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

Category Archives: Press Releases

UN Experts Call For International Commission to Help Investigate Systematic Violence Against Protesters in Ethiopia

10 October 2016 –United Nations human rights experts today, including Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, urged the Ethiopian authorities to end their violent crackdown on peaceful protests, which has reportedly led to the death of over 600 people since November 2015. They further called on the Government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the protests and the violence used against peaceful demonstrators.

“We are outraged at the alarming allegations of mass killings, thousands of injuries, tens of thousands of arrests and hundreds of enforced disappearances,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard. “We are also extremely concerned by numerous reports that those arrested had faced torture and ill-treatment in military detention centres.”

“In light of the lack of progress in investigating the systematic violence against protesters, we urge the Ethiopian Government to allow an international independent commission to assist in shedding light on these allegations,” they stated.

The human rights experts highlighted in particular the 2 October events in Oromia, where 55 people were killed in a stampede.

“The deaths in the Oromia region last weekend are only the latest in a long string of incidents where the authorities’ use of excessive force has led to mass deaths,” Mr. Kiai said noting that peaceful protests in the Ahmara and Konso Wereda regions have also been met with violence from authorities.

“The scale of this violence and the shocking number of deaths make it clear that this is a calculated campaign to eliminate opposition movements and silence dissenting voices,” he added.

The UN Special Rapporteurs voiced particular concern over the use of national security provisions and counterterrorism legislation – the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 – to target individuals exercising their rights to peaceful assembly.

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.

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


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.
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