United Nations: US travel ban breaches Rights obligations, say UN experts
Published in SUNS #8393 dated 2 February 2017

Geneva, 1 Feb (Kanaga Raja) - A group of United Nations human rights experts has charged that the Executive Order signed by US President Donald Trump on 27 January 2017 that imposes a travel ban on all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries breaches the country's international human rights obligations.

[The ban, and the way it has been administered and enforced, some ignoring judicial orders, has spawned unprecedented domestic resistance, to the point where its arguably rule of law has attracted demands for impeachment, according to US media reports. SUNS]

In a news release issued on Wednesday, the UN Special Rapporteurs on migrants, Francois Crepeau; on racism, Mutuma Ruteere; on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson; on torture, Nils Melzer; and on freedom of religion, Ahmed Shaheed said that such human rights obligations protect the principles of non- refoulement and non-discrimination based on race, nationality or religion.

The Presidential Executive Order bars all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - from entering the US for the next 90 days.

"Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one's nationality and leads to increased stigmatization of Muslim communities," said the rights experts.

"The US recent 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," they warned.

According to the news release, the Executive Order applies to those who come from these countries - whether or not they have valid visa documents or are in transit.

It also affects those who have dual nationality, who either have a passport from one of those countries or are travelling from one of those countries.

Those currently residing in the US may be able to fly to the US but entry is not guaranteed, the news release noted.

"This is deeply troubling, and we are additionally concerned that such persons travelling to the US will be subject to detention for an undefined period of time and then ultimately deported," the rights experts said.

The Executive Order stops the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely bans Syrian refugees, and halts the planned entry of more than 50,000 refugees in the US fiscal year 2017, which began in October 2016 and will end in September 2017.

"In the midst of the world's greatest migration crisis since World War II, this is a significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection. The US must live up to its international obligations and provide protection for those fleeing persecution and conflicts," the UN Special Rapporteurs said.

"The US is also involved in conflicts such as those in Iraq and Syria and its responsibility must extend to offering refuge to those fleeing from the conflicts," they added.

Earlier, Mr Melzer, the Special Rapporteur on torture, urged President Trump not to re-instate waterboarding and other methods of torture used as interrogation techniques.

"Without any doubt, waterboarding amounts to torture," the rights expert underlined in a separate news release issued on 30 January.

"Any tolerance, complacence or acquiescence with such practice, however exceptional and well-argued, will inevitably lead down a slippery slope towards complete arbitrariness and brute force," he warned.

"I urgently appeal to President Trump to carefully consider not only US legal obligations, doctrine and tradition, but also the consolidated legal and moral views of the entire international community before allowing the re-introduction of methods or interrogation that are more closely associated with barbarism than with civilization. I remain open to engage in a direct and constructive dialogue with the President."

Mr Melzer emphasised that the US has always publicly affirmed its belief in the rule of law and respect for truth.

The Special Rapporteur called on the Government to live up to the standards the nation has 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," he said.

"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."