What a Trump Presidency Could Mean For Human Rights - RightsInfo

What a Trump Presidency Could Mean For Human Rights

Donald Trump is now the President of the United States. We generally focus on human rights in the UK, but President Elect Trump’s promised policies are likely to affect rights protections the world over. 

So here we look at five of Trump’s statements from the past few months. Hold on to your hats.

Head of State and Commander-in-Chief


What does it mean to be the President of the US? Trump is now the head of state for one of the most powerful countries in the world.  The US has the largest economy in the world.  The President is the Commander-in-Chief of one of the largest and most expensive armies in the world, with control of the largest nuclear arsenal.

It is important to note that the UK human rights protections, through the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), do not apply to the US, but they can help us scrutinise some of Trump’s beliefs.

What Trump said


When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Anything you want. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.

Trump has a track record of publicly undermining women. Most recently, a leaked video exposed him using sexually aggressive language and describing assaulting women through his position of power.

Is this a human rights issue?

These types of sexist and objectifying remarks demonstrate a disrespect for women and discrimination on the basis of sex. Internationally, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which was adopted by the UN in 1981 and has been ratified by the UK, sets out provisions for the protection and respect of women’s rights.

What Trump said


As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion.

Trump has stated that he would take away funding from Planned Parenthood, which he agrees provides crucial services to many women, on the basis that it provides abortions to women.

Is this a human rights issue?

Abortion is a subject that is inextricably linked with the rights of women and their reproductive health. In 1973 the US Supreme Court held a landmark decision in Roe v Wade, that found women to have the right to choose abortion. This was seen as key for the preservation of women’s rights, personal freedom and privacy – the European Court of Human is moving towards the same position. Trump has predicted that this case would be overturned once he became president, because he would ensure pro-life justices sat on the Supreme Court who would favour pro-life judgments.

What Trump said


Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shut-down of Muslims entering the United States.

This statement was made in the wake of a terrorist attack in the US in 2015. According to Trump it is known that Muslims hate Americans, which justifies the need for database of all Muslims as well as a ban on them entering the country. He has watered down the statement in recent months, saying that Muslims should be subject to “extreme vetting” and says that Muslims should be “tracked” by law enforcement officials.

Is this a human rights issue?

Article 14 of the ECHR sets out that the rights in the Convention should be enjoyed by everyone without discrimination. This means that people should not be discriminated against based on religion. Subjecting a portion of the population to specific treatments because of their religion would infringe this right. Article 8, which protects one’s right to private and family life might also be engaged by keeping a register of personal information for the Muslim population. Article 9 of the ECHR protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion and allows this right to be practiced in private or public. This right is similar to the US Constitutional right that protects against any prohibition of religious practice.

What Trump said


They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

This statement was made in relation to Mexicans moving to the US. Trump has made a number of prejudicial statements about Latinos. He has threatened to build a wall to keep Mexicans from entering the US, with the expectation that Mexico will pick up the tab.

Is this a human rights issue?

The discrimination Trump has demonstrated towards women and Muslims also extends to Latinos. He has also stated that the wall will keep out Syrians seeking asylum, which would infringe on every human being’s right to seek asylum according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Article 3 of the ECHR means that countries cannot send people back to a country where they face a real risk of torture or degrading treatment.

What Trump said


I would bring [waterboarding] back. I would bring back strong interrogation.

When asked about interrogating Isis members, Trump has unequivocally supported using interrogation methods like waterboarding to obtain information.

Is this a human rights issue?

Waterboarding, which was used under the George W. Bush’s administration, has been declared a method of torture. Torture, as covered by Article 3 of the ECHR, is absolutely prohibited. President Obama has reversed the Bush era policy.

The UK and US intelligence services maintain a close relationship and there have been consistent allegations throughout the “War on Terror” that the UK’s security services were complicit in US ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques, for example in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. It is illegal for UK officials to be complicit in torture, even if they are not doing it themselves. If the US returns to using torture under President Trump, the UK may have to reassess its intelligence cooperation with the US.

For a list of President Trump’s recorded beliefs see here.

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Image of Donald Trump Gage Skidmore © used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence Image of presidential seal David Newman © used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence Image of Planned Parenthood badge Women’s eNews © used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence Photo credit for bed image James © used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence Image of Wall Pierre Marshall © used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rightsinfo

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About the Author

Hayley Chapman

Hayley is a Legal Fellow at International Justice Mission, the world's largest anti-slavery charity, where she works specifically on cases of cybersex trafficking of children. Before joining IJM Hayley worked at Leigh Day in the Personal Injury department, and volunteered with the human rights charity Reprieve. Hayley holds a BA in History from Cambridge University and studied law as a Cohen scholar at BPP University and a Lord Brougham scholar at Lincoln's Inn. View all posts by Hayley Chapman.

Sian Lea

Sian is currently the Senior Programme Manager with Shiva Foundation, an anti-trafficking organisation. She has an MA in Human Rights from UCL and Graduate Diploma in Law. Previously she worked in anti-trafficking in Cambodia. View all posts by Sian Lea.
What a Trump Presidency Could Mean For Human Rights
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