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HRW: Other democracies must defend rights in Trump era

Trump has pledged to ban Muslim immigration to the US [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 January, 2017

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The United States under President Donald Trump appears set to renounce its role as an international human rights defender, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday, urging other democracies to step up.

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The United States under President Donald Trump appears set to renounce its role as an international human rights defender, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday, urging other democracies to step up.

"I'm very concerned that we will lose the US voice as a defender of human rights around the world," HRW executive director Kenneth Roth told reporters in Geneva.

This, he warned, could have dire consequences in a world where Washington has long "been an important voice for civil society, for civic space in many countries".

Roth also said he feared governments could "use the opportunity of Trump's arrival to crack down on dissent".

He condemned several measures announced since Trump took office, including planned restrictions on refugees, visas and immigration, and a decree barring US federal funding for any foreign NGOs that provide or consult on abortion.

He was also sharply critical of Trump's choice of cabinet members, including his yet-to-be confirmed pick for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil head Rex Tillerson.

"This does not bode well for American leadership on human rights," he said, insisting that "there is going to be an urgent need for other governments to step up."

Western European countries alone could not handle the burden, he said, stressing the need for democratic countries around the globe to work together.

"Without a real global commitment to human rights values from all nations where there is, at least domestically, a commitment to these values, I fear that this global rise of populism is going to weaken a number of the pillars on which the United Nations (was) built," Roth said.

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