Category Archives: Media

Former Special Rapporteur on Torture Interviewed by CNN Español to discuss human rights challenges in Mexico and throughout Latin American

March 21, 2017 – En una entrevista con Carmen Aristegui – CNN en Español, el ex Relator Especial sobre la Tortura, Juan Ernesto Mendez discutió un informe de seguimiento sobre México y otras cuestiones apremiantes de derechos humanos a las que se enfrentan el Estado, y América Latina de manera más amplia. En México, afirmó que “el gobierno mexicano quería que dijera que la tortura era un problema recurrente, pero eso no capturaba lo que yo vi . . . es una práctica generalizada”.

The complete interview in Spanish can be found here. 

Special Rapporteur regrets postponement of country visit by Government of Turkey

October 1, 2016 – Special Rapportuer on Torture Juan E Méndez has expressed deep disappointment with the Turkish government’s decision to postpone his visit to the country, which was scheduled to begin on 10 October. “While I understand that the developments in Turkey during the last months demand the government’s fullest attention, I believe that postponing my visit at this late stage sends the wrong message,” the Special Rapporteur stated. “In light of the thousands of arrests made following the failed coup-attempt of 15 July 2016, and the allegations of severe overcrowding and poor conditions in many detention centres throughout the country, my visit is of utmost importance,” he continued.

The Special Rapporteur stressed that independent monitoring is a crucial safeguard against ill-treatment and torture, explaining that due to the sensitivity of his mandate, there will never be a perfect time for a visit. He further stressed that even in a state of emergency, safeguards against torture and ill-treatment and other fundamental human rights must remain in place, and conveyed to the Turkish Government his understanding that the invitation for a fact-finding visit is extended to his successor.

To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website

Special Rapporteur calls on States across the world to repeal restrictive abortion laws

September 29, 2016 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts called on States across the world to repeal restrictive #abortion laws and policies, as well as all punitive measures and discriminatory barriers to access safe reproductive health services.

The experts explained that in the twenty-first century unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity. According to the World Health Organization, about 22 million unsafe abortions take place each year worldwide and an estimated 47,000 women die annually from complications resulting from the resort to unsafe practices for termination of pregnancy,” they continued.

“Criminalisation of abortion and failure to provide adequate access to services for termination of an unwanted pregnancy are forms of discrimination based on sex. Restrictive legislation which denies access to safe abortion is one of most damaging ways of instrumentalising women’s bodies and a grave violation of women’s human rights. The consequences for women are severe, with women sometimes paying with their lives,” the experts stated.

“We cannot tolerate the severe violation of women’s human rights on the basis of their sex and biological differences. We cannot tolerate the high incidence of women’s and girls’ preventable deaths resulting from maternity-related issues, including from unsafe abortion,” they concluded. #sept28

Read the full message here

Special Rapporteur discusses importance of incorporating gender perspective in regards to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment

September 28, 2016 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez participated in a high-level panel discussion on the integration of#GenderPerspectives in the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur discussed the importance of adopting a gender perspective in the work of his mandate, and provided an overview of his thematic report on gender perspectives on #torture, which addresses the unique experiences of, and particular risks of torture and other ill-treatment faced by, women, girls, and LGBTI persons, in a variety of contexts, ranging from detention in the criminal justice system to private actor violence in homes and communities.

You can read the Special Rapporteur’s report on gender perspectives on torture here

A webcast of the panel discussion is available here and summary of the panel discussions is available here

Special Rapporteur urges Pakistan authorities to halt the execution of a 50 year-old man with psychosocial disability

28 September 2016 — Yesterday, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, together with the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the independence of judges and lawyers, and the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, called for Pakistan authorities to halt the execution of a 50 year-old man with psychosocial disability and re-try him in compliance with international standards.  Mr. Imad Ali was sentenced to death in 2002 for the alleged murder of a religious scholar.  Despite the fact that his psychosocial disability was raised at his first trial, Mr. Ali’s condition was not mentioned in the court ruling sentencing him to death. The experts issued a joint statement, noting that “[w]e are concerned at Mr. Ali’s deteriorating psychosocial condition, among other things, due to lack of appropriate treatment and reasonable accommodation in detention.”  They urged that “States must do their utmost to address this risk, including by providing accommodation during all phases of legal proceedings, and by granting adequate protection from any form of discrimination against them because of their mental health condition.”

See the website of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights for more information.

Roundtable discussion of the progress and challenges regarding the prevention of torture in Kyrgyzstan

September 20, 2016 – the Anti-Torture Initiative hosted a half-day Roundtable in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, together with partners from the Open Society Foundations and the Golos Svobody, the National Coalition against Torture in Kyrgyzstan. More than 30 participants represented local civil society, international and regional organizations including the OSCE – The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Union – EU, and national bodies including the National Center for the Prevention of Torture and the Ombudsman’s Office. Participants shared experiences and discussed progress and challenges in efforts to prevent torture on the ground since the Special Rapporteur’s 2011 visit to Kyrgyzstan, particularly in terms of measures that have been taken to implement his recommendations.

