Torture will make terrorism – not America – great again

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Torturing suspects is illegal, ineffective and will only heighten the risk of terrorism, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) warned after Donald Trump again condoned torture in his first televised interview  as United States President on 25 January 2017.

In a live interview with ABC News, President Trump said he believed torturecworked and that his country should “respond to fire with fire”. Yet he added he would leave it to his Defence Secretary James Mattis and Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo to decide what should be done to keep the United States safe, saying he wanted “to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally”.

These statements came after a Trump Administration draft executive order about reopening the CIA’s offshore “black site” prisons where terrorism suspects are detained and tortured was leaked to the press.

These comments in line with President Trump’s campaign statements constitute a U-turn in US policy, which had under President Barak Obama aimed at closing such torture sites and punishing the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” instated under the Bush Administration to combat terrorism after the 9/11 attacks.

OMCT, which leads a coalition of over 200 anti-torture NGOs around the world, stresses that sacrificing what is a core principle of international law and democracy will not yield useful information to combat terrorism, but only lead to more attacks around the world.

“Torture will make terrorism – not America – great again,” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock. “We won’t defeat the Islamic State by being more ruthless and brutal than it is. We will only manage that feet if we – contrary to those who torture and murder – go by the rules ourselves and uphold human rights against the violations we want to stop.”

Torture and disappearing suspects in secret detention, as was done during the “War on Terror” under President George Bush, will only push people across the world to support or sympathise with extremist groups such as the Islamic State.

The OMCT therefore encourages European and other long-standing partners of the US, notably the United Kingdom, to speak out against such declarations by the new US President to make clear that they would not be able to cooperate with US intelligence if torture were authorized.

At odds with his own and with the facts

Trump’s declaration is at odds with his own newly appointed intelligence chief Pompeo, who during his confirmation hearing officially ruled out using torture.

Most practitioners agree that torture does not yield useful intelligence, as an authoritative study by the United States Senate has concluded in 2014. “The Committee finds, based on a review of CIA interrogation records, that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation,” the report read.

Republican Senator McCain, himself a prisoner of war who was tortured, has also concurred: “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. ”

OMCT is short for the World Organisation Against Torture – in French, as the organisation created in 1985 is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. OMCT works for, with and through an international coalition of over 200 non-governmental organizations – the SOS-Torture network – fighting torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and all other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in the world.

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