USA: Draft directives undermine prohibition against torture and will harm refugees

January 26, 2017

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Following the release of draft executive orders under consideration by President Donald Trump, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has warned that any attempts to undermine the absolute prohibition against torture, the ban on secret and unlawful detention, and U.S. obligations to protect refugees would be illegal, immoral, and harmful.

“These proposed executive orders would be a clear violation of U.S. laws and values,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. The draft directives include orders that:

  • would temporarily halt all refugee admissions;
  • would impose a temporary ban on entry to the United States of people from a list of majority-Muslim nations, including Syria;
  • would direct the U.S. military and national security services to review interrogation practices (including waterboarding, which was banned by President Obama 7 years ago);
  • would potentially resume CIA secret “black site” prisons abroad, used by the Bush Administration in the post-9/11 period to unlawfully detain and interrogate suspected terrorists;
  • would reverse the previous administration’s pledge to close Guantánamo. 

The proposed policies on detention and possibilities for “enhanced interrogation” (a euphemism for torture) abroad “will reintroduce the brutal and unlawful interrogation and detention practices of the post-9/11 period.” The long-term physical and psychological harm to detainees of torture, ill-treatment, and indefinite detention has been well documented, by PHR and other organizations.

McKay: “This week is a reminder that vigilance is crucial, and human rights defenders will not stand down. The Trump Administration, in its flurry of first-week activity, would like us to be so distracted that we lose sight of what’s important: our shared humanity. These proposed orders must be challenged by those both inside and outside the administration. And we at PHR, along with our friends in the human rights and medical communities, will continue to use the powerful voice of science and medicine to defend the humanity of others.”

Source: Press release Physicians for Human Rights, 25 January 2017 

More information about torture on the PHR site