with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
Special Rapporteur to Undertake Country Visit to The Gambia

Special Rapporteur to Undertake Country Visit to The Gambia

October 30, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez will visit the Gambia from 3 to 7 November, together with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns, in the first official visit to the country by experts from the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures branch. During the visit, the Special Rapporteur will assess the situation on the ground and identify challenges regarding torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  In particular, he plans to examine “allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, the conditions of detention in all places where persons are deprived of their liberties, including the conditions of persons on death row.” The experts will meet with high ranking Government officials, various U.N. agencies, international and local nongovernmental organizations, and civil society representatives in, and will visit places of detention, including prisons, police stations, interrogation centers, juvenile and women’s facilities, and psychiatric institutions. The visit comes at the invitation of the government, and the Special Rapporteurs have stated that they look forward to assisting the Gambian Government in coping with some of the challenges it faces regarding these issues and in finding solutions that uphold the rule of law, promote accountability for human rights violations, and fulfill the right of reparation for victims. A joint press conference will be held on 7 November 2014, at 1:30 pm, at the Conference Room of the Ocean Bay Hotel & Resort, Cape Point, Bakau, during which the experts will share their preliminary findings. For more information, including daily updates about the visit, please visit our page dedicated to the Gambia mission.

Special Rapporteur at the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Special Rapporteur at the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

October 21-22, 2014 - During the week of Monday, October 20, 2014, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez attended the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), held a press conference, and participated in thematic side-events alongside UN colleagues, State delegates, and civil society partners in New York City.  During the Session, the Special Rapporteur presented his latest thematic report on the role of forensic and medical sciences in the investigation and prevention of torture and other ill-treatmentand engaged in an interactive dialogue on his recent activities and other topics related to his mandate. To read more about the Special Rapporteur’s week at the General Assembly and watch videos of all the main events, please visit this page.

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez Receives Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez Receives Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award

October 14, 2014 - Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez received a Special Recognition Award at the prestigious 38th Annual Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards. Each year in early October, the Institute for Policy Studies hosts the annual human rights award in the names of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, who were killed by agents of the Chile’s military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet in Washington, DC, in 1976. The award celebrates human rights defenders in the United States and the Americas. This year, Professor Méndez was honored for his work as a jurist and human rights activist, and for his work as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. The award was presented by Rev. William Wipfler and Mr. John Hutchinson, who led advocacy efforts in 1977 to have Professor Méndez declared a prisoner of conscience and released from Argentine junta’s notorious Unit 9 prison, where he was detained because of his defense, as a lawyer, of political prisoners threatened by torture and arbitrary arrest in the 1970s. Special Rapporteur Méndez and this year’s other awardees were congratulated by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in a special video message, and featured in media outlets including the Washington Post. The recipients of this year’s domestic and international awards are Robin Reineke from the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, and the Mesoamerican Initiative of Human Rights Defenders. For more information and muiltimedia, please visit this page.

Who Cares About the Suffering of Older persons at the End of Their Lives? We Do, Say UN Human Rights Experts

Who Cares About the Suffering of Older persons at the End of Their Lives? We Do, Say UN Human Rights Experts

October 11, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other UN independent human rights experts have warned that unnecessary suffering of older persons for lack of pain medicines and palliative care at the end of their lives violates basic human rights. On the occasion of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, the experts stressed that “palliative care is an obligatory integral part of the full realization of the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” Special Rapporteur Méndez urged governments around the world to ensure full access to palliative care of all terminally ill, including older persons, and overcome all obstacles that restrict availability to essential palliative care medications. “States should promote widespread understanding about the therapeutic usefulness of controlled substances and their rational use,” he stated, emphasizing that states have an obligation to prevent pain and suffering that amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

Mexico Faces Crucial Test in Investigation of Deaths and Enforced Disappearances of Students in Guerrero: UN Human Rights Experts

Mexico Faces Crucial Test in Investigation of Deaths and Enforced Disappearances of Students in Guerrero: UN Human Rights Experts

October 10, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other UN independent human rights experts have called on Mexican authorities to focus their efforts on an investigation into the killings and enforced disappearances of students in Guerrero.  At the end of September, six people died and at least 17 others were injured after a series of events in the municipality of Iguala, following operations in which the local municipal police reportedly took part. Since then, 43 students from the Rural Normal School ‘Raúl Isidro Burgos’ Ayotzinapa remain disappeared. The Special Rapporteurs stated that “what happened in Guerrero is absolutely reprehensible and unacceptable. It is not tolerable that these kind of events happen, and even less so in a State respectful of the Rule of Law.” The experts urged the Mexican authorities to focus their efforts on finding the whereabouts of the disappeared persons and to shed full light on these events. They also expressed their concern over the discovery of six mass graves in areas near the city of Iguala. To date, it has not been confirmed that the burnt bodies in the graves belong to the disappeared students. The experts welcomed the arrival of the Argentinian Team of Forensic Anthropology which will be involved in the process of identification of the remains together with the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic and the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Guerrero. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

