Despite loopholes and objections, UN close to adopting anti-torture convention

The United Nations is preparing to adopt an international convention against torture before year's end. No one dares to speak out openly against the resolution, since that would be tantamount to advocating the use of torture.

But a few communist and third-world countries have reservations about portions of the draft and are trying to dilute it, UN sources say.

The draft specifies that each state take steps to prevent torture on its territory; a state invoke no exceptional circumstances to justify torture; there be no safe haven for torturers; each state keep under review interrogation rules , methods, and practices; and a committee against torture be appointed.

This committee would consist of 10 experts who would submit a report on their activities to the UN General Assembly once a year.

In 1980 the General Assembly instructed the UN Human Rights Commission to draft this convention in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says, ''No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.''

Sweden drafted the text of this convention and has for years vigorously lobbied in favor of its adoption.

Of the 32 articles in the draft, only two have not been accepted by all. Some countries object that the commission can decide on its own which countries to call to task.

Western countries, especially the US, feel that without the power to control, the UN anti-torture commission would be without clout and the convention would be meaningless.

Some East European countries also have reservations about the committee's ability to initiate inquiries into charges of systematic torture.

There is also some doubt as to the definition of torture. The US insists that ''torture'' does not include ''pain and suffering arising only from lawful sanctions both national and international.''

''The US interpretation would create a loophole in the convention since any state could claim that it is not torturing but only applying sanctions in accordance with its laws,'' says a West European diplomat.

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