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US: Trump Proposals Would Violate Rights, Harm Millions

Letter to President-Elect Urges Retracting Dangerous Pledges

(New York) – US President-elect Donald Trump should rescind and repudiate proposals he has made that, if implemented, would harm millions of people in the United States and abroad, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Trump from Executive Director Kenneth Roth.
Human Rights Watch cited Trump statements regarding torture, Guantanamo, immigration, refugees, women’s rights, health care, and media freedom among others that raise serious human rights concerns. 

US President-elect Donald Trump addresses supporters during his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, November 9, 2016.

“As president, you will have the heavy responsibility to prevent enactment of dangerous pledges and proposals that were made in the course of the campaign,” Roth wrote. “A first step will be to unequivocally retract such proposals, condemn hateful rhetoric and acts undertaken in your name, and commit to respecting the obligations of the United States under international human rights and humanitarian law.”

Trump should repudiate proposals calling for the use of torture, which is criminal under US and international law. Any use of torture – even the drafting of legal opinions seeking to justify torture – would expose those involved to criminal liability and would undermine US national security. Trump recently said in an interview with the New York Times, that he has come to realize torture may not be as effective as he previously thought, but he should unequivocally revoke prior endorsement of such practices.

Human Rights Watch urged Trump to reaffirm the US commitment to the Geneva Conventions and other laws of war and to make clear that his administration will not target civilians in lethal strike operations, as he suggested at one point during his campaign. Human Rights Watch also highlighted the grave dangers to rights and to US national security of proposals such as expanding the use of indefinite detention at Guantanamo.

Trump’s proposal to deport millions of immigrants would put the US on course for massive human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said. It would also damage public safety by promoting racial profiling, fear, and distrust of police. Proposals to register Muslims, and to conduct “extreme vetting” of certain nationals, would also do serious harm.

Trump should also rescind the appointment of Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor, Human Rights Watch said, noting that it reaffirmed the racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic rhetoric that characterized Trump’s presidential campaign.

Human Rights Watch also pointed to proposals that would threaten women’s health, safety, and rights. Trump has pledged to appoint “pro-life” justices to the US Supreme Court, saying they would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade, and promised to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act, which expanded access to reproductive health care, without putting forward any plan to preserve the important gains in healthcare access the US has made under the act. Trump’s callous statements about sexual assault have risked normalizing violence against women and jeopardizing efforts to combat it, Human Rights Watch said.

Some of Trump's initial foreign policy proposals suggest uncritical cooperation with governments such as Syria, Russia, and Egypt that are committing large-scale human rights abuses.

“Statements that indicate backtracking from US human rights commitments and the rule of law threaten the well-being of people within the United States and US standing in the world,” Roth wrote. “Even leaving positions on issues ambiguous can have a lasting, corrosive effect.”

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