ATI Hosts Seminar on NEXT STEPS TOWARDS A HUMAN RIGHTS PENITENTIARY SYSTEM IN URUGUAY

ATI Hosts Seminar on NEXT STEPS TOWARDS A HUMAN RIGHTS PENITENTIARY SYSTEM IN URUGUAY

September 30, 2014 – On Friday, September 24, 2014, the Anti-Torture Initiative hosted a day-long conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, to promote discussion of our breakthrough Spanish-language publication Next Steps Towards a Human Rights Penitentiary System in Uruguay: Reflections on the Implementation of the 2009 and 2013 Recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, which features 20 essays that reflect on the practical implementation of the recommendations made by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez after his follow-up visit to Uruguay in December 2012. The seminar was co-organized with Uruguay’s National Human Rights Institution, the UNDP, and several local and international NGOs. The event brought together prominent activists, government officials, lawyers and academics, and more than 200 key stakeholders for a vigorous day-long discussion and debate of the critical issues addressed in the publication. The event was featured prominently by the local media and civil society organizations. To read more about the seminar in English and Spanish, please visit our page dedicated to the event.

Special Rapporteur Inaugurates Second Training Program on Human Rights Protection Mechanisms

Special Rapporteur Inaugurates Second Training Program on Human Rights Protection Mechanisms

September 30, 2014 – UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez, inaugurated the second Training Program on Human Rights Protection Mechanisms, organized by the Robert F. Kennedy Training Institute in collaboration with the American University Washington College of Law. The course will be held at the Robert F. Kennedy International House of Human Rights in Florence from September 29 to October 3, 2014. The main goal of this training is to share best practices that can be replicated in other systems to achieve better human rights protection worldwide. Participants from Haiti, the United States, El Salvador, Egypt, Western Sahara, Ghana, Hungary, Denmark, Nepal, Pakistan, and Italy will have the unique opportunity to learn from renowned experts with experience in each of the major protection systems. Experts will also share their experiences on the advantages and disadvantages of the different mechanisms. To read more about the training program, please visit the RFK Center website

Colombia: UN Experts Warn Bill on Military Criminal Justice a Setback for Human Rights

Colombia: UN Experts Warn Bill on Military Criminal Justice a Setback for Human Rights

September 29, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other UN independent human rights experts are calling on the Government and Congress of Colombia to reconsider the possible adoption of a 2013 Bill, which aims to restructure and expand the scope of military courts. The experts state that “if adopted, this Bill could seriously undermine the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.” The proposed legislation would allow civilians to be tried before military tribunals and would expand the jurisdiction of military tribunals to include crimes that are unrelated to service in the military. Under the Bill, military and police courts would have jurisdiction over, inter alia, homicide, breaches of international humanitarian law, breaches of information and data protection, crimes against public security and crimes against the civilian population. The Special Rapporteurs stress that personal jurisdiction of such tribunals should be limited to active members of the armed forces and call on the government to ensure that only breaches of discipline and crimes of a strictly military nature should be tried before military and police tribunals. They also express concern with the fact that, “since military and police courts in Colombia are part of the executive branch, extending their jurisdiction to matters that should be heard by ordinary criminal courts would result in a breach of the right to a fair trial before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” The experts offer to provide advisory services to assist Colombia in its efforts to strengthen its legislative and institutional framework for the achievement of human rights and peace for all. The open letter is available here. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

Special Rapporteur Delivers Lectures On Transitional Justice to Mark the Thirtieth Anniversary of Argentina’s Nunca Más

Special Rapporteur Delivers Lectures On Transitional Justice to Mark the Thirtieth Anniversary of Argentina’s Nunca Más

September 19, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez delivered a lecture on the “Argentine Experience and the Emergence of a Universal Right to Truth” at the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute. The lecture marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Argentina’s National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons landmark report, Nunca Más. The Special Rapporteur reflected on the report and its impact on the origins and development of transitional justice. He also delivered a lecture at the Duke University School of Law and donated his papers, most of which focus on his work as Special Rapporteur on Torture, in the Human Rights Archive at Duke’s Rubenstein Library Friday. To watch the Special Rapporteur’s lectures please visit the following links for the Franklin Humanities Institute and the Duke University School of Law. You can also read a piece on the  events in the Duke Chronicle.
UN EXPERTS URGE ETHIOPIA TO STOP USING ANTI-TERRORISM LEGISLATION TO CURB HUMAN RIGHTS

UN EXPERTS URGE ETHIOPIA TO STOP USING ANTI-TERRORISM LEGISLATION TO CURB HUMAN RIGHTS

September 18, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other UN independent human rights experts have urged the Ethiopian government to stop misusing anti-terrorism legislation to curb freedoms of expression and association in the country. The experts stated that two years after first addressing the issue, they are “still receiving numerous reports on how the anti-terrorism law is being used to target journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and opposition politicians in Ethiopia.” Arbitrary detention and unfair trials, often with no access to a lawyer, are used as a means to suppress dissent under the pretext of countering terrorism. The Special Rapporteurs stressed that “confronting terrorism is important but it has to be done in adherence to international human rights to be effective.” They called on the Ethiopian government to apply anti-terrorism legislation cautiously and with accordance to Ethiopia’s international human rights obligations. They also urged Ethiopia to respond positively to outstanding visit requests by a number of Special Rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.