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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:


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:

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:

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:…/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 Juan E. Mendez Joins UN Experts to Express Concern About Jailed Human Rights Activists

19 October 2016 – A group of United Nations human rights experts including Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez expressed serious concern that Mauritanian activists jailed for their alleged role in a protest against forced evictions in Nouakchott are being targeted by the Government for their anti-slavery advocacy.

The human rights defenders were sentenced in August to prison terms ranging from three to fifteen years. The date for an appeal will be set later this week by the Appeals Court in Nouadhibou.

Thirteen of the activists are members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), the leading Mauritanian civil society organization fighting against slavery. They denied any role in the eviction protests, during which several people, including police officers, were injured.

“There seems to be no legal basis or justification for the transfer of the detainees,” they underlined. “This is yet another indication that these legal proceedings are politically motivated and intended to suffocate groups and individuals that promote human rights and oppose Government policies.”

“We urge the authorities to ensure that the activists be transferred back to Nouakchott and afforded a fair hearing by a competent, independent and impartial court in accordance with international human rights law,” the experts stated.

They also expressed concern about the serious health condition of some detainees, reminding Mauritania’s obligation to protect detainees’ right to health and provide them with the urgent and adequate medical care needed regardless of their legal status.

“It is vital to ensure that human rights defenders can exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms free from intimidation or fear of reprisals. Anti-slavery activism cannot be a crime,” the experts stressed. “The Government of Mauritania needs to revisit its criminal law in order to comply with its international obligation to respect and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The UN independent experts have been in contact with the Mauritanian government to clarify this situation.

Special Rapporteur on Torture to Address 71st Session of United Nations General Assembly

On Tuesday, October 18, 2016 Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez will be addressing the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly.  During his final appearance before the General Assembly as Special Rapporteur, Mr. Mendez will present his latest thematic report on the need for the development of a universal protocol for investigative interviewing and attendant safeguards that is grounded in absolute legal prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. For more information about the presentation, side-events, and other activities in which the Special Rapporteur is slated to take part next week, please visit this page.

The public is cordially invited to attend a side-event on this topic, which will take place from 10 AM to 12 PM on Wednesday, October 19, in Conference Room 11 at the United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ).  

Please continue to follow the Anti-Torture Initiative (ATI) on Twitter and Facebook as our team will be accompanying the Special Rapporteur and providing LIVE UPDATES and LIVE STREAMING of events between October 17 and October 19.

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.

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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“Grave retroceso en el derecho a la salud de las dominicanas” exhorta el Relator Especial sobre la Tortura

27 de julio de 2016- El Relator Especial sobre la Tortura, Juan E. Mendez, junto con otros expertos en derechos humanos de las Naciones Unidas exhortaron al Presidente de República Dominicana y a los legisladores a que protejan el derecho a la salud sexual y reproductiva de las mujeres y las niñas en el país. Condenan el grave retroceso en el derecho a la salud de las mujeres y niñas dominicanas, especialmente en cuanto al acceso a servicios de salud seguros.

Los Expertos expresaron su preocupación al respecto de que según la enmienda propuesta, la interrupción del embarazo queda disponible en un solo caso: cuando hay riesgo para la vida de la mujer o niña embarazada. El nuevo texto del Código Penal también establece que las mujeres que se inducen la terminación de su embarazo serán sentenciadas a 2 o 3 años de cárcel y que los profesionales de la salud que realicen abortos en cualquier otra circunstancia diferente a la permitida serán castigados y condenados a entre 4 y 10 años de prisión.

El Relator manifestó que “negar que las mujeres y niñas tengan acceso a servicios de aborto seguros por razones de salud, malformación fetal y embarazo derivado de una violación, ciertamente causará un excesivo y duradero sufrimiento físico y psicológico de muchas mujeres”

Lee el comunicado completo aqui

The Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez, along with other United Nations human rights experts called on the President of the Dominican Republic and its legislators to protect the right to sexual and reproductive health for women and girls in the country. The experts condemned the serious setback to the right to health for women and girls in the Dominican Republic, especially in terms of access to health insurance.

The experts expressed concern that according to the proposed amendment, termination of pregnancy is available in only one instance: when there is a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or girl. The Criminal Code’s new text also establishes that women who seek to terminate their pregnancies will be sentenced to 2 or 3 years in prison, and that health professionals who perform abortions under circumstances other than the one permitted will be punished and sentenced to between 4 and 10 years in prison.

He said ” denying that women and girls have access to safe abortion services for health reasons, fetal malformation and pregnancy resulting from rape, certainly will cause excessive and lasting physical and psychological suffering for many women.”

Read the full press release here (in Spanish)

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts have called on the Turkish Government to abide by its international human rights obligations when dealing with the aftermath of last week’s military coup attempt.

July 19, 2016 Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts have called on the Turkish Government to abide by its international human rights obligations when dealing with the aftermath of last week’s military coup attempt. Condemning in the strongest terms the recent events in which over 230 people have reportedly lost their lives, the experts stressed that “in times of crisis, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is more essential than ever,” and that “constitutional order will only be fully re-established if the separation of powers and the rule of law are upheld.”
“We are particularly alarmed at the sheer number of judges and prosecutors who have reportedly been suspended and arrested since Saturday,” the experts noted, in the wake of reports that the Turkish High Council for Judges and Prosecutors suspended a reported 2,745 judges and prosecutors of their functions, and that hundreds of arrest warrants have allegedly been issued, resulting so far in the arrest of possibly up to 755 judges and prosecutors, including two judges of the Constitutional Court. “According to international law, judges can be suspended or removed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence after fair proceeding,” they stated , calling on the authorities to “release and reinstate these judges and prosecutors until credible allegations of wrong doing are properly investigated and evidenced.”
The human rights experts also drew attention to the number of arrests carried out to date, which official sources estimate at approximately 7,5000, calling on the Government to fully respect the physical integrity and rights of the detainees, in particular their “right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to have effective access to a lawyer of their choice,”
“No sustainable end to this crisis will be achieved if journalists or other critical voices in politics or civil society are harassed or silenced by authorities or any other group,” continued the experts, while recalling the importance of guaranteeing public freedoms during these critical days. “We also urge the Turkish authorities to investigate independently and thoroughly all deaths related to this event, and to prosecute the perpetrators in full compliance with guarantees of due process and fair trial,” they added.
The group expressed serious concerns regarding calls to re-introduce the capital punishment abolished in 2004. “Re-introducing the death penalty is not legally permissible under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention on Human Rights and runs counter to the worldwide trend to abolish this form of punishment,” the independent experts cautioned.
Read the full statement here: