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Auguste v. Ridge

January 20, 2005

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE AUGUSTE, APPELLANT
v.
THOMAS RIDGE, SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY; JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES; MICHAEL GARCIA, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT (BICE); ANTHONY S. TANGEMAN, DIRECTOR OF DETENTION AND REMOVAL, BICE; JOHN CARBONE, DETENTION AND REMOVAL FIELD OFFICE DIRECTOR - NEW JERSEY, BICE; MICHAEL T. ABODE, WARDEN, MIDDLESEX COUNTY ADULT CORRECTIONS CENTER.



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. No. 04-cv-01094) District Judge: Honorable Joel A. Pisano

Before: Alito, Fuentes, and Becker, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fuentes, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued November 1, 2004

OPINION OF THE COURT

Napoleon Bonaparte Auguste appeals from the District Court's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking relief under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the "CAT" or "Convention"). Auguste, who is facing removal to Haiti, claims that he will be indefinitely detained upon his arrival in Haiti in prisons that are notorious for their brutal and deplorable conditions that have been compared to those existing on slave ships. There is no doubt that the prison conditions that Auguste and others like him may face upon their removal to Haiti are indeed miserable and inhuman. However, because we hold that in order to constitute torture, an act must be inflicted with the specific intent to cause severe physical or mental pain and suffering, the standard the President and Senate understood as applying when the United States ratified the CAT, we find that Auguste is not entitled to relief. Accordingly, we will affirm the decision of the District Court.

I. Background

Auguste, a twenty-seven year old male, is a native and citizen of Haiti who was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident on December 8, 1987. His entire family lives in the United States. On April 4, 2003, Auguste was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance (cocaine) in the third degree in Queens County, New York, and sentenced to ten months imprisonment.

On July 3, 2003, the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, issued a notice to appear charging Auguste with removal on two grounds: (1) as an alien who has been convicted of a controlled substance violation pursuant to § 237(a)(2)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (the "INA" or "Act"), 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i), and (2) as an alien who has been convicted of an aggravated felony/attempted drug trafficking crime pursuant to § 237(a)(2)(A)(iii) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii).

Auguste did not contest his eligibility for deportation as charged and instead, as his defense, applied for deferral of removal under the CAT and its implementing regulations. With regards to his claim for relief under the CAT, Auguste argued that he was entitled to a deferral of removal on the grounds that he faces torture in Haiti because, as a deported drug offender, he will be detained by Haitian authorities for an indeterminate amount of time in harsh and intolerable prison conditions.

A. Conditions in Haitian Prisons

Since at least 2000, it has been the policy of the Haitian government to detain deported Haitians, who have incurred a criminal record while residing in the United States and who have already served their sentences, in preventive detention. The policy appears to have been motivated by the belief that criminal deportees pose a threat of recidivist criminal behavior after their return to Haiti. The length of the detention can vary, lasting in many instances upwards of several months. Auguste contends that release often depends on the family members of the deportees petitioning the Haitian Ministry of Interior for release and their ability to pay anywhere between $1,000 to $20,000.

Documentary evidence submitted by Auguste in support of his CAT claim describes the brutal and harsh conditions that exist in the Haitian prison system. We recount briefly some of these conditions. The prison population is held in cells that are so tiny and overcrowded that prisoners must sleep sitting or standing up, and in which temperatures can reach as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Many of the cells lack basic furniture, such as chairs, mattresses, washbasins or toilets, and are full of vermin, including roaches, rats, mice and lizards. Prisoners are occasionally permitted out of their cells for a duration of about five minutes every two to three days. Because cells lack basic sanitation facilities, prisoners are provided with buckets or plastic bags in which to urinate and defecate; the bags are often not collected for days and spill onto the floor, leaving the floors covered with urine and feces. There are also indications that prison authorities provide little or no food or water, and malnutrition and starvation is a continuous problem. Nor is medical treatment provided to prisoners, who suffer from a host of diseases including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and Beri-Beri, a life-threatening disease caused by malnutrition. At least one source provided by Auguste likened the conditions in Haiti's prisons to a "scene reminiscent of a slave ship."

There are also reports of beatings of prisoners by guards. State Department reports on conditions in Haiti in 2001 and 2002 discussed police mistreatment of prisoners and noted that there were isolated allegations of torture by electric shock, as well as instances in which inmates were burned with cigarettes, choked, or were severely boxed on the ears, causing ear damage. The authorities' record of disciplining police misconduct was, however, inconsistent.

