Category Archives: Interviews

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.

Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapportuer on Torture, Discusses Aspects of Transitional Justice in video for Just Planet

February 1, 2016 – In a new video recorded to mark the launch of the Just Planet, a new NGO working for the defense of human rights worldwide, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez discusses aspects of transitional justice and the complexities of reconstructing society following mass atrocities and war.  In his remarks, the Special Rapporteur addresses the need to achieve a peace with justice in the aftermath of conflicts, stressing in particular that international law requires peace processes to consult both victim and the legitimate interests of justice, and to combat impunity.  To view the Special Rapporteur’s message and learn more about Just Planet, visit: http://www.justplanet.org.uk/.

Special Rapporteur criticizes UK plan to scrap Human Rights Act in new Guardian interview

October 3, 2015 – In a new interview with The Guardian, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez cautioned that the United Kingdom’s plan to replace the Human Rights Act with the British Bill of Rights could contravene its obligations under international law and would indicate a lowering of protection for persons at risk of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. He stated that the change would set “a very bad example for the rest of the world” and potentially allow other states to dilute their levels of protection for vulnerable persons, which would be a disturbing development in light of the current migration crisis. The Human Rights Act protects persons fleeing persecution, and its elimination creates the possibility that they could be refused asylum and deported despite having faced mistreatment. “There are so many people in need of protection that this would read as an ungenerous and cold-hearted way of dealing with a crisis,” the Special Rapporteur said. One effect of the potential change might be allowing the UK to return individuals to countries such as Sri Lanka, where there is evidence that the security forces torture those who have been deported. You can read the article in full here.

Special Rapporteur on Torture Speaks to NPR about Ending Solitary Confinement in California Prisons

5 September 2015- On Saturday September 5, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez spoke to NPR’s All Things Considered about the landmark settlement in the federal class action lawsuit of Ashker v. Governor of California, which will effectively end indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons. The Special Rapporteur explained that in California, solitary confinement “is used to punish or to isolate people who are deemed to belong to gangs . . . which inflicts the kind of mental pain and suffering that is associated with the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the international law. And in the most severe cases it can even be considered torture.” He praised the decision to place approximately 90 percent of the 3,000 or 4,000 people in solitary confinement into the general prison population as a “general trend towards recognizing that solitary confinement can be a very serious violation of constitutional and even international human rights.”

To listen to the full interview, please click here

Special Rapporteur Interviews with LA NACION in Argentina

July 9, 2015 – In this Spanish language article, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez speaks with Argentine newspaper LaNacion about his work and obstacles that present themselves in the fight for a ‪#‎TortureFreeWorld‬, including state practices that do not conform to existing legal standards and public opinion.

“Before 2001 and the 9/11 attacks, there was a clear global consensus that the use of torture was immoral and inefficient. Today, pop culture, TV and cinema are conditioning us to accept torture as a necessary evil in the fight against terrorism. Until we recover a universal moral consensus against the use of torture, it will be very difficult to eradicate worldwide.”

The Special Rapporteur further emphasized the need for States to find a solution to prison overcrowding, to decriminalize certain minor offenses with a view to reducing the prison population, and to implement national preventive mechanisms against torture. By accepting the use of torture in prisons, the Special Rapporteur warned, we risk “destroying the fabric of our society.”

To read the full article in LANACION, please click here.

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez addresses the importance of holding the CIA accountable in in Politico op-ed

June 24, 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez recounts his personal experience of torture suffered decades ago in Argentina in a Politico op-ed and explains the importance of holding the CIA accountable, following the release of the Senate Torture Report.

“To my abusers. . . this was merely “enhanced interrogation””, a euphemism that downplays the pain and inhumanity of torture, the Special Rapporteur revealed, while pointing out that U.S. political figures – including presidential candidate Rick Perry – use the same euphemism to describe the CIA’s torture and ill treatment during its secret detention operations from 2002 to 2008. “Instead, torture becomes a matter of rational decision making and calibrated legality,” explained the Special Rapporteur, who also expressed concern to the fact that only four of the fourteen declared U.S. presidential candidates said they would keep an executive order put in place by President Barack Obama in his first days in office that seeks to ensure the U.S. does not commit torture.

Yet, although Obama abandoned the flawed legal reasoning the Bush administration used to justify torture – a crime under U.S. and international law – enhanced interrogation still hasn’t been prosecuted in the U.S., a situation that has left torturers free to campaign for its return while emboldening them worldwide.

Despite that, the Special Rapporteur remains convinced that the situation has improved, noting that the latest Senate amendment to the defense authorization bill strengthens the U.S. ban on torture. However, much remains to be done as torture “will continue to be known merely — and shamefully — as enhanced interrogation” as long as it goes unpunished.  You can read the article in full on Politico.

UN Official Finds Evidence of Torture in Ghana Jails

November 20, 2013 – The Special Rapporteur discussed his findings from his recent visit to Ghana in an Radio France International interview. In the interview, the Special Rapporteur described prison conditions in the country as appalling and subhuman, and as being characterized by severe overcrowding. The Special Rapporteur additionally described witnessing some examples of physical violence, such as whipping, on the bodies of detainees. The Special Rapporteur noted that he is persuaded that torture in the form of physical violence during interrogation is, however, relatively rare. He further discussed visiting a juvenile detention center in Accra, where a number of children aged 13 to 16 described having been subjected to corporal punishment the day before his visit, and displayed physical signs of lashing. During his visit, the Special Rapporteur also came across the case of a detainee who was subjected to mob violence. The radio interview in full is available here.

“The War on Terror is a Euphemism”

October 26, 2013 – El Espectador featured Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez in a Spanish language interview on the human rights situation of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The Special Rapporteur spoke about his numerous requests to the United States government to visit the detention facilities and the conditions under which he – and other human rights mechanisms – would be able to conduct such visit. He also referred to rhetoric on the subject of the war on terror and the interaction of human rights law and international humanitarian law in protecting the rights of detainees.

Special Rapporteur Discusses Use of Torture in Latin America, Worldwide

August 2013 – In a radio interview given at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez discussed the ongoing practice of torture worldwide. The Special Rapporteur explained that many Latin American states continue to face challenges in eradicating the use of torture by police as a means of extracting confessions in criminal investigations. He also identified poverty and underdevelopment as important factors that contribute to the continued prevalence of torture in many parts of the world. The Special Rapporteur further expressed concern about deplorable prison conditions in Latin America, which frequently amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and about troubling trends in popular culture that appear to legitimize the use of torture as a response to the threat of terrorism. Link to interview.

Force Feeding of Guantanamo Detainees is Contrary to International Law

May 2013 – The Special Rapporteur discusses the forced feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainees on hunger strike in an interview with Al Jazeera. According to the Special Rapporteur, the non-consensual practice amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and is contrary to international law. Read the article here.