical limitations on motions to reopen under §§ 3.2 and 3.23. Such a motion will, however, be subject to the other requirements set out in the regulations for a motion to reopen. Therefore it will not be granted unless the evidence sought to be offered establishes a prima facie case that the alien's removal would violate Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture.
Similarly, like other motions to reopen, such a motion will not automatically stay the alien's removal. Rather, the alien must request a stay of removal at the time of filing the motion to reopen.
Aliens Who Requested Protection Under the Convention Through the INS Pre-regulatory Administrative Process To Ensure Compliance With Article 3
As explained previously, the INS has, prior to the effective date of this rule, conducted a pre-regulatory administrative process to comply with Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture until implementing legislation was enacted and obligations under that Article could be implemented by this rule. Section 208.18(b)(3) of this rule provides that, after the effective date of this rule, the INS pre-regulatory administrative process for ensuring compliance with Article 3 will end. After the effective date
of this rule, except as otherwise provided, the INS will no longer stay an alien's removal based only on a request for protection under Article 3, nor will it consider the applicability of Article 3 to an individual case under its pre-regulatory administrative process.
Section 208.18(b)(4) provides that the new procedures established by this rule to provide for the consideration of claims to protection under the Convention Against Torture do not apply to cases in which the Service, prior to the effective date of this rule, has made a final administrative determination about the applicability of Article 3. This section provides that, if the Service has determined under its pre-regulatory administrative process that an alien cannot be removed to a particular country consis
tent with Article 3, the alien be considered to have been granted withholding of removal under § 208.16(c), unless the alien is subject to mandatory denial of withholding under § 208.16(d) (2) or (3). If such an alien is barred from withholding of removal, he or she will be considered to have been granted deferral of removal under § 208.17(a). Similarly, if an alien was determined under the pre-regulatory administrative process not to require protection under Article 3, that alien will be considered to have
been finally denied withholding of removal under § 208.16(c) and deferral of removal under § 208.17(a). This paragraph applies only to cases in which the Service actually reached a final determination about the applicability of Article 3 to an individual case.
A different regime will apply to aliens who requested protection under the pre-regulatory administrative process but did not receive a final determination from the Service. The Service will provide notice about the end of the pre-regulatory administrative process to such aliens. This notice will inform the alien of the new regulatory process through which Article 3 claims will be processed. The notice will also explain that an alien who was ordered removed or whose removal order became final prior to the
effective date of this rule may obtain consideration of a claim under Article 3 only through the procedures set out in this rule. An alien under a final removal order issued by EOIR may obtain consideration of the Article 3 claim by filing a motion to reopen with the immigration court or the Board of Immigration Appeals. In order to provide a reasonable opportunity to file such a motion, an alien who has a request for Article 3 protection pending with the Service on the date this rule becomes effective wi
ll be granted a stay of removal effective until 30 days after the notice is served on the alien. Any motion filed by such an alien will not be subject to the normal requirements for motions to reopen. The immigration judge or the Board shall grant such a motion if it is accompanied by a copy of the notice provided by the Service or by other convincing evidence that the alien requested protection under Article 3 from the Service through the pre-regulatory administrative process and did not receive a final
administrative determination prior to the effective date of this rule. The filing of such a motion shall extend the stay of removal pending the adjudication of the motion. This special provision ensures that those who requested protection under the INS pre-regulatory administrative process and did not get a ruling will have a full and fair opportunity to pursue their claims for protection under the new regulatory process.
For an alien under a removal order issued by the Service under section 238(b) of the Act or an alien under an exclusion, deportation, or removal order that has been reinstated by the Service, the Service will consider any claim to protection that is pending on the effective date of this rule through the process set out in section 208.31. For an alien ordered removed by the Service under section 235(c) of the Act, the Service will decide under section 235.8(b)(4) any Article 3 claim that is pending on the e
ffective date of this rule. Such a claim will not be subject to the procedures set out for consideration of Article 3 claims by an immigration judge, the Board of Immigration Appeals, or an asylum officer.
