with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment

Category Archives: News

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime hosted an Expert Group Meeting in Vienna

This week, the Anti-Torture Initiative participated in an Expert Group Meeting hosted by the UNODC – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, to review the development of guidance material on the Nelson Mandela Rules (United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Over the course of two days, experts from Governments, international and regional organizations, civil society, and academia worked on the development of a checklist for prison administrators for assessing compliance with the newly revised Nelson Mandela Rules.
You can learn more about the Nelson Mandela Rules here: https://www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/Brochure_on_the_UN_SMRs.pdf

Experts Meet in Geneva to Discuss a Protocol for Humane Interrogations

During the week of January 27th, experts met in Geneva to move forward with the idea of an universal protocol for investigative interviewing of detainees, as proposed by former Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez.

Juan Mendez ended his mandate as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2016 with a ground-breaking proposal for a universal protocol on humane investigative interviewing. The protocol would set out minimum standards for non-coercive methods and safeguards to protecting detainees from torture and ill-treatment. Because, as Mendez writes in his report to the United Nations General Assembly, history and science offer no evidence on the strategic effectiveness of harsh questioning techniques.

The protocol sets out to change attitudes and practices in police stations and interrogation rooms, to put a stop to forced “confessions”. The proposal has received strong support from the human rights community, including Nils Melzer, current UN Special Rapporteur on Torture:

“There is growing popular belief that torture is an effective way of discovering the truth. This belief is perpetuated by misleading depictions in popular media and worse, in current political narratives. It is therefore important for me to take the work of my predecessor a step further.”

For more on the meeting, please visit: http://www.apt.ch/en/news_on_prevention/torture-is-never-the-solution-a-protocol-for-humane-interrogations/#.WJN8GlMrLX5


Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Issue Statement on the New U.S. Administration Torture Policies

On November 17, 2016, the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the Washington College of Law issued strong statement on the Trump administration and reiterated its commitment to the protection of civil liberties, justice and human rights for all people.

The Center vowed to hone in on areas where progress is not only possible, but necessary.  The Center plan to continue its vital work of educating and working with the next generation of human rights and civil rights lawyers to ensure that they are equipped to tackle the challenges to come.  For the Center’s full statement, please visit its Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/WCLCenterForHumanRights/posts

Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer Joins Experts in Statement on U.S. Travel Ban

January 27, 2017 – A group of United Nations human rights experts today said that the Executive Order signed by US President Donald Trump on 27 January 2017 breaches the country’s international human rights obligations, which protect the principles of non-refoulement and non-discrimination based on race, nationality or religion.

The Presidential Executive Order bars all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries -Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen- from entering the US for the next 90 days.

“Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one’s nationality and leads to increased stigmatization of Muslim communities ,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on migrants, François Crépeau; on racism, Mutuma Ruteere; on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson; on torture, Nils Melzer; and on freedom of religion, Ahmed Shaheed.

For the full press release, please see: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21136&LangID=E

Looking Back on Six Years of Leadership—Juan E. Mendez in Conversation with Solitary Watch

Juan E. Mendez stepped down from his position as Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on October 31, 2016, ending six years of global leadership and unprecedented expertise. During his tenure, Professor Mendez advanced several area of international, as well as personal concern, including solitary confinement, the intersection of torture and gender rights and the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay.

As a new generation of activists and lawyers work on the elimination of torture, we are indebted to Professor Mendez for his unparalleled vision and unflagging service.

For the full press release from Solitary Watch, please click: http://solitarywatch.com/2017/01/30/looking-back-on-six-years-of-leadership-against-solitary-confinement-with-un-torture-expert-juan-mendez/

Sir Nigel Rodley, In Memoriam

January 25, 2017 Today, we join friends and colleagues around the world in mourning the devastating loss of Sir Nigel Rodley and honouring his tremendous legacy in the field of international human rights and in the global fight against torture.
‘So many of us grieve the loss of a friend, a mentor, a rigorous scholar and a world-renowned champion of human rights,’ Professor Juan Ernesto Mendez stated today, adding that ‘we will be better defenders of human rights if we pledge each day to try to be a little more like Sir Nigel.’
Ms. Stephanie Selg, the OSCE/ODIHR Adviser on Torture Prevention, noted Sir Nigel’s unparalleled influence on young human rights defenders as one of the most important aspects of his legacy. ‘As for thousands of other young human rights defenders, Sir Nigel’s brilliance, analytical skills, dedication, and commitment have served as a guiding example. Most importantly, Sir Nigel taught me how the vision of equality of all human beings translates into kindness, compassion, and genuine modesty,’ she said.
‘Many of us also fondly remember Sir Nigel for his warmth, generosity, and humour. May his tremendous legacy continue to teach, inspire, and motivate generations of advocates and scholars to come,’ said Anti-Torture Initiative Assistant Director Andra Nicolescu.

As we offer our deepest condolences to Sir Nigel’s family, friends, and colleagues, we are inspired to continue the fight for justice and human dignity for all in honour of his memory and his life’s work.


Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez Presents Final Thematic Report to General Assembly

October 26, 2016–Last week, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez presented his last thematic report before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. The report calls on States to develop a universal set of standards for non-coercive interviewing methods and procedural safeguards aiming to ensure that no person is subjected to torture, ill-treatment, or coercion during questioning.

“Persons interviewed by authorities during criminal or other investigations may be confronted with the entire repressive machinery of society,” the Special Rapporteur stated, adding that “questioning, particularly of suspects, is inherently associated with risks of intimidation, coercion, and mistreatment. But scientific data and irrefutable evidence from the criminal justice system demonstrate that coercive methods of questioning, even when not amounting to torture, produce unreliable information and false confessions, and are indeed counterproductive for public safety, Moreover, torture, ill-treatment, and coercion have devastating long-term consequences on individuals, institutions, and society as a whole. Ultimately, torture only breeds more crime by fuelling hatred and a desire for vengeance.”

