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Spring 2022


The world is experiencing a global restructuring that poses a serious threat to international efforts to prevent and protect against torture. The rise of powerful transnational non-state actors such as gangs, drug cartels, militias, and terrorist organizations is challenging states’ authority to control and govern torture committed within their territory.

In the United States, those seeking protection against deportation under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) must establish a likelihood of torture at the instigation of or by consent or acquiescence of a public official acting in an official capacity or other person acting in an official capacity. However, what is meant by “other person acting in an official capacity” such that torturous acts by non-state actors fall under U.N. Torture Convention protection remains unclear under U.S. CAT jurisprudence. While many aspects of the CAT have been litigated, clarified, and developed through case law since the United States ratified the CAT, the question of whether and when a non-state actor can be deemed an “other person acting in an official capacity” under the CAT within U.S. jurisprudence lacks scholarship or case law. We make the novel argument that courts and agencies should apply factors employed in civil rights claims (also known as § 1983 claims) to assess whether a non-state actor can act in an official capacity or under color of law. Doing so will help fill a critical gap in U.S. CAT protections.

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Harvard Human Rights Journal



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