Separating migrant children from their parents at the border "may amount to torture," the United Nations said in a statement to U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday.
Trump's decision to halt his controversial 'zero tolerance' policy fails to resolve the issue and "may lead to indefinite detention of entire families in violation of international human rights standards," the statement, signed by 11 UN human rights experts, reads.
"This executive order does not address the situation of those children who have already been pulled away from their parents. We call on the government of the United States to release these children from immigration detention and to reunite them with their families based on the best interests of the child, and the rights of the child to liberty and family unity.
"Detention of children is punitive, severely hampers their development, and in some cases may amount to torture. Children are being used as a deterrent to irregular migration, which is unacceptable.
"The separations have been conducted without notice, information, or the opportunity to challenge them. The parents and children have been unable to communicate with each other.
"The parents have had no information about the whereabouts of their children, which is a cause of great distress. Moreover, we are deeply concerned at the long-term impact and trauma, including irreparable harm that these forcible separations have on the children."
During an address in Geneva on Monday, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein criticized the Trump administration: "The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable," he said, noting that in six weeks at least 2,000 children have been detained.
Al-Hussein cited the American Association of Pediatrics, saying that detaining minors is "government-sanctioned child abuse" which could potentially cause "irreparable harm with lifelong consequences."
"Mr. President, people do not lose their human rights by virtue of crossing a border without a visa," al-Hussein said.
On Thursday, Trump suspended the which has torn migrant families apart along the US-Mexican border. Viral images and videos of detention centers have spurred a global call for the U.S. government to respect migrants' human rights.