The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr Nils Melzer, has appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump not to reconsider the acceptability of waterboarding and other methods of torture as interrogation techniques.
Melzer said: “Torture is torture, and waterboarding is not an exception”, urging the U.S. not to reinstate it, in a statement issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that waterboarding, previously used by the CIA, is an interrogation technique simulating the experience of drowning, in which a person is strapped, face up, to a board that slopes downward at the head, while large quantities of water are poured over the face into the breathing passages, which Trump recently said “it does work”.
Melzer said: “Without any doubt, waterboarding amounts to torture.
“Any tolerance, complacence or acquiescence with such practice, however exceptional and well-argued, will inevitably lead down a slippery slope toward complete arbitrariness and brute force.
“I urgently appeal to President Trump to carefully consider not only U.S. legal obligations, doctrine and tradition, but also the consolidated legal and moral views of the entire international community.
He urged Trump not to allow the re-introduction of methods or interrogation that are more closely associated with barbarism than with civilisation.
“I remain open to engage in a direct and constructive dialogue with the President.”
The Special Rapporteur noted that the U.S. had always publicly affirmed its belief in the rule of law and respect for truth.
He called on the Government to live up to the standards the nation had set both for itself and others.
“If the new administration were to revive the use of torture, however, the consequences around the world would be catastrophic.
“Should Mr. Trump follow through on all of his pledges, more countries are likely to follow his lead and get back into the torture business – an ultimate disgrace for all of humanity”, he warned.
Melzer adduced three reasons against waterboarding.
“First, it is a form of torture and, contrary to popular belief, torture simply does not work.
“Torture is known to consistently produce false confessions and unreliable or misleading information.
“Faced with the imminent threat of excruciating pain or anguish, victims simply will say anything –regardless of whether it is true– to make the pain stop and try to stay alive”, he emphasised.
The expert recalled the 2014 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Report.
It concluded that the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.
“Second, even if torture did work, that does not make it legally or morally acceptable. Let us be clear: if you are looking for military advantage in war, you can argue that chemical weapons ‘work’, or terrorism ‘works’ as well.
“However, all civilised peoples of this world have stood together to outlaw such abhorrent practices.
“Jst as torture, they irreparably destroy the humanity and integrity not only of the victim, but also of the perpetrator and, ultimately of society as a whole”, Melzer said.
“Third, torture or punishment has been absolutely prohibited in the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Geneva Conventions.”
The Special Rapporteur noted that the prohibition is absolute and breaches amount to internationally recognised crimes and, in armed conflict, even to war crimes.
“In my view, the universal recognition of the absolute nature of this prohibition may well constitute the most fundamental achievement of mankind.”
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