US President Donald Trump’s willingness to use torture as an interrogation tactic "lays down the gauntlet" for other governments to follow suit and authorize similar practices, warns a top UN lawyer.
Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN special rapporteur on protecting human rights Ben Emmerson said Trump was the first democratically-elected leader to approve of such practices.
"To hear President Trump, in the first days after his inauguration, glibly extolling the virtues of torture as a weapon in the fight against terrorism, and confirming his personal willingness to authorize the use of torture if asked to do so, was enough to make my blood run cold," Emmerson said.
"That is a state of affairs which lays down the gauntlet, it lays down a precedent,” the British lawyer continued.
Repeating one of his most controversial campaign pledges, Trump said in late January that the practice of waterboarding -- a form of simulated drowning -- "absolutely" worked as a means of extracting information from terror suspects.
The former reality TV star also said that he would defer to his Defense Secretary James Mattis on the issue, admitting that the Pentagon chief disagreed with him on the use of torture.
Emmerson argued that Trump’s comments revealed his "staggering level of ill-preparedness to govern.”
Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo, told Senate during his confirmation hearings that he would reconsider a ban on waterboarding if it impeded the "gathering of vital intelligence.”
The New York Times reported in January that Trump was ready to reopen the CIA’s undocumented overseas prisons, known as "black sites," by repealing a series of executive orders by former President Barack Obama.
Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA service officer who ran one of the prisons, has been selected as the agency’s deputy director.
Trump has also indicated that he would keep the notorious US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, open. Obama had promised to close down the facility but failed to do so.
"If... a permanent member of the Security Council is once again prepared to abandon our collective values on the pretext of defending them, then one is left to wonder whether anything at all has been achieved in the last 15 years," Emmerson further warned.
The British barrister also said some of the top officials of George W. Bush's administration should be tried for authorizing torture.