You can read the Special Rapporteur’s 2012 report on Kyrgyzstan here


Special Rapporteur on Torture Interviewed about Alleged Abuse against Children in Australian Juvenile Detention Center

August 1, 2016 — Last Thursday, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez was interviewed by Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National about footage of alleged abuse against children in the Don Dale detention facility in Australia’s Northern Territory. The Special Rapporteur indicated that the troubling acts depicted in the video can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. When asked whether the alleged abuse potentially qualifies as a crime under international law, he stated that although more evidence is needed “there is no question that here there has been an infliction of very severe pain and suffering [and] that the perpetrators are or seem to be State agents. What we need to know is whether appropriate action has been taken afterwards,” he continued. The Special Rapporteur stated that he is encouraged by the Government creation of a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, and stressed that a proper response on the part of the Government would not entail not only an investigation of the allegations, but also ensuring that all persons participating in the abuse “including those who may have covered it up, [be] appropriately punished,” and offering and paying reparations to the victims.

Read about the Special Rapporteur’s interview here.

“Hay mucho que hacer todavía” dice el Relator Especial sobre la Tortura al Senado de la República de México

20 de Abril de 2016- “Hay mucho que hacer todavía” así concluye la visita del Relator Especial sobre la Tortura y Otros Tratos o Penas Crueles, Juan E. Mendez al Senado de la República de México para discutir al respecto del proyecto de Ley en contra de la tortura.

El 18 de Abril de 2016 el Relator asistió al Senado de la República de México. En su visita se reunió con los senadores de las Comisiones de Derechos Humanos, Justicia y Gobernación en Cámara Alta. El Relator reconoció como importante “el hecho de que el secretario de la Defensa Nacional, Salvador Cienfuegos, haya reconocido públicamente que elementos militares torturaron a una persona y que también la Policía Federal haya reconocido esa práctica, es un cambio de actitud del gobierno en materia de tortura, pero aún es insuficiente.” Coincidiendo en opinión con Luis Raúl González Pérez, titular de la Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH), el cual también destaco que no es suficiente la disculpa ofrecida por el General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda. El relator insistió en que es “un paso al frente, un paso importante que se haga una declaración pública de pedido de disculpas.”

El Relator instó a los legisladores a que tipifiquen la tortura proporcionalmente a su gravedad. También recordó que el Estado tiene la obligación de investigar, procesar y castigar a los responsables y ofrecer reparaciones.

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“There is still a lot of work to do” with this phrase the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez, concludes his visit to the Senate of Mexico to discuss the draft of Law against Torture.

On April 18th of 2016, the Rapporteur attended the Senate of the Republic of Mexico. During his visit he met with the Senators of the Human Rights, Justice and Governance Committee of the Upper Chamber. The Rapporteur recognized as important “the fact that the Secretary of National Defense, Salvador Cienfuegos, has publicly recognized that forces of the military tortured a person and that also the Federal Police have made the recognition of that practice is a change of attitude of the Government with regards to torture, but it is still not enough”. United in his opinion with Luis Raúl González Pérez, head of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), he also stressed that the apology offered by the General Salvador Cienfuegos is not enough. The Special Rapporteur insisted that “it is a step forward, an important step that there was a public statement of apology”.

The Rapporteur urged the legislators to criminalize torture in proportion to its gravity. He also recalled that the State has the duty to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and offer reparations.

Tackling the world drug problem: UN Experts urge States to adopt Human Rights approach

April 18, 2016 – Ahead of the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem scheduled to start tomorrow in New York and continue through April 21, several UN experts expressed concerns over the growing abuses coming from the international war on drugs and encouraged those attending to remember the human rights obligations of States when creating any new policies or laws.  The experts  recognized the Special Session as a “pivotal moment to consolidate the integration of human rights and drug policy.”  To find out more, click here.

DC Book Launch: “Hell is a very small place: voices from solitary confinement”

April 14, 2016 – The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has called the use of solitary confinement cruel and unusual punishment that is often tantamount to torture. Yesterday marked the DC launch of “Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement,” a new book that provides firsthand accounts from 16 current and formerly incarcerated people of what it is like to be kept completely alone in a small cell, often for years or decades on end—offering a perspective that should inform any debate about human rights and prison reform. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez read excerpts from his piece, alongside other distinguished speakers.

The evening featured two of the book’s editors and two contributors who survived solitary confinement, as well as advocates reading from the work of contributors still in prison. Discussion and book signing followed the readings. This event was co-sponsored by the ACLU National Prison Project, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Solitary Watch.