President-elect Donald Trump must "repudiate and rescind" his dangerous policy plans, or he will risk the lives of millions and forever damage the reputation of the United States, warned Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director Kenneth Roth in an open letter to Trump sent Wednesday.
Roth specifically cited Trump's rhetoric around women, refugees, torture, the environment, health care, and media freedom.
"In particular, statements that indicate backtracking from U.S. human rights commitments and the rule of law threaten the well-being of people within the United States and U.S. standing in the world," Roth wrote. "Even leaving positions on issues ambiguous can have a lasting corrosive effect."
"Beyond these direct policy proposals, you have for many years made statements about women that are deeply offensive and fly in the face of human rights principles of dignity and equality."
—Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch
"Torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment violates U.S. law, including the federal torture statute and the War Crimes Act. It also violates long-recognized protections under the laws of war, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions," Roth reminded the president-elect, and added that it would additionally endanger national security to reinstate the Bush-era torture program, as history has shown that torture tends to radicalize opponents.
Moreover, expanding indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay, establishing a "Muslim registry" and "extreme vetting" of asylum seekers, in addition to deporting two to three million immigrants, as Trump has promised, would further stain the country's human rights record—and endanger countless people, Roth argued.
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Curtailing women's access to healthcare—particularly at a time when the U.S. is one of the only countries suffering from a rise in the number of women dying during childbirth—would "cause harm to millions of women," Roth wrote.
"Beyond these direct policy proposals," Roth added, "you have for many years made statements about women that are deeply offensive and fly in the face of human rights principles of dignity and equality. While you deny having committed sexual assault, you have spoken of it with a callousness that deeply concerned people around the country, risked normalizing violence against women, and jeopardized the standing of the U.S. in global efforts to combat gender-based violence."
In addition, Roth told the president-elect, "your appointment of Stephen Bannon as your chief strategist and senior counselor shows a reaffirmation, rather than a disavowal, of the racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic rhetoric that characterized your presidential campaign. Bannon's stewardship of Breitbart News is widely recognized as promoting White Nationalism's message of hatred and intolerance and its accompanying racist and anti-Muslim discourse."
Finally, Roth argued that Trump's promise to dismantle environmental protections, to cut the Affordable Care Act and slash healthcare benefits for millions, as well as his stated interest in working with repressive governments around the world, will endanger the lives of millions of people in the U.S. and around the world.
"As president, you will have the heavy responsibility to prevent enactment of dangerous pledges and proposals that were made in the course of the campaign," Roth concluded. "A first step will be to unequivocally retract such proposals, condemn hateful rhetoric and acts undertaken in your name, and commit to respecting the obligations of the United States under international human rights and humanitarian law."