Category Archives: News

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.

UN rights Expert, joined by Special Rapporteur on Torture, Calls for Independent Investigation into Lethal Use of Water Cannon

28 September 2016 – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, joined by Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, expressed dismay over the 25 September death of South Korean protester Baek Nam-gi, and called for a full and independent investigation into the police’s use of a water cannon last year that led to his death.

Mr. Baek, a 69-year old farmer, was knocked to the ground by a water cannon operated by the police while taking part in a peaceful rally in Seoul on 14 November 2015. He had remained in a coma until his passing.

“I express my deepest condolences to the relatives and friends of Mr. Baek Nam-gi for this tragic loss. I had the chance to meet Mr. Baek’s daughters in Seoul during my country visit in January 2016 and in Geneva last June. I was very humbled by their courage and determination to seek justice for their father in such harrowing times,” Mr. Kiai said.

“I call for a full and independent investigation into the police’s use of water cannon during the rally of November 2015 that unambiguously led to Mr. Baek’s death according to video footage available,” the expert stated. “The perpetrators should be held accountable and the family of Mr. Baek receive appropriate compensation; in addition, adequate measures must be taken to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future”, added Mr. Kiai.

The Special Rapporteur also reiterated his recommendation made to the South Korean authorities in his country report* of June 2016 to “review tactics used for the management of assemblies – including the use of water cannons and bus barricades – to ensure that they are not applied indiscriminately or against peaceful protestors, they do not result in escalation of tensions, and are directed at facilitating rather than preventing the exercise of assembly rights.”

He also echoed similar recommendations made in his joint report** with the former Special Rapporteur on the extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, on the proper management of assemblies presented to the Human Rights Council in March this year.

“It is critical that the authorities learn the lessons from this painful tragedy so that it never happens again,” the human rights expert stressed.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur called on the authorities to respect the will of the family not to have the body of Mr. Baek taken for autopsy. The police and the Prosecutor’s Office requested a warrant from the Seoul Central District Court to proceed with an autopsy as the cause of death is allegedly not clear, but it was denied by the court. They have reportedly filed another request.

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


Relator Especial sobre la Tortura atendió al evento de FLACSO-México

29 de agosto de 2016 – El Relator Especial sobre la Tortura, Juan E. Mendez, atendió el pasado viernes 26 de agosto al evento de FLACSO-México, con motivo de su Décimo Aniversario de la Maestría de Derechos Humanos y Democracia. En este evento el Relator destacó como orador principal y conversó sobre temas de democracia y derechos humanos.
En palabras del Relator: “la tortura es un crimen internacional, pero es de lesa humanidad cuando es sistemático y generalizado contra la población civil”. El Relator Especial también tuvo la oportunidad, en esta visita a México, de reunirse con miembros de la Cámara de Diputados, un juez de la Suprema Corte de Justicia, autoridades de la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores y la sociedad civil para discutir sobre el progreso en la lucha contra la tortura y otros malos tratos.

Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Human Rights Experts Urged Bangladesh to Annul Death Sentence against Opposition Member

August 23, 2016- Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts urge Bangladesh to annul the death sentence against Mir Quasem Ali, a senior opposition member of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, and to re-try him in compliance with international standards. Their request comes as the Supreme Court prepares to review the case on Wednesday 24 August. “Mr. Ali’s trial and appeal processes were reportedly marred with irregularities and failed to meet international standards on fair trial and due process for the imposition of the death penalty,” they said. “The death penalty is the most severe form of punishment,” the experts stressed, adding that “[i]n light of its irreversibility” it is imperative to take every measure to ensure that all defendants receive a fair trial.

You can read the press release in full here.

Special Rapporteur on Torture urged the Turkish Government to uphold its obligations under international human rights law

August 19, 2016- The Special Rapporteur on Torture together with United Nations Human Rights experts urged the Turkish Government to uphold its obligations under international human rights law, after the Government notified the Secretary-General of its invocation of Article 4 derogation provision of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Turkey ratified in 2003. The derogation provision in Article 4 allows States to temporarily relax some of their obligations under the Covenant under certain narrow conditions.
“The invocation of Article 4 is lawful only if there is a threat to the life of the nation, a condition that arguably is not met in this case,” the experts noted. “Even in situations that meet this high threshold, Article 4 establishes limits to how much a state may deviate from its obligations under the Covenant”, they added. “One cannot avoid, even in times of emergency, obligations to protect the right to life, prohibit torture, adhere to fundamental elements of due process and non-discrimination, and protect everyone’s right to belief and opinion,” the experts underscored.
Since the attempted coup on 15 July, and in particular since the declaration of state of emergency on 20 July, Turkish society has seen an escalation of detentions and purges, in particular in the education, media, military and justice sectors. In addition, allegations of torture and poor detention conditions have been raised following legislative provisions that enable wide and indiscriminate administrative powers that affect core human rights.
“While we understand the sense of crisis in Turkey,” the experts said, “we are concerned that the Government’s steps to limit a broad range of human rights guarantees go beyond what can be justified in light of the current situation”. In recent statements, UN human rights experts have urged the Turkish Government to uphold the rule of law in time of crisis, voicing their concern about the use of emergency measures to target dissent and criticism. “Turkey is going through a critical period. Derogation measures must not be used in a way that will push the country deeper into crisis,” the experts stressed.
See the full press release here

