395 F.3d 123 (3rd Cir. 2005), 04-1739, Auguste v. Ridge

Docket Nº:04-1739.
Citation:395 F.3d 123
Party Name: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 Re
Case Date:January 20, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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395 F.3d 123 (3rd Cir. 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.

No. 04-1739.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

January 20, 2005

Argued Nov. 1, 2004.

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Robert W. Brundige, Renee C. Redman (Argued), Sarah Loomis Cave, Laurence Burger, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, New York, The Legal Aid Society, Janet Sabel, Supervising Attorney, Immigration Law Unit, Bryan Lonegan, New York, for Appellant, of counsel.

Christopher J. Christie, United States Attorney, District of New Jersey, Stuart A. Minkowitz (Argued), Assistant United States Attorney, District of New Jersey, Newark, Robert D. McCallum, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, Margaret Perry, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Washington, for Appellees.

Before ALITO, FUENTES, and BECKER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

FUENTES, Circuit Judge.

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).

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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,

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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. 1 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. 2

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 Ogbudimkpa v. Ashcroft, 342 F.3d 207, 211 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Declarations

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and Reservations (visited...

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