“My report seeks to promote the development of standards and guidelines on non-coercive interview methods and other procedural safeguards, that ought, as a matter of law and policy, to be applied at a minimum to all interviews by law enforcement officials, military and intelligence personnel, and other bodies with investigative mandates,” the Special Rapporteur said. Such protocol “must design a model that promotes effective, ethical, and non-coercive interviewing and is centered on the principles of presumption of innocence and the pursuit of truth. In this way, States will not only enhance the degree to which their interviewing methods comply with human rights standards, but also their effectiveness in solving crime and keeping societies safe,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.

A VIDEO of the presentation and interactive dialogue with States before the Third Committee is available here: http://webtv.un.org/…/third-committee-19th-m…/5175313119001…

A press release about the Special Rapporteur’s report is available here:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx…

You can read the Special Rapporteur’s report here: http://antitorture.org/…/2016/09/Report_A-71-298_English.pdf

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez Launches Groundbreaking Study on Solitary Confinement Worldwide

October 24, 2016–Last week, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and the Anti-Torture Initiative launched the publication of a new groundbreaking study on the use of solitary confinement worldwide. Undertaken together with partners from the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, the study explores laws, policies, and practice of solitary confinement in 35 jurisdictions around the world, and is accompanied by commentaries from leading international experts on this topic. The study provides a much needed comparative analysis of different aspects of the practice of solitary confinement, such as its purpose and authorization, challenges and appeals concerning limitations on its use, and accommodation, access to the outside world, and the use of physical restraints. You can read the publication here: http://antitorture.org/…/Solitary_Confinement_Publication.p…

The study was launched on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week with a panel discussion featuring distinguished guests from civil society, academia, and Government, including the ACLU Nationwide, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez warns that the death penalty should not be used as a deterrent for terrorism

October 10, 2016–Speaking on the occasion of World Day Against the Death Penalty, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations human rights experts have warned that the death penalty should not be used as a deterrent for terrorism. “Faced with terrorist attacks or terrorist threats in their countries, some governments have recently turned to the death penalty in an attempt to curb terrorist action, by either expanding the scope of offenses punishable by death or resuming executions for terrorist-related offences after years of moratoriums in executions. These measures are problematic in many ways. Reintroducing the death penalty in countries that were de jure or de facto abolitionist runs contrary to the international trend towards the progressive abolition of the death penalty,” the experts stated.

“Some countries made legal changes to introduce or expand the scope of the death penalty to terrorism-related offences. Many of those offenses do not amount to ‘most serious crimes’, meaning those involving intentional killing, for which the death penalty may be imposed under international law. Arbitrary sentencing exists in several of the small minority of countries around the world which most frequently resort to capital punishment, and many States where the death penalty is used for terrorism-related offences lack a system of fair trial,” the experts continued.

“We acknowledge the risks to public safety and to lives posed by terrorism, but this threat does not justify departing from international standards for the protection of human rights. Resorting to this type of punishment to curb terrorism is illegal as much as it is futile. There is a lack of persuasive evidence that the death penalty could contribute more than any other punishment to eradicating terrorism. The death penalty is also an ineffective deterrent because terrorists who are executed may just gain in prestige as may their cause,” the experts concluded, noting further that the practice is also contrary to “an emerging customary norm that the imposition and enforcement of the death penalty, in breach of international standards, is a violation per se of the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Read the experts’ full statement here:http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20659&LangID=E

Read a newly released United Nations report on the death penalty here: http://ohchr.org/EN/newyork/Documents/Death-Penalty-and-the-Victims-WEB.pdf?platform=hootsuite

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez endorses Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed’s call on the Islamic Republic of Iran for the immediate and unconditional release of detainees

October 8, 2016– United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez has endorsed Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed’s call on the Islamic Republic of Iran for the immediate and unconditional release of a British-Iranian national sentenced to five-years in prison for charges unknown to her, and of two elderly dual nationals who are suffering from serious health conditions that require urgent and adequate medical attention.

The UN human rights experts have drawn attention to the case of Ms. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on 3 April 2016 along with her 22 months old daughter. The authorities confiscated their passports, preventing her daughter from traveling back to the UK to be with her father. On 14 August, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was tried, on secret charges, in a Tehran revolutionary court and, on 6 September, she was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. She was only able to meet her lawyer three days before the beginning of her trial. Her health has also seriously deteriorated since her arrest.

They also expressed concerns about the health of two other dual nationals, Mr. Baquer Namazi and Mr. Kamal Foroughi, who are currently incarcerated in Evin prison. Mr. Namazi, an 80 year-old Iranian-American has been held in detention since 22 February 2016 on unknown charges and without access to a lawyer. Mr. Foroughi, a 77 year-old British-Iranian businessman is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence on charges of espionage and possession of alcoholic beverages. He was arrested on 5 May 2011.

“Arbitrarily depriving individuals of their liberty and violating their right to fair proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal are flagrant violations of Iran’s obligations under international law,” Mr. Shaheed stated. “Sentencing individuals for charges that are kept secret from defendants and their defence lawyers is a mockery of justice,” he continued. “It is also evidence of the Iranian judiciary’s complete disregard for the most basic fair trial and due process guarantees enshrined both in Iranian domestic laws and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, to which Iran is a State party.”

The UN experts welcomed the release on 26 September 2016 of Homa Hoodfar, an Iranian-Canadian national who was arrested on 6 June 2016. “I call on the Government of Iran to take all necessary measures to similarly release Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Mr. Namazi and Mr. Foroughi and allow them to be reunited with their families,” Mr. Shaheed concluded.