Minister refuses to condemn Trump’s views on torture

June 27, 2017

Image of Donald Trump

A senior government minister in the House of Lords has refused to condemn President Trump for his views on torture. The comments directly contradict a statement by a Foreign Office minister, just yesterday, that the UK opposes torture in all forms.

Baroness Goldie, the incoming Lords Whip, was asked yesterday in Parliament whether the Government had “in any way addressed” President Trump’s “publicly expressed opinion on torture” – a reference to the President’s previous comments that torture, including waterboarding, “works”. Responding, Baroness Goldie said: “What other sovereign states choose to do is largely their affair.”

The comments appear to contradict the UK’s policy on torture, affirmed as recently as yesterday by other Government officials. In a statement released yesterday to mark the International Day Against Torture, Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad said: “The UK government condemns torture in all circumstances, and I call on governments around the world to eradicate this abhorrent practice.”

The UK’s main torture policy document, published in 2011, states that UK officials must “raise concerns” with its allies “to try and prevent torture occurring”, and that such a policy is “consistent with the lead the UK has taken in international efforts to eradicate torture.”

The comments follow an Associated Press report last week which uncovered potential US involvement in torture in secret detention centres in Yemen.

Commenting, Bella Sankey, a Deputy Director at Reprieve, said:

“With a self-confessed waterboarding fanboy in the White House, it’s staggering that Whitehall can’t seem to agree what the UK’s policy is on torture. Amid potential US involvement in the torture chambers of Yemen, ministers must urgently clarify whether they think torture is ‘a matter for sovereign states’ – or whether it’s something they will raise with President Trump and their Yemeni allies.”


1) Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] / +1 917 855 8064.

2) Baroness Goldie’s comments in the Lords can be seen here, while the Foreign Office’s press release with comments from Lord Ahmad can be seen here.

3) The UK’s policy guidance on torture – the Consolidated Guidance – is available here.

4) The Associated Press report on detention centres in Yemen is available here.

5) Details of President Trump’s comments on torture can be seen here.