The Obama administration is expected to tell the United Nations on Wednesday that it will restrict cruel treatment of U.S. prisoners in certain places abroad, reports the New York Times. That would be a change from a disputed Bush administration theory that a U.N. treaty banning cruelty against prisoners does not apply abroad. But the Obama administration also stopped short of an unequivocal acceptance that the ban imposes legal obligations everywhere that American officials have a prisoner in their custody or control, as human rights advocates had urged it to say.
An American delegation will unveil the administration's position in Geneva on Wednesday in a presentation before the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The panel has asked whether the United States still takes the Bush-era view. Most of the torture treaty contains no geographic limitations. The Obama administration, after an internal debate that has drawn global scrutiny, is taking the view that the cruelty ban applies wherever the U.S. exercises governmental authority, including the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and American-flagged ships and aircraft in international waters and airspace.