Category Archives: Media

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez was featured panelist at Human Rights Center 25th anniversary celebration

April 12, 2016 – The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law celebrated 25 years by hosting a human rights networking event and a day-long conference, featuring panel discussions on the core issue areas of the Center. Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez participated in the panel on enforcing international standards in the fight against torture.  Other participants on the panel included Claudio Grossman, Former Chairperson, UN Committee against Torture, Annie Sovcik, Director, Washington Office, Center for Victims of Torture and Naureen Shah, Director, Security with Human Rights, Amnesty International USA.  The panel was moderated by our own Andra Nicolescu, Assistant Project Director, Anti-Torture Initiative of the AUWCL Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Click here for event highlights, and stay tuned for more photos and video links of the panel discussions.

Boston University School of Public Health Dean’s Symposium Tackles Health Rights of Prisoners, the Public

April 11, 2016 – Last week, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez joined Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health, at Boston University’s School of Public Health quarterly Dean’s Symposium to address Public Health and Human Rights.  Professor Méndez applauded the 2015 US Senate Intelligence Committee report, which was highly critical of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program, but called on the United States to go a step further by releasing the entire report and prosecuting those responsible. To find out more, click here.

What is permissible and what is not when countering terrorism? UN experts welcome new African Guidelines

April 8, 2016 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez joined other United Nations Human Rights experts in welcoming the new Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, which were launched this year by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). “Initiatives such as the Principles and Guidelines are undoubtedly steps in the right direction” the experts said. They stressed that all strategies and policies adopted by States to counter terrorism must be firmly grounded in and comply with international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law. It also remains a priority that the death penalty is not used for terrorism-related cases.  To read the entire article, click here.

“Torture is absolutely prohibited because it is immoral, and promoting the use of torture is illegal and immoral as well” says Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez

March 23, 2016 -“Brussels attack: Donald Trump is wrong about torture – it is both immoral and futile,” says Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez. In this compelling new article, the Special Rapporteur rejects the fallacy that the use of torture would thwart terrorist attacks. “Torture is absolutely prohibited because it is immoral, and promoting the use of torture is illegal and immoral as well,” he says. The ban on torture “has developed over centuries from the experience of law enforcement and military leaders who know exactly why it should be banned: because it is immoral, and because it is counter-productive on many levels. This prohibition is an achievement of humankind,” the Special Rapporteur concludes.

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:

UN Experts Welcome the Security Council Call on Burundi and Urge Concrete Actions

November 18, 2015 – Last week, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts expressed outrage over the situation of human rights in the country, warning that “the country is going towards an unacceptable path of atrocities” as the situation continues to deteriorate with “daily reports of serious human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, attacks on independent media and harassment and killing of human rights defenders, unjustified limitations on freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression, adding to more than 200,000 persons displaced by violence.” Whilst welcoming the Security Council’s clear message on the situation in Burundi in its new Resolution 2248 (2015), which condemns the increase in cases of human rights violations and abuses in the country, the experts stressed that “actions should now follow and provide concrete responses fitting the magnitude of the risks at stake, for Burundi and the region.”  To read the full article, click here.


November 16, 2015 – This morning Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E Mendez joins former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp and other panelists for a discussion entitled “Conflict and Conventions: Government Accountability for ‪#‎Torture‬” at the American Red Cross. The discussion is available for viewing here.

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 welcomes the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Experts on the 43 students of Ayotzinapa, Mexico

September 10 2015- Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent UN human rights experts have welcomed the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Independent Group of Experts on the enforced disappearances, executions, and torture of 43 students of Ayotzinapa, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, and encourage the State of Mexico to implement all of its recommendations. In particular, the experts stressed that “prompt and diligent implementation of the recommendations will promote the proper investigation and punishment of those responsible, the clarification of the facts, as well as the search for the victims and redress for them.” They further stressed that the report’s recommendations are also relevant in relation to the significant challenges facing the Mexican State with regards to enforced disappearances, torture, and executions, more generally, and reiterated their offer of cooperation and technical assistance to the State of Mexico. The experts lastly conveyed a message of recognition, solidarity and support to the victims, their families and the students.

To read the press release, please visit the OHCHR website

10 de Septiembre 2015- El Relator Especial sobre la tortura Juan E. Méndez y otros expertos independientes en derechos humanos de las Naciones Unidas le dan la bienvenida al reporte del Grupo Interdisciplinario de Expertos Independientes de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos sobre las desapariciones forzadas, ejecuciones y torturas cometidas en contra de los 43 estudiantes normalistas de Ayotzinapa, en el Estado de Guerrero, México y hace un llamado al Estado de México a implementar las recomendaciones. En particular, los expertos enfatizan que “su pronta y diligente implementación favorecerá la adecuada investigación y sanción de los responsables, el esclarecimiento de los hechos, así como la búsqueda, reparación y atención a las víctimas.” Así mismo recalcaron el hecho de que las recomendaciones del reporte son también relevantes en relación con los grandes desafíos que el estado Mexicano enfrenta en materia de desapariciones forzadas, tortura, y las ejecuciones extrajudiciales en líneas generales. Por último, los expertos reiteraron su ofrecimiento de cooperación y asistencia técnicas al Estado mexicano.

Para leer el comunicado, haga click aqui

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