January 26, 2017 / 3:04 PM / 3 years ago

ICRC, jurists join rebuke of Trump torture remarks, 'black site' reports

GENEVA (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have joined global human rights groups in their rebuke of U.S. President Donald Trump for condoning torture.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks at Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, U.S. January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump told ABC television in an interview on Wednesday that he thought waterboarding “worked” as an intelligence-gathering tool but would defer to his cabinet on whether to use it in interrogations.

Two U.S. officials said also on Wednesday that Trump may order a review that could lead to bringing back a CIA program for holding terrorism suspects in secret overseas “black site” prisons.

“These practices of torturing detainees and ‘disappearing’ them in black sites are serious crimes which must never be repeated,” Ian Seiderman, Legal and Policy Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a statement.

ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said: “For any political leader to advocate torture is very worrying indeed. Experience has shown that using torture doesn’t work, it only grows hatred.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reprieve, a British-based group which represented scores of Guantanamo detainees, have also issued rebukes.

Seiderman told Reuters TV that Trump, as commander-in-chief of U.S. forces, “has already signaled to those in the field that may have a propensity to engage in such practice that it is OK with the leader.

“He is also sending a very unfortunate signal to other states and other countries, when the leader of the U.S says it is OK, then maybe they will think it is OK”.

According to a document published in the Washington Post, Trump may be planning to revoke Obama directives including one guaranteeing ICRC access to all detainees in U.S. custody. The Trump administration has denied it came from the White House.

ICRC officials have visited security detainees in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba. Their findings on conditions and treatment are shared only with detaining authorities.

In 2004, a leaked ICRC report detailed U.S. mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, including keeping them naked for days in darkness. It said the mistreatment “in some cases was tantamount to torture”.

An international scandal ensued, fueled by explicit photos taken by U.S. soldiers who had abused prisoners.

The ICRC has had a long and constructive dialogue with U.S. authorities on issues linked to detention and armed conflict, ICRC spokeswoman Anna Nelson said.

“We plan to continue visiting detainees held by the U.S. authorities, monitoring their treatment and conditions of detention, and engaging confidentially with the authorities on these important issues,” she said.

Torture is forbidden under U.S. and international law, and by pacts such as the U.N. Convention against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.

Additional reporting by Marina Depetris; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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