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Court: Haiti’s ‘Deplorable’ Prisons Aren’t Torture

(CN) - A Haitian immigrant lost his bid to stay in the United States despite a conviction for criminal vehicular homicide. The 8th Circuit rejected his claim that he faced torture in Haiti's "deplorable" prison system.

Shoodley Lee Cherichel pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana in 2000, and in 2005 he was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide.

Facing deportation, he argued that he was afraid to return to Haiti because he has no family there, and he feared persecution based on his "American" looks and English-speaking ability.

He also submitted extensive evidence documenting the deplorable conditions in Haitian prisons.

"This included a lack of basic hygiene, lack of food and water, a large number of malnourished prisoners, and sever overcrowding in cells with no toilet or sink," the St. Louis-based court wrote.

The immigration judge granted his application for a deferral, but the Board of Immigration Appeals vacated and ordered him removed. It explained that Haiti's prison conditions don't "rise to the level of torture [because] the record does not reflect that Haitian authorities specifically intend to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering to criminal deportees such as [Cherichel]" (original emphasis).

The 8th Circuit agreed, saying Cherichel's claims do not fit the definition of torture under the Convention Against Torture.

"Nothing in our holding today is meant to minimize the deplorable, often inhuman conditions that exist in many Haitian prisons and police stations," Judge Bobby Shepherd wrote.

"We sympathize with Cherichel and others who must face such terrible conditions. However, we are bound to apply the definition of torture in the CAT and its implementing regulations," he wrote.

The three-judge panel held that Haiti's prison conditions, "although deplorable," don't rise to the level of torture absent a specific intent to inflict pain or mental suffering on Cherichel.

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