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The United States validly adopted the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Dec. 10, 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85, 23 I.L.M. 1027, pursuant to the President's U.S. Const. art. II treaty-making authority, and it was well within Congress's power under the Necessary and Proper Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 18, to criminalize both torture, as defined by the Torture Act, 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 2340-2340A, and conspiracy to commit torture.
Defendant Roy M. Belfast, the son of the former president of Liberia, was convicted under the Torture Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2340-2340A, in connection with acts of torture committed against individuals in his custody who were never charged with a crime or given any legal process. Defendant sought reversal of his convictions on the ground that the Torture Act was unconstitutional. Primarily, defendant argued that congressional authority to pass the Torture Act was derived solely from the United States's obligations as a signatory to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Dec. 10, 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85 (the "CAT"). According to defendant, the Torture Act impermissibly exceeded the bounds of that authority, both in its definition of torture and its proscription against conspiracies to commit torture.
Was the Torture Act unconstitutional, thereby necessitating the reversal of defendant’s conviction?
The court of appeals held that the Torture Act, which was passed to implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Dec. 10, 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85, 23 I.L.M. 1027, was constitutional under the Necessary and Proper Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 18. The Torture Act tracked the CAT's provisions in all material respects. The Torture Act was applicable to extraterritorial conduct of a U.S. citizen. Section 924(c) also could be applied to extraterritorial conduct because the underlying substantive crime of torture had extraterritorial effect. Torture victims' prior statements and medical records were admissible under Fed. R. Evid. 801 and 803. The kidnapping guideline, U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 2A4.1, and its murder cross-reference were properly applied to the Torture Act convictions based on the nature of the victims' detentions. The sentence did not exceed the bounds of the CAT.