Donald Trump

Red Cross and rights groups slam Trump over torture remarks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 5:11am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 9:23am

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have joined global human rights groups in their rebuke of US President Donald Trump for condoning torture.

Trump told ABC television in an interview on Wednesday that he thought waterboarding “worked” as an intelligence-gathering tool but would defer to his cabinet on whether to use it in interrogations.

Two US officials said also on Wednesday that Trump may order a review that could lead to bringing back a CIA programme for holding terrorism suspects in secret overseas “black site” prisons.

“These practises of torturing detainees and ‘disappearing’ them in black sites are serious crimes which must never be repeated,” Ian Seiderman, Legal and Policy Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a statement.

ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said: “For any political leader to advocate torture is very worrying indeed. Experience has shown that using torture doesn’t work, it only grows hatred.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reprieve, a British-based group which represented scores of Guantanamo detainees, have also issued rebukes.

Seiderman said that Trump, as commander-in-chief of US forces, “has already signalled to those in the field that may have a propensity to engage in such practise that it is OK with the leader”.

“He is also sending a very unfortunate signal to other states and other countries, when the leader of the US says it is OK, then maybe they will think it is OK.”

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According to a document published in the Washington Post, Trump may be planning to revoke Obama directives including one guaranteeing ICRC access to all detainees in US custody. The Trump administration has denied it came from the White House.

ICRC officials have visited security detainees in US custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba. Their findings on conditions and treatment are shared only with detaining authorities.

In 2004, a leaked ICRC report detailed US mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, including keeping them naked for days in darkness. It said the mistreatment “in some cases was tantamount to torture”.

An international scandal ensued, fuelled by explicit photos taken by US soldiers who had abused prisoners.

The ICRC has had a long and constructive dialogue with US authorities on issues linked to detention and armed conflict, ICRC spokeswoman Anna Nelson said.

“We plan to continue visiting detainees held by the US authorities, monitoring their treatment and conditions of detention, and engaging confidentially with the authorities on these important issues,” she said.

Torture is forbidden under US and international law, and by pacts such as the UN Convention against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.