The Department of State reported that Haiti remains a "very poor" country, and that the prison system operates at or near the same budget level as in 1995. Despite attempts at increasing the budgetary allocation for prisons, political instability in Haiti was expected to cause a continuation of budgetary freezes.

B. The Convention Against Torture

Auguste seeks protection under Article 3 of the Convention. See Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, art. 3, opened for signature Dec. 10, 1984, S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20 (1988), 1465 U.N.T.S. 85 (entered into force June 26, 1987). Because the history of ratification of the Convention by the United States will prove relevant to resolving Auguste's habeas claim, we recount that history in some detail.

The CAT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1984, with the stated purpose to "make more effective the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the world." See Preamble to Convention, S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85. The CAT represented a continuing process in the codification of an international legal norm condemning the practice of torture by public officials, a norm first recognized in several prior multilateral agreements.*fn1 As the preamble to the CAT recognizes, it is the obligation of nations under the United Nations Charter to "promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms." See Preamble to Convention, S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85. Since opening for signature in December 1984, over 130 countries have signed and/or become parties to the Convention.*fn2

Article 1 of the CAT defines torture as:

[A]ny act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, whether such pain or suffering is inflicting by or at the instigation of or within the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incident to lawful sanctions.

Art. 1(1), S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85. In turn, Article 3 of the CAT states: "No State Party shall expel, return (" refouler ") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." Art. 3(1), S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85.

President Reagan signed the Convention on April 18, 1988, with the following reservation: "The Government of the United States of America reserves the right to communicate, upon ratification, such reservations, interpretive understandings, or declarations as are deemed necessary." See Ogbudimpka v. Ashcroft, 342 F.3d 207, 211 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Declarations and Reservations (visited Nov. 24, 2004 (http://untreaty.un.org/ENGLISH/bible/englishinternetbible/partI /chapterIV/treaty14.asp). Approximately one month later, on May 20, 1988, the President transmitted the CAT to the Senate for its advice and consent with seventeen proposed conditions (four reservations, nine understandings, and four declarations). See Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, S. Exec. Rep. 101-30, at 2, 7 (1990).

In response to congressional and public concern regarding several of the proposed conditions, in January 1990 President George H. W. Bush submitted a revised and reduced list of proposed conditions. See id. at 2, 7-8; see also Ogbudimpka, 342 F.3d at 212 n.11. Of the proposed conditions, President Bush submitted several understandings, two of which are directly relevant to this case. First, with respect to Article 1 of the CAT, the President proposed the understanding that the "United States understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." See S. Exec. Rep. 101-30, at 9, 36.*fn3 This first understanding closely tracked a similar understanding initially submitted by President Reagan in 1988, which stated that the United States "understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be a deliberate and calculated act of an extremely cruel and inhuman nature, specifically intended to inflict excruciating and agonizing physical or mental pain or suffering." See S. Exec. Rep. 101-30, at 15.*fn4 Second, with respect to Article 3 of the CAT, President Bush submitted an understanding, previously submitted by President Reagan, that the United States "understands the phrase 'where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture,' as used in Article 3 of the Convention, to mean 'if it is more likely than not that he would be tortured.'" See S. Exec. Rep. 101-30, at 16, 36.*fn5

The Senate adopted a resolution of advice and consent to ratification of the CAT on October 27, 1990, subject to several reservations, understandings, and declarations. See 136 Cong. Rec. S17,486, S17491-92 (daily ed. 1990) ("Senate Resolution"). Importantly, the Senate adopted the two understandings proposed by President Bush with respect to Articles 1 and 3 of the Convention. Thus, the Senate explained that with reference to the definition of torture contained in Article 1 of the CAT, the "United States understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." See Senate Resolution, supra, II.1(a). Moreover, the Senate explained that with reference to the standard of proof required in Article 3 of the CAT, the "United States understands the phrase 'where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture,' as used in Article 3 of the Convention, to mean 'if it is more likely than not that he would be tortured.'" See Senate Resolution, supra, II.2.

Under U.S. immigration law, the United States can not deport an individual if "it is more likely than not that the alien would be subject to persecution." INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407 (1984). U.S. immigration law also provides that asylum may be granted to an alien who is unwilling to return to his home country "because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution." INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

The administration's proposed understanding adopts the more stringent Stevic standard because the administration regards the nonrefoulement prohibition of article 3 as analogous to mandatory withholding of deportation. Therefore, article 3 would apply when it is "more likely than not" that the individual would be tortured upon return.

See S. Exec. Rep. 101-30, at 10.

Finally, pursuant to Article 26 of the Convention, President Clinton deposited the instrument of ratification with the United Nations on October 21, 1994.*fn6 See Regulations Concerning the Convention Against Torture, 64 Fed. Reg. 8478, 8478 (Feb. 19, 1999); see also Status of the [Convention] (visited Nov. 24, 2004) (http://www.un.org/documents/ga/docs/53/plenary/a53-253.htm). Notably, the President included the Senate understandings in the instrument of ratification. See 1830 U.N.T.S. 320, 321, 322 (1994); Declarations and Reservations made upon Ratification, Accession, or Succession (visited Nov. 24, 2004) (http://untreaty.un.org/ENGLISH/bible/englishinternetbible/partI /chapterIV/treaty14.asp).

Because the resolution of advice and consent specified that the CAT was not self-executing, Congress proceeded to pass legislation in order to implement the United States' obligations under the Convention in 1998 with the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act ("FARRA"). See Pub. L. No. 105-227, Div. G., Title XXII, § 2242, 112 Stat. 2681, 2681-822, codified as note to 8 U.S.C. § 1231.*fn7 The first section of FARRA, § 2242(a), contained a general statement of congressional policy, providing that: "It shall be the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture." In turn, § 2242(b), which substantively implements the CAT, directed "the heads of the appropriate agencies" to "prescribe regulations to implement the obligations of the United States under Article 3 of the [Convention], subject to any reservations, understandings, declarations, and provisos contained in the United States Senate resolution of ratification of the Convention." See 8 U.S.C. § 1231 note.

In accordance with § 2242(b) of FARRA, the Department of Justice, of which the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") at that time was a division, promulgated regulations setting forth the procedures by which individuals could seek relief pursuant to the CAT. See 64 Fed. Reg. 8478 (Feb. 19, 1999), codified at 8 C.F.R. §§ 208.16(c),.17, &.18(a) (2004). Section 208.18(a) sets out the definitions to be used in applying the United States' obligations under the CAT and states: "The definitions in this subsection incorporate the definition of torture contained in Article 1 of the [Convention], subject to the

As noted later, we decide that the Convention is not self-executing.

On a side note, in Ogbudimpka, we briefly considered whether a claim seeking relief from removal on the grounds of alleged future torture should be called a "CAT claim" or a "FARRA claim." 342 F.3d at 221 n.24. We noted that, if it were true that the Convention was not self-executing, then strictly speaking an alien would seek relief under FARRA, and not the Convention. Id. Ultimately, however, given that the language of FARRA is virtually identical to the language of Article 3 of the Convention, we concluded that the difference between the terminology of a "CAT claim" v. a "FARRA claim" was inconsequential. Id. Accordingly, we used there, and we continue to use here, the colloquial reference to a "CAT claim" rather than a "FARRA claim" in discussing Auguste's requested relief. Id. reservations, understandings, declarations, and provisos contained in the [Senate] resolution of ratification of the Convention." 8 C.F.R. § 208.18(a). Section 208.18(a)(1) proceeds then to adopt a basic definition of torture, mirroring the definition of torture in Article 1 of the CAT, which is then clarified by six additional provisions, several of which are relevant in this matter:

(a)(1) Torture is defined as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or her or a third person information or a confession, punishing him or her for an act he or she or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or her or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is 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.

(a)(2) Torture is an extreme form of cruel and inhuman treatment and does not include lesser forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that do not amount to torture.

(a)(3) Torture does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions....

(a)(5) In order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering. An act that results in unanticipated or unintended severity of pain and suffering is not torture.

In addition to clarifying the definition of torture that is to apply in the domestic context, the Department of Justice also promulgated regulations specifying the elements and burden of proof for a CAT claim. Section 208.16(c)(2), which tracks the understanding proposed by the President and adopted by the Senate in its resolution of ratification, states that "[t]he burden of proof is on the applicant for withholding of removal to establish that it is more likely than not that he or she would be tortured if removed to the proposed country of removal."*fn8 If an applicant establishes that he "more likely than not would be tortured" upon return to his home country, withholding of removal or deferral of removal is mandatory. See 8 C.F.R. ยงยง 208.16(c)(3) and (4). The objective evidence to be considered in evaluating a CAT claim includes "[e]vidence of past torture inflicted upon the applicant;" "[e]vidence of ...


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