Cases in Which Diplomatic Assurances Are Considered
Section 208.18(c) sets out special procedures for cases in which the Secretary of State forwards to the Attorney General assurances that the Secretary has obtained from the government of a specific country that an alien would not be tortured if returned there. In some cases, it may be possible for the United States to actually reduce the likelihood that an alien would be tortured in a particular country. The nature and reliability of such assurances, and any arrangements through which such assurances migh
t be verified, would require careful evaluation before any decision could be reached about whether such assurances would allow an alien's removal to that country consistent with Article 3. This paragraph sets out special procedures under which the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of State, will assume responsibility for assessing the adequacy of any such assurances in appropriate cases. Cases will be handled under this provision only if such assurances are actually forwarded to the Att
orney General by the Secretary of State for consideration under this special process. It is anticipated that these cases will be rare.
In cases in which the Secretary has forwarded assurances under this provision, the procedures for administrative consideration of claims under the Convention Against Torture set out elsewhere in this rule will not apply. Further, the rule provides that the Attorney General's authority to make determinations about the applicability of Article 3 in such a case may be exercised by the Deputy Attorney General or by the Commissioner, but may not be further delegated. Thus the rule ensures that cases involving
the adequacy of diplomatic assurances forwarded to the Attorney General by the Secretary of State will receive consideration at senior levels within the Department of Justice, which is appropriate to the delicate nature of a diplomatic undertaking to ensure that an alien is not tortured in another country. Under § 208.17(f), these special procedures may also be invoked in appropriate cases for considering whether deferral of removal should be terminated.
Cases Involving Aliens Ordered Removed Under Section 235(c) of the
Section 208.18(d) provides, as discussed previously in the supplementary information, that an alien ordered removed pursuant to section 235(c) of the Act will not be removed under circumstances that would violate section 241(b)(3) of the Act or Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture. Any claim by an alien for protection against removal to a country where the alien claims he or she would be tortured will be considered by the Service under the standards applicable to protection under the Convention Agai
nst Torture, in light of the special circumstances of each case.
Because these determinations will be made by the Service, the procedural provisions in Part 208 for consideration or decision of an alien's claims by an immigration judge, the Board, or an asylum officer do not apply in such cases. Thus, although this rule amends 8 CFR 253.1(f) to provide that an alien removable under section 235(c) of the Act may apply for protection under the Convention Against Torture under 8 CFR Part 208, such an alien's claim would be considered by the Service as provided in § 208.18(
d), and not by an immigration judge or asylum officer.
Similarly, although § 208.2(b)(1)(C)(v) provides that an immigration judge shall have exclusive jurisdiction over any asylum application filed on or after April 1, 1997, by an alien who has been ordered removed under section 235(c) of the Act, that provision by its express terms is only applicable "[a]fter Form I-863, Notice of Referral to Immigration Judge, has been filed with the Immigration Court." When the alien is found to be removable as provided in section 235(c)(2)(B) of the Act, the Service issues
a removal order without referring the case to an immigration judge. Thus this provision relating to the authority of the immigration judge will apply to an alien who is subject to removal under section 235(c) of the Act only if the Service makes a determination to refer the case to an immigration judge for consideration as provided in sections 235.8(b)(2)(ii) and (d).
Expedited Removal and the Credible Fear Process
The credible fear screening provisions at § 208.30 are amended to ensure that arriving aliens who are subject to the statutory provisions for expedited removal at ports of entry will, when necessary, be considered for protection under Article 3 as well as for asylum under section 208 of the Act and withholding under section 241(b)(3)(B) of the Act. Under current procedures, an alien subject to expedited removal who expresses a fear of persecution in his or her country of origin is interviewed by an asylum
officer to determine whether the alien has a credible fear of persecution. Under the amended procedures, an alien who expresses such a fear will also be examined to determine whether he or she has a credible fear of torture. An alien will be found to have a credible fear of torture if the alien shows that there is a significant possibility that he or she is eligible for withholding of removal or deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. If the alien has a credible fear of torture, he or s
he will be referred to an immigration judge for removal proceedings under section 240 of the Act, just as in the current credible fear of persecution process. In these proceedings, the alien will be able to assert a claim to withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture or under section 241(b)(3) of the Act, or to deferral of removal in the case of an alien barred from withholding, or to asylum under section 208 of the Act. Similarly, consistent with current procedures in the expedited remov
al context, upon the alien's request, an asylum officer's negative credible fear of torture determination will be subject to expeditious review by an immigration judge, with no appeal of this screening review. Thus, the interim rule provides for fair resolution of claims to protection under the Convention Against Torture in the expedited removal context, without disrupting the streamlined process established by Congress to circumvent meritless claims.
