Category Archives: United States

New York Times Editorial Board Calls on President Obama to Grant the Special Rapporteur on Torture Access to Guantanamo

June 20, 2016 — Today, The New York Times Editorial Board called on President Barack Obama to grant United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Ernesto Mendez access to visit and interview detainees in the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. “I want to believe that the use of torture by the United States is a dark chapter that has ended,” the Special Rapporteur said in an interview. “But I can’t be certain of that until we see a change in policy and verify that the United States is meeting all its international obligations,” he concluded.

Earlier this year, the Special Rapporteur and other independent human rights experts noted that “long term security can be regained [by the US] if a page is turned on this dark chapter of post-September 11 practices in response to terrorism,” and called on the Government to: end the prolonged arbitrary detention of all persons held at Guantánamo; establish an independent oversight mechanism to receive complaints, review all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and provide access to effective remedies to all persons endured prolonged arbitrary arrest and/or physical and mental suffering; dismantle the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay and transfer the detainees charged with a criminal offence to United States federal facilities on the mainland; and investigate, prosecute and punish officials, public servants and military contractors who committed torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment, as well as those high level officials who ordered, tolerated or instigated such crimes.

The full article is available here.

Special Rapporteur on Torture celebrates a landmark settlement which will effectively end indeterminate, long-term solitary confinement in all California state prisons

September 4 2015- Special Rapporteur on Torture together with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and many others celebrates a landmark settlement in the federal class action Ashker v. Governor of California, which will effectively end indeterminate, long-term solitary confinement in all California state prisons. The Special Rapporteur, Professor Juan E. Méndez, in his capacity as an expert witness, provided expert testimony after visiting and interviewing eleven prisoners held in prolonged and indefinitely solitary confinement in Pelican Bay prison in December 2014. Professor Méndez also visited the premises of the Special Housing Unit (SHU) and the wing for Administrative Segregation at Pelican Bay, concluding that “the conditions of confinement at the SHU of Pelican Bay prison amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to customary international law rules codified in the Convention Against Torture.” You can read the expert report here

For more information about the settlement, please visit the CCR webpage

Special Rapporteur on Torture discusses the negative impact of solitary confinement with NPR

August 23 2015- Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez appeals to authorities and the public to reflect on whether subjecting prisoners to solitary confinement, and particularly to prolonged and indefinite isolation, is a humane practice. Throughout his mandate, the Special Rapporteur has consistently reminded States that the unfettered use of solitary confinement and its negative impact on prisoners can often give rise to severe pain and suffering amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or even torture, in violation of fundamental international human rights norms. In this report, the Special Rapporteur also notes that it is regrettably common for prisons in the United States to hold young people, persons suffering from mental illness, and pregnant mothers in long-term isolation – practices that must be absolutely prohibited. 

To read the full article, please click here

Special Rapporteur reiterates desire to make an official visit to United States following President Obama’s recent call for criminal justice reform

July 21, 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez today called on the United States Government to facilitate his request to carry out an official visit to the United States. The call comes after President Obama’s visit last week to El Reno prison in Oklahoma and his statements highlighting the need for criminal justice reform in the US, particularly as regards unacceptably high rates of incarceration that have a disparate impact on racial minorities, overcrowding, and the extensive use of solitary confinement.

The Special Rapporteur added that he looks forward to “working with the US Department of Justice on the special study commissioned by the President on the need to regulate solitary confinement, which affects 80,000 inmates in the United States, in most cases for periods of months and years.”

The Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Seong-Phil Hong stated at the same time that the Working Group has also asked the Government for an opportunity to visit federal and state institutions where persons are deprived of their liberty.

“We hope the President’s recent actions will ensure concrete steps are taken to facilitate these visits to US detention facilities, including private interviews with detainees” the independent experts said. “We stand ready to provide any additional expertise to ensure that prison reforms are implemented in accordance with international human rights standards,” they concluded.

 See the full article here.