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Rights groups warn Trump against any executive action on torture

A broad coalition of human rights, civil liberties, and religious groups has written a letter to US President Donald Trump, warning him against any executive action that would bring back torture and other abusive interrogation and detention practices.

“Torture is morally reprehensible. It has long been absolutely prohibited under both domestic and international law, a prohibition that Congress strongly reinforced on an overwhelming, bipartisan basis just last year,” read the letter which was published on the website of Human Rights Watch on Friday.

The message came a day after Trump said he was considering reinstating the use of torture, including the banned interrogation technique of waterboarding, against terrorist suspects.

The new president said he believed torture “absolutely” works and that the US should fight “fire with fire.”

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The rights groups, including American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, reminded Trump that his nominees, cabinet members, and senior advisers have publicly rejected torture.

“These practices are dangerous and damaging in other ways, first and foremost to the people who suffer them, but also to the men and women ordered to inflict them,” the letter said.

“When the United States employs such practices as part of a campaign that demonizes an entire religion, as did a recently leaked draft executive order using the insidious term ‘radical Islamism,’ it tears even further the very fabric of the nation,” it continued.

“It also makes the US less safe,” the rights campaigners said, adding that terrorist groups continue to use the US military prison at Guantanamo, and the abuses it represents, as a recruiting tool.

US President Donald Trump speaks following the ceremonial swearing-in of James Mattis (R) as secretary of defense on January 27, 2016 at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

The rights organizations also cited a recent letter signed by 176 retired officers, which cautioned Trump against restoring waterboarding and other torture methods.

The new president has said he will discuss the matter with Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.  Both officials have said they fully support the universal prohibition on torture.

During his presidential campaign, Trump vowed to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” to use against suspected terrorists. The billionaire property developer argued that “torture works,” and even “if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway.”

Reports also suggest that the White House is preparing an executive order that would clear the way for the CIA to reopen its overseas prisons known as “black sites.”

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