Reasonable Fear Screening Process for Aliens in Administrative Removal Proceedings for Aggravated Felons and Aliens Subject to Reinstated Orders
Section 208.31 creates a new screening process to evaluate torture claims for aliens subject to streamlined administrative removal processes for aggravated felons under section 238(b) of the Act and for aliens subject to reinstatement of a previous removal order under section 241(a)(5) of the Act. This new screening process is modeled on the credible fear screening process, but requires the alien to meet a higher screening standard. Similar to the credible fear screening process, § 208.31 is intended to p
rovide for the fair resolution of claims both to withholding under section 241(b)(3) of the Act, and to protection under the Convention Against Torture without unduly disrupting the operation of these special administrative removal processes.
Unlike the broad class of arriving aliens who are subject to expedited removal, these two classes of aliens are ineligible for asylum. They may, however, be entitled to withholding of removal under either section 241(b)(3) of the Act, or under the Convention Against Torture, or to deferral of removal under § 208.17(a). Because the standard for showing entitlement to these forms of protection (a probability of persecution or torture) is significantly higher than the standard for asylum (a well-founded fear
of persecution), the screening standard adopted for initial consideration of withholding and deferral requests in these contexts is also higher. In fact, the "reasonable fear" screening standard is the same standard of proof used in asylum eligibility determinations. That is, the alien must show that there is a "reasonable possibility" that he or she would be persecuted or tortured in the country of removal.
Under the new screening process, aliens in these streamlined administrative removal proceedings who express a fear of persecution or torture will be interviewed by an asylum officer to determine whether they have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture. If they are determined to have such a fear, they will be referred to an immigration judge for a determination only as to their eligibility for withholding of removal under either section 241(b)(3) of the Act or under the Convention Against Torture, or f
or deferral of removal. Either the alien or the Service may appeal the immigration judge's decision about eligibility for withholding or deferral of removal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The Board will have jurisdiction to review only the issue of eligibility for withholding or deferral of removal and may not review issues related to the administratively issued order of removal or to the reinstatement of the previous order of removal.
If the asylum officer determines that the alien does not have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture, the alien will be afforded the opportunity for an expeditious review of the negative screening determination by an immigration judge. A new form I-898, Record of Negative Reasonable Fear Finding and Request for Review by the Immigration Judge, will be created on which the alien may request review of a negative asylum officer screening determination. If the immigration judge upholds the negative scree
ning determination, the alien may be removed without further review. If the immigration judge reverses the asylum officer's screening determination, however, the immigration judge will proceed to a determination only as to eligibility for withholding of removal under section 241(b)(3) of the Act or under the Convention Against Torture, or if applicable, deferral of removal. Again, either the alien or the INS may appeal the immigration judge's decision about withholding or deferral to the Board of Immigrati
This reasonable fear screening process provides a formal mechanism, previously unavailable, to make determinations under section 241(b)(3) of the Act for aliens who are subject to administrative removal as aggravated felons under section 238(b) of the Act, but who were sentenced to an aggregate term of imprisonment of less than five years, and thus are not conclusively barred from withholding under section 241(b)(3)(B) of the Act. This same mechanism will provide for consideration of applications for withho
lding of removal under the Convention Against Torture, and for consideration for deferral of removal when necessary, in these cases. Thus the new screening process will unify any consideration of applications for withholding of removal under section 241(b)(3) of the Act and under the Convention Against Torture in these cases.
Similarly, the new reasonable fear of persecution or torture screening process will ensure proper consideration of applications for withholding under section 241(b)(3) of the Act and under the Convention Against Torture, and of deferral of removal when appropriate, in cases subject to reinstatement of a previous removal order. Thus it replaces current regulatory provisions at § 241.8(d) for the consideration of applications for withholding of removal under section 241(b)(3) of the Act.