Special Rapporteur on Torture called on Brazilian legislators to protect the human rights of children by rejecting the proposal of lowering the age of criminal responsibility of children

17 August 2016- The Special Rapporteur on Torture called on Brazilian legislators to protect the human rights of children in conflict with the law by rejecting a proposed constitutional amendment that would lower the age of criminal responsibility of children. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture said that “The detention of children is inextricably linked with the ill-treatment of children, who are at heightened risks of violence, abuses, and acts of torture when deprived of their liberty,” and also stressed that “Children’s unique vulnerability requires States to implement higher standards and broader safeguards for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.”

O relator especial contra a tortura Juan E. Méndez pediu que os legisladores brasileiros protejam os direitos humanos das crianças e adolescentes em conflito com a lei e rejeitem a Proposta de Emenda Constitucional número 33/2012, que prevê a redução da maioridade penal de 18 para 16 anos para crimes hediondos. O apelo ocorreu enquanto a Comissão de Constituição e Justiça e de Cidadania do Senado prepara-se para votar a proposta. O relator falou que “a prisão está intrinsecamente ligada a maus-tratos de crianças, que estão em maior risco de sofrer violência, abusos e atos de tortura quando privadas de liberdade,” e alertou que “a vulnerabilidade das crianças requer que o Estado implemente padrões mais altos e garantias mais amplas de prevenção à tortura e maus-tratos.” O relator também expressou preocupação com projeto de lei 333/2015 que prevê elevação do prazo máximo de cumprimento de medida socioeducativa para crianças e adolescentes infratores com mais de 14 anos de três para dez anos. Ele explicou que “crianças são menos desenvolvidas emocional e psicologicamente que os adultos. Então, elas são menos responsáveis por suas ações, e as sentenças devem sempre refletir os princípios da reabilitação e da reintegração na sociedade.” O relator complementou que aprovação dessas propostas pioraria a situação das penitenciárias brasileiras que já estão seriamente superlotadas, uma condição que frequentemente significa tratamento cruel, desumano e degradante.
Encontrem o comunicado de imprensa aqui

Special Rapporteur on Torture urges China to stop ill-treatment of human rights defender Guo Feixiong

August 4, 2016- Human rights experts expressed deep concern today about the health condition of prominent Chinese human rights defender, Yang Maodong, also known as Guo Feixiong. Mr. Guo was arrested in August 2013 for participating in a public protest against the censorship of a Guangzhou newspaper and was sentenced to six years imprisonment in November 2015 for “gathering crowds to disturb public order” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” The experts are concerned about repeated incidents of degrading and humiliating treatment suffered by Mr. Guo, including “sleep deprivation, harassment, and humiliating medical procedure filmed by prison officials for public release.” Mr. Guo has been on a hunger strike for approximately three months and is demanding to be transferred to another prison where he would not be subjected to ill-treatment. The experts stated that Mr. Guo’s public profile as a human rights defender “seems to [be] the cause and aggravating factor for the denial of appropriate medical care and ill-treatment.” They went on to say that “Mr. Guo’s six-year imprisonment is connected to his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities” and that “[h]is only wrong-doing was to have exercised his rights to peaceful assembly and expression concerning censorship in China.” The experts urged the Chinese Government to heed Mr. Guo’s demands and take immediate measures to stop the degrading and humiliating treatment, ensure independent medical care (with Mr. Guo’s consent), and transfer him to another prison.
See the full press release 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.

Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Human Rights Experts Urge Indonesia to Halt Executions for Drug-Related Offences

July 27, 2016 — Fourteen death row prisoners in Indonesia, all of whom have been sentenced to death for drug-related offences, are scheduled to be executed by firing this week. A group of UN human rights experts have urged the Indonesian Government to halt the executions of individuals convicted of drug-related offences and re-try them in compliance with international standards.

Under international law, the death penalty may only be imposed for the most serious crimes, meaning those involving intentional killing, and “drug related offences do not meet this threshold,” the experts said. The experts also expressed alarm that at least four of those scheduled for execution were reportedly tortured and forced to incriminate themselves. “Resorting to this type of punishment to prevent drug trafficking is not only illegal, it is also futile,” they said, noting further that “there is a lack of any persuasive evidence that the death penalty contributes more than any other punishment to eradicating drug trafficking.” The experts emphasized that the “death sentences are unlawful and tantamount to an arbitrary execution as they are undertaken in contravention of Indonesia’s international human rights obligations.”

To read the full press release, please click here.