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

Death Row: UN Experts Urge US Authorities to Stop Execution of Scott Panetti, a Mentally Ill Prisoner

Death Row: UN Experts Urge US Authorities to Stop Execution of Scott Panetti, a Mentally Ill Prisoner

December 2, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez has urged the US Government and authorities in the State of Texas to halt the imminent execution of Scott Panetti, a prisoner with proven psycho-social disabilities.  The Special Rapporteur stated that “[i]nternational law considers the imposition and enforcement of the death penalty on persons with mental disabilities a violation of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. There is no doubt that it is inherently cruel and unworthy of civilized societies to execute persons with mental disabilities,” he continued. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, also warned that “[i]mplementing the death penalty under these conditions may amount to an arbitrary execution.” Citing the irreversible nature of the death penalty, the independent human rights experts “urgently appeal[ed] to the Government of the United States and the state of Texas to find a way to stop the scheduled execution, and we hope that serious consideration will be given to commuting the sentence.” To read the press release in fulll, please visit the OHCHR website.

Special Rapporteur Kicks Off OMCT’s “Ten Days of Activism Against Torture and Ill-Treatment” Campaign with New Video

Special Rapporteur Kicks Off OMCT’s “Ten Days of Activism Against Torture and Ill-Treatment” Campaign with New Video

December 1, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez has kicked off the OMCT’s “Ten Days of Activism Against Torture and Ill-Treatment” campaign with a video addressing the main achievements and challenges in the fight against torture and ill-treatment worldwide on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention Against Torture. The Special Rapporteur describes the anniversary as an important opportunity not only to push for universal ratification of the Convention, but also to refocus and rejuvenate  our collective efforts towards its effective implementation worldwide.  He explains that in his work, he continues to observe with much concern that “torture has not been eradicated in practice [and] continues to manifest itself in almost unimaginable ways around the world.” The Special Rapporteur urged stakeholders to use this opportunity to come together and join in their efforts to combat torture and ill-treatment and impunity worldwide.  To watch the video and learn more about the campaign, please visit the OMCT website.

United Nations Experts Urge President Obama to Back Full Release of Report on CIA Interrogation Abuses

United Nations Experts Urge President Obama to Back Full Release of Report on CIA Interrogation Abuses

November 26, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez joined a group of other prominent UN human rights experts to urge US President Barack Obama to support the fullest possible release of the report on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogation practices conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In an open letter to the President, the experts stressed that “the stakes are very high,” as President Obama’s decision on the Senate interrogation report would be closely watched by victims of torture and by other countries and “have far-reaching consequences for victims of human rights violations everywhere and for the credibility of the United States. As a nation that has publicly affirmed its belief that respect for truth advances respect for the rule of law, and as a nation that frequently calls for transparency and accountability in other countries, the United States must rise to meet the standards it has set both for itself and for others,” the experts stated in the letter. Theexperts urged President Obama to release the report in a meaningful form, allowing the public to understand the facts and promoting the right to truth for victims and their families. Speaking directly to the President, the experts said that “[v]ictims of torture and human rights defenders around the world will be emboldened if you take a strong stand in support of transparency. On the contrary, if you yield to the CIA’s demands for continued secrecy on this issue, those resisting accountability will surely misuse this decision to bolster their own agenda in their countries.” Noting President Obama’s wish to “look forward” and not backward on the torture issue, the experts stressed that every party to the UN Convention Against Torture has an obligation to thoroughly and promptly investigate credible reports of torture, ensure accountability and provide adequate remedies to victims. They also called for the recognition of and redress for other violations that took place under the same CIA programmes, including secret and arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances, among others. “Lasting security can only be achieved on the basis of truth and not secrecy,” the experts stressed, urging the President to “recognize the historic nature of [his] decision and side with those in the United States and around the world who are struggling to reveal the truth and to bring an end to the use of torture.” To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: UN Experts Raise Alarm on Imminent Release of a Man Convicted of Genocide

Bosnia & Herzegovina: UN Experts Raise Alarm on Imminent Release of a Man Convicted of Genocide

November 19, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent UN human rights experts have expressed alarm over the potential imminent release of Mr. Milorad Trbic, who was convicted in 2009 by the Bosnian State Court of committing genocide in Srebernica and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The experts’ call comes after the Bosnian Constitutional Court quashed the verdict and ordered a retrial, without questioning Mr. Trbic’s guilt. The independent experts stated that the interests of justice clearly require that people convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious crimes, including torture and enforced disappearances, whose guilt is not in question, should not be released pending retrial and that punishment should be consistent with the gravity of the offense. They called on the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take all necessary steps to protect victims, ensure that their rights to truth and justice are respected and adopt a comprehensive transitional justice strategy as a matter of priority. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.