with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
Special Rapporteur discusses Albert Woodfox’s case in new Amnesty International’s video

Special Rapporteur discusses Albert Woodfox’s case in new Amnesty International’s video

February 16, 2015 – In a new video created by Amnesty International, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez discusses the case of Albert Woodfox, who has been held in solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary since 1972. Mr. Woodfox was originally convicted for the murder of a prison guard together with Herman Wallace and Robert King, the so-called Angola 3. “Mr. Woodfox is being held in conditions that amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, if not torture,” the Special Rapporteur tells Amnesty, explaining that the conditions of his imprisonment, which involve spending 23 hours a day in an 8-foot-by-12 foot cell with no meaningful social interaction, inflict upon him “the kind of pain and suffering of a mental nature that is associated with torture.” The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern about the fact that while Mr. Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned three times no meaningful review of his continued isolation has taken place, and added that Mr. Woodfox should be considered innocent until proven guilty and convicted. You can watch the Special Rapporteur discuss the case in this video, and read a press release issued by the Special Rapporteur in October 2013 on Mr. Woodfox’s case.

El Relator Especial difunde el informe sobre la visita a México

El Relator Especial difunde el informe sobre la visita a México

February 13, 2015 – El informe del Relator Especial sobre su visita a México en abril/mayo del 2014 ya se encuentra disponible en español, inglés y francés.
En el informe, el Relator Especial concluye, de manera alarmante, que la tortura es generalizada en México y, en general, llevada a cabo por policías municipales, estatales y federales, agentes ministeriales estatales y federales, y por las fuerzas armadas. Normalmente comienza desde que el sujeto es detenido hasta que es puesto a disposición de un juez y en la mayoría de los casos esta es utilizada como castigo o como parte de la investigación. Las salvaguardas son débiles y las condiciones de detención no siguen los estándares internacionales en materia de derechos humanos siendo el hacinamiento el principal problema. Es por esto que el Relator Especial recomendó al Gobierno de México un número de medidas a implementar y pidió a la comunidad internacional ayudar al Gobierno en su lucha para eliminar la tortura y los malos tratos, revertir la impunidad y garantizar la reparación integral de las víctimas.
Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez Interviewed by BBC HARDtalk

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez Interviewed by BBC HARDtalk

February 4, 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez gave a half-hour interview on BBC HARDtalk. During the interview, the Special Rapporteur discussed his experience as a young human rights lawyer in Argentina in the 1970s, when he was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for his activities in defense of human rights and political prisoners. He also discusses the use of torture in the United States in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, explaining that the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques and other methods of torture, such as waterboarding, have aggravated the problem of terrorism, leading to the rise of new generations of terrorists. To listen to a podcast of the entire interview, please follow this link. A six minute video clip from the interview is also available here.

 

Guadalupe’s Pardon: UN Experts Urge El Salvador to Pardon All Women Jailed for Pregnancy Complications and Repeal Restrictive Abortion Law

Guadalupe’s Pardon: UN Experts Urge El Salvador to Pardon All Women Jailed for Pregnancy Complications and Repeal Restrictive Abortion Law

January 28, 2014 - Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez joined a group of other independent UN human rights experts to issue a statement urging El Salvador to repeal legislation which criminalises abortion in all circumstances. The statement explains that since 1997, El Salvador has had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, with abortion criminalized even when the woman’s life or health is at risk or in cases of rape or incest. The experts welcomed the recent decision to pardon Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana, who was convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years in prison in February 2008, after suffering a miscarriage at the age of 18 after reportedly being raped. While the experts welcomed the pardon as marking ”a turning point for the authorities to review the sentences against all women jailed for pregnancy-related complications,” they reiterated their concern that sanctions are being disproportionately imposed without due process in the cases of 17 other women in a similar situation, who are seeking pardons. “The total ban on abortion disproportionately affects women who are poor, the experts have stated, adding that  ”matters relating to an obstetric complication can sometimes mistakenly be considered as abortion.” They stressed that “El Salvador must comply with its international obligations and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including maternal health care and access to all methods of modern contraception,” and that “[a]ccess to safe and legal abortion, at least when the pregnancy endangers the life or health of the woman; when it is the result of rape or incest, or in cases of severe fetal malformation must be ensured.” To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

Special Rapporteur Discusses Legality of Guantanamo Bay Detentions In New Radio Interview

Special Rapporteur Discusses Legality of Guantanamo Bay Detentions In New Radio Interview

January 26, 2015 – In a recent radio interview, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez spoke about the situation and legality of detentions by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.  The Special Rapporteur recognized the fact that the Obama administration has made some efforts to bring the use of detentions at Guantanamo Bay to an end, in accordance with the President’s January 22, 2009 Executive Order on the closure of the facility. However, he highlighted the fact that at least half of those who currently remain in detention have been cleared for release and will not be charged with any crime, making their continued detention arbitrary. In addition, the Special Rapporteur explained that detainees who are non-combatants and were apprehended as part of law enforcement operations must either be granted full due process guarantees in fair trials before independent tribunals, as required by international law and the United States Constitution, or released. To read the interview in full, follow this link.

Special Rapporteur Delivers Lecture on International Law and the Abolition of Torture at University of Michigan

Special Rapporteur Delivers Lecture on International Law and the Abolition of Torture at University of Michigan

January 22, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez gave a lecture entitled “International Law and the Abolition of Torture” hosted by the University of Michigan International Institute’s Human Rights Initiative. The lecture provides an overview of the obligations related to the prohibition of torture in international law and of the work of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, and is available here.

Special Rapporteur Discusses Solitary Confinement in the United States in New Amnesty International USA Video

Special Rapporteur Discusses Solitary Confinement in the United States in New Amnesty International USA Video

January 15, 2014 – In this new video created by Amnesty International USA, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez discusses the extensive use of solitary confinement in US prisons, expressing particular concern about the lack of safeguards against its use, and its use for prolonged periods of time.”Solitary confinement truly does inflict the pain and suffering of a mental nature that is associated with the prohibition on torture and on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, [which is] absolute and unqualified in international law under any circumstances,” the Special Rapporteur states. The Special Rapporteur has in the past spoken publicly about his pending request to carry out a fact-finding visit to assess the use of solitary confinement in state and federal US prisons. The full video is available here. To learn more about Amnesty’s campaign on solitary confinement, please visit this page.

Special Rapporteur Urges United States to Investigate and Prosecute Those Responsible for Acts of Torture

Special Rapporteur Urges United States to Investigate and Prosecute Those Responsible for Acts of Torture

December 15, 2014 – The Special Rapporteur on Torture has been interviewed and quoted by more than a dozen international media sources since the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. The Special Rapporteur has consistently reiterated the obligations of the United States under international law with respect to truth, transparency, and accountability, and urged the State to combat impunity by investigating and prosecuting those responsible for acts of torture that have been committed. You can listen to interviews with the Special Rapporteur on the BBC World Service (Weekend Break) (min 10:30);  BBC Radio 4 (The World Tonight) (min 9:20); and the Alan Colmes Show; and read articles in the New York Times and Deutsche Welles, among others.

“If the US Tortures, Why Can’t We Do It?” Global Fight Against Torture Is Set Back by US Example

“If the US Tortures, Why Can’t We Do It?” Global Fight Against Torture Is Set Back by US Example

December 11, 2014 – In a widely publicized statement reacting to the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogations practices, Special Rapporteur Juan Méndez said that the reluctance of the United States Government to work with international authorities to ensure accountability for human rights violations has made it easier for other nations to shirk their responsibilities. While commending the Committee for releasing what appears to be a very thorough and frank report, the Special Rapporteur stressed that this constitutes only a “a first step in the direction of fulfilling other US obligations under the Convention against Torture, namely to combat impunity and ensure accountability, by investigating and prosecuting those responsible.” The Special Rapporteur lamented the fact that “the example set by the United States on the use of torture has been a big draw-back in the fight against such practice in many other countries throughout the world. I travel to parts of the world in my [work] and I can attest to the fact that many states either implicitly or explicitly tell you: ‘Why look at us? If the US tortures, why can’t we do it?’” he continued. The Special Rapporteur concluded that “[i]t is the Government’s responsibility to let the people [of the United States] know what happened during the years when extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were practiced, and to ensure accountability and transparency to the fullest extent possible.” To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

Juan Mendez: The Torturers’ Worst Nightmare

Juan Mendez: The Torturers’ Worst Nightmare

December 10, 2014 – In a powerful Human Rights Day interview with Amnesty International, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez looks back at his harrowing personal experience of torture in Argentina. The Special Rapporteur was a young human rights lawyer working on behalf of political prisoners when he was arrested by agents of Argentina’s incipient military junta in 1975. “I was very scared during the interrogations. Twice they had to call a doctor to check if they could continue torturing me without killing me. Only then did I realize that I could die. But when you are in that situation you live minute by minute, thinking of the moment when the torturers will get tired and stop so you can have a break,” he explains. The Special Rapporteur spent the next 18 months in detention without charge, before being released and forced into exile. “The only real way to eliminate torture is to ensure those responsible are brought to justice. It is torture’s cycle of impunity that keeps it alive,” he explains in the interview. To read the interview in full, follow this link.