UN human rights experts have warned Donald Trump’s travel ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries contravenes international law and could lead to people being sent home to face torture.
The US President’s executive order curbing immigration has aroused an international outcry, even among US allies, and sown chaos and bewilderment among travellers. Four US states are suing to overturn the order, saying it flouts constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.
In a statement, the UN experts urged the Trump administration to protect people fleeing war and persecution and uphold the principle of non-discrimination based on race, nationality and religion. The United States should not force back refugees, a practice known as refoulement, they said.
“Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one’s nationality and leads to increased stigmatisation of Muslim communities,” the experts’ statement said.
“Recent US policy on immigration also 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 independent experts included the UN special rapporteurs on migrants, François Crépeau; on racism, Mutuma Ruteere; on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson; on torture, Nils Melzer; and on freedom of religion, Ahmed Shaheed.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Monday that discriminating against people on the basis of their nationality is illegal.
The UN experts voiced concern that people travelling to the US could be subject to detention for indefinite periods and ultimately deported. They called on Washington to live up to internationally agreed obligations to offer refuge to those fleeing persecution and conflicts.
Mr Melzer also urged Mr Trump not to consider returning to waterboarding and other methods of torture that were used during George W Bush’s administration but banned by his Democratic successor, Barack Obama. Mr Trump has said he believes waterboarding works but his top defence and security appointees have said they would oppose any use of it.
“Any tolerance, complacency or acquiescence with such practice, however exceptional and well-argued, will inevitably lead down a slippery slope towards complete arbitrariness and brute force,” Mr Melzer said.
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