with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law to be Offered by Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law

LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law to be Offered by Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law

July 19, 2014 – We are pleased to share the announcement that the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law of American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) will be offering an LL.M. in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. The Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez, has been a visiting professor at AUWCL since November 2012. The program was approved by the American Bar Association Accreditation Committee in June 2014. The new offering recognizes the vast interest in the legal community in studying human rights law at AUWCL and is the only program in the United States to offer a hybrid program of its kind in a U.S. law school. The LL.M. is designed for practitioners and other human rights professionals who wish to pursue advanced studies in international human rights law and humanitarian law alongside their existing work responsibilities. For more information, please visit the website of the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.
Nepal: Truth-Seeking Legislation Risks Further Entrenching Impunity, Alert UN Rights Experts

Nepal: Truth-Seeking Legislation Risks Further Entrenching Impunity, Alert UN Rights Experts

July 4, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other UN independent human rights experts called on the Government of Nepal to amend new legislation allowing for amnesties in cases of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The experts expressed concern that the newly adopted truth-seeking law, which establishes the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation, leaves mass violations unaddressed and risks further entrenching impunity. “We urge the Nepalese authorities to start an urgent process of amending the Act so that it is in line with international standards and the ruling of the Supreme Court, which held similar provisions to be unconstitutional and in violation of international standards this January,” the experts stated. They also urged the state to ensure appropriate consultation with victims, their families, civil society, and the National Human Rights Commission in amending the legislation. The experts further reminded the Government of Nepal of the pending requests of 14 Special Procedures mandate holders for country visits and encouraged the authorities to engage with them in light of their responsibility to build a peaceful and rule-of-law-based society. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

Egypt: UN Experts “Outraged” at Confirmation of 183 Death Sentences

Egypt: UN Experts “Outraged” at Confirmation of 183 Death Sentences

June 30, 2014 -The Special Rapporteur on Torture and other UN human rights experts have expressed outrage after a Criminal Court in Minya, Egypt, confirmed death sentences against 183 people in the largest mass death sentence to be confirmed in Egypt in recent history. The experts urged the Government to quash the sentences and offer new and fair trials to all defendants. The experts stated that “[the imposition of mass death sentences following blatantly unfair trials and for crimes that may not be punishable by death constitutes a staggering violation of international human rights law,” and noted that irregularities included a lack of precision in the charges, limited access to lawyers, trials in absentia, and mass sentencing. The charges brought against the defendants, whom are all supporters of former elected President Mohamed Morsi, range from threatening public order and setting fire to a police station to murder. “We are shocked by the repeated and deliberate use of mass death sentences” stressed the experts, noting that the credibility and integrity of the Egyptian justice system has become deeply compromised. “We are deeply concerned that the courts have become instrumental in the arbitrary and politically motivated prosecutions by the State, which may also be discriminatory against people on the basis of religion or belief”. The experts also expressed alarm at the use of the death penalty to clamp down on political dissent and recalled that “death penalty is an extreme form of punishment and, if used at all, should only be imposed for the most severe crimes and following trials that scrupulously respect the guarantees of due process and fair trial as stipulated in international human rights law”. They reiterated their call to the Egyptian authorities to reform the legal system and bring it into compliance with international standards. “Respect for justice and the rule of law is an international obligation and an essential component of any strategy for institutional consolidation and lasting reconciliation,” they further noted. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

 

In Latin America Torture Still Used to Conduct Investigations

In Latin America Torture Still Used to Conduct Investigations

June 29, 2014 – In a recent Spanish-language interview with Diario Libre, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, discussed the situation of torture and ill-treatment on the ground in Latin America. The Special Rapporteur noted that each country has its own distinct phenomenon of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, but that such unlawful practices occur throughout Latin America today. He further commented that democracies have practical, moral, and legal reasons to combat torture and that torture erodes society’s trust in the police force, making it more difficult to combat crime. To read more please visit this page.

Special Rapporteur Delivers Video Address on Human Rights Situation in Bahrain for UK House of Commons Hearing

Special Rapporteur Delivers Video Address on Human Rights Situation in Bahrain for UK House of Commons Hearing

June 27, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez delivered a video address on human rights in Bahrain during a hearing held at the UK House of Commons on June 26. The Special Rapporteur explained that the human rights situation in Bahrain continues to be of grave concern to UN Special Procedures mandate holders, citing in particular the harsh clampdown on human rights defenders and excessive use of force against protesters in the country. The Special Rapporteur noted that his mandate receives regular allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees and of denial of medical treatment in places of detention, in contravention of international law. He further expressed concern about Bahrain’s non-fulