The head of the United Nation’s Human Rights operation accused President Trump of a “flirtation” with a return to torture and said the American public is more “accepting” of the practice.
The remarks are the latest in a series of moves from the Jordanian Prince, who has focused his energies on condemning Western powers and Israel rather than human rights abusers.
Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, attacked Trump by name in his speech at a law society in London, in which he read off a laundry list of grievances, including Trump administration officials mulling removing some funding from the U.N. He was apparently most aggravated by Trump’s tough talk on dealing with terrorism.
In his address, he criticized Trump’s travel ban, bemoaning that it was being considered by the Supreme Court despite being declared unconstitutional by lower courts.
Talking within the context of threats by members to withdraw from U.N. commitments or pull funding, Zeid accused Trump of flirting with torture and said that the American public is “far more accepting” of the practice in recent years.
In this context, most worrisome to me is the persistent flirtation by the President of the United States, throughout his campaign and soon thereafter, with a return to torture. We are now told the US Army field manual will not be redrafted, and the US Secretary of Defence is guiding the White House on this. For now there is little danger of a return to the practice of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a euphemism that dupes no one. The mood in the US could of course change dramatically, if the country were at some stage to experience a gruesome terrorist attack. And, mindful of how the American public has, over the last ten years, become far more accepting of torture, the balance could be tipped in favour of its practice – and destroy the delicate position the Convention Against Torture is in.
He accused Trump and other leaders of “breaking long-held taboos” that he said could give other countries the green light to practice torture.
“If other leaders start to follow the same rhetorical course, undermining the Convention with their words, the practice of torture is likely to broaden, and that would be fatal,” he said.
Zeid has long been a controversial figure who has openly brandished his anti-Trump views. In September, Zeid delivered a speech to The Hague in which he attacked Dutch populist Geert Wilders, comparing Wilders, along with then-candidate Trump and other populist European leaders, to the Islamic State.
“And yet what Mr Wilders shares in common with Mr Trump, Mr Orban, Mr Zeman, Mr Hofer, Mr Fico, Madame Le Pen, Mr Farage, he also shares with Da’esh,” he said, although he later clarified he was referring to their modes of communications, not their actions.
In January, Zeid blasted Trump’s travel ban as “mean-spirited” and argued that it was illegal under international law. A month later, he said he was “proud” of members of his staff who attended the anti-Trump “Women’s March.”
During the speech, he also took issue with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s tough talk on human rights laws recently, in which she said those laws would have to be changed if they interfered with the U.K.’s fight against radical Islamic terrorism.
He called her comments “a gift from a major Western leader to every authoritarian figure around the world who shamelessly violates human rights under the pretext of fighting terrorism.”
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Breitbart News based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.