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57 nations sign ban on secret jails

February 07, 2007|From the Associated Press

PARIS — Nearly 60 countries signed a treaty Tuesday that bans governments from holding people in secret detention, but the United States and some of its key European allies were not among them.

The signing capped a quarter of a century of efforts by families of people who have vanished at the hands of governments.

"Our American friends were naturally invited to this ceremony; unfortunately, they weren't able to join us," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told reporters after his nation and 56 others signed the treaty at his ministry in Paris.

"That won't prevent them from one day signing on in New York at U.N. headquarters -- and I hope they will," he said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States helped draft the treaty, but that the final text "did not meet our expectations."

He declined to comment on whether the U.S. stance was influenced by the Bush administration's policy of sending terrorism suspects to CIA-run prisons overseas.

Other Western nations that did not sign included Germany, Spain, Britain and Italy.

Some European nations have expressed support for the treaty, but face constitutional hurdles or require a full Cabinet debate before signing, French and U.N. officials said.

The treaty will enter into force after 20 countries ratify the document, usually by a parliamentary vote.

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