nationalsecuritylaw upcoming event: “Promises to Keep: Diplomatic Assurances Against Torture in US Terrorism Transfers” (Columbia Law, Feb. 10, 4:20 to 6:20)

* upcoming event: "Promises to Keep: Diplomatic Assurances Against Torture in US Terrorism Transfers" (Columbia Law, Feb. 10, 4:20 to 6:20)

“Promises to Keep: Diplomatic Assurances Against Torture in US Terrorism Transfers”

Columbia Law School | Thursday February 10 | 4:20 – 6:20 pm
Jerome Greene Hall Room 103 | 435 W 116th Street | New York, NY 10027

Please join us for a roundtable discussion on the use of diplomatic assurances and HRI’s new report "Promises to Keep," featuring leading experts and practitioners:

Julia Hall, Amnesty International, author of several HRW reports on diplomatic assurances
Felice Gaer, member of the UN Committee Against Torture & Director of Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
Ashley Deeks, Columbia Law School, former Assistant Legal Adviser for Political-Military Affairs at the Department of State, author of Promises not to Torture: Diplomatic Assurances in US Courts
Steven Watt, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU
Naureen Shah, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School, report author
Moderated by Professor Peter Rosenblum, Faculty Co-Director, Human Rights Institute

"Diplomatic assurances" are promises not to torture. Since 9/11, the U.S. and key allies have increasingly relied on them when transferring detainees, often terrorism suspects, to the custody of governments that torture. Assurances have been used for Guantanamo detainees, formal extraditions and extraordinary renditions. But the practice remains obscure. The United States has tried to keep them secret, while other countries are increasingly more forthcoming, subjecting assurances to political and judicial review.

Are assurances a viable tool for reducing the risk of torture? Or are they a "fig-leaf" to avoid accountability for whatever happens next? Can the U.S. – or any other government – reduce the risks of abuse where torture is common? If so, how? What makes assurances better or worse?

In late December, Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute published "Promises to Keep," a 174-page report surveying the known use of assurances, assessing arguments for their effectiveness and recommending systematic reform. This roundtable brings together those most informed about this evolving practice. Ashley Deeks has worked in the State Department legal office and written the leading articles on the subject. While at Human Rights Watch and later at Amnesty International, Julia Hall was instrumental in focusing the attention of the human rights community on the dangers of assurances. Felice Gaer played an early role in scrutinizing assurances at the UN Committee against Torture, and joined with Columbia in an effort to develop standards for their use. Steven Watt worked with the Center for Constitutional Rights and, later, the ACLU, on one of the most notorious mistakes in the war on terror – the rendition with assurances of Maher Arar.

Food and refreshments will be served. Video of the event will be made available on Columbia’s website,

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