What is the Convention Against Torture (CAT)?

If you have come to the United States because you fear being tortured in your country of origin, you should apply for protections under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT).  Many immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking protection from various types of persecution apply for asylum but if you specifically fear torture, the CAT can protect you from being deported to any country where you would be in danger.

It is common to apply for asylum and CAT at the same time because an applicant could still be eligible for CAT protections if their asylum application is denied.

In order to be granted CAT protection, you need to prove that it is more likely than not (over 50% chance) that you would be tortured if forced to return to your home country.  The advantages to CAT include the fact that it is a mandatory form of relief meaning that if you are eligible, then the U.S. must grant you protection.

Also, bars that prevent you from being eligible for asylum  do not prevent you from being granted CAT protections.  Another beneficial aspect of CAT that differs from asylum is that the torture you face in your home country does not have to be on account of one of the five protected grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and membership in a particular social group.  The U.N. Convention Against Torture defines torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for a variety of purposes.

It is often inflicted with consent of a public official, for purposes such as punishment, obtaining a confession, intimidation, or discrimination.  Torture in this context does not include pain or suffering arising only from “inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”.  Officially under CAT, the six elements of torture are:

  • An intentional act;
  • Infliction of severe pain or suffering;
  • Under the custody or control of the offender;
  • For a broad array of wrongful purposes;
  • By or sanctioned by a public official; and
  • Not arising out of lawful sanctions.

It is important to note that CAT protections do not prevent your removal from the U.S., you may instead be sent to another country where you would not face torture.  If granted protection under CAT, you would not be eligible to apply for a green card or to naturalize as a U.S. citizen. It also does not provide any rights to family members either in the U.S. or abroad.  If you think you may be eligible for protections under CAT, you should consult an experienced immigration attorney before filing an application.  The application for CAT is the same form as asylum and withholding of removal, Form I-589.