Donald Trump

Trump violating US human rights obligations: UN experts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 2:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 2:01am

A panel of United Nations human rights experts said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s sweeping order restricting some travellers and refugees from entering the United States violates the country’s international human rights obligations.

The blunt assessment from the UN is the latest in a series of criticism it has volleyed at Trump’s ban, which temporarily closes America’s borders to people from seven Muslim-majority nations and suspends admission for almost all refugees for a 120-day period.

“Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one’s nationality and leads to increased stigmatisation of Muslim communities,” a group of UN Special Rapporteurs - experts appointed to study human rights issues - said in a statement. The group includes rapporteurs on migrants, human rights and counterterrorism, racism, torture and freedom of religion.

Trump and officials in his administration have argued since he signed the order last Friday that the measure is not a “Muslim ban.” During the presidential campaign, Trump called for a Muslim ban, a statement that remains on his campaign website, and he said the day he signed the order that he would prioritise Christians seeking admission as refugees.

In its statement, the group of UN experts alluded to people who have been detained at airports across the country, saying they were worried people flying to the United States “will be subject to detention for an undefined period of time and then ultimately deported.”

A spokesman for the United States mission to the UN did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

UN officials have spoken out against the ban in very sharp terms this week, worrying about its impact on refugees and expressing concerns it could help terrorist groups. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called the travel ban “mean-spirited” on Monday, while UN Secretary-General António Guterres released a statement a day later saying he was worried about decisions “undermining the integrity of the international refugee protection regime.”

Trump’s order included a temporary entry ban on people from seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. It also significantly cut back the number of refugees the United States will take in and, in addition to a 120-day freeze on most refugee admissions, indefinitely suspended the arrival of any Syrian refugees.

The UN has called the situation in Syria “the worst war, the worst humanitarian crisis, the worst displacement crisis, the worst refugee crisis in a generation,” and the experts Wednesday called Trump’s order “a significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection.”

They also expressed their concerns about what would happen to refugees left in limbo, referring to “non-refoulement,” a principle the UN has long held stating that nations cannot expel or return a refugee to an area where their life or freedom are threatened.

White House aides who wrote Trump’s travel ban see it as just the start

The experts wrote that the immigration policy “risks people being returned, without proper individual assessments and asylum procedures, to places in which they risk being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws which uphold the principle of non-refoulement.”

The Trump administration said Tuesday that 872 refugees considered in transit and who would face “undue hardship” if turned back would be allowed into the United States by week’s end. The UN refugee agency, in a statement earlier this week, said that Trump’s order could impact a far larger number of people, estimating that some 20,000 refugees might have been resettled in the United States during the 120-day window when most won’t be allowed to enter the country.