Geneva (AFP) - Comments by Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in support of waterboarding and the torture of terror suspects have damaged the United States' global standing, a UN expert said Wednesday.
Juan Mendez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, made the comments a day after briefing the UN rights council in Geneva.
"I think the... standing of the United States as a law-abiding nation and as an example to other states to fight crime and terrorism within the strictures of the rule of law is very seriously damaged by this kind of rhetoric," Mendez said.
Although he did not use Trump's name, Mendez was responding to a question about the real-estate mogul, who has said during the Republican campaign that he supports waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques that are a "hell of a lot worse" and said he had "no problem" with the targeting of terror suspects' families.
Trump pledged over the weekend to abide by US laws but suggested they should be changed to permit the torture of terror suspects and targeting their family members, allowing the US to play "on the same field" as the Islamic State group.
Speaking to reporters, Mendez said his remarks the US election campaign were made "as a citizen", not in his official UN capacity.
"If any of these candidates gets elected and reinstates waterboarding or any of the other harsh techniques -- euphemistically called enhanced interrogation tactics -- that is going to be illegal," he said.
"They are illegal as a matter of international law, they are illegal as a matter of constitutional law in the United States, they are illegal as a matter of military law. The uniform code of military justice (in the United States) expressly prohibits torture," he said.
Mendez, a lawyer and Argentinian national, was arrested and tortured by the military dictatorship that ruled the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Trump won primaries in Michigan and Mississippi as well as caucuses in Hawaii on Tuesday, maintaining his lead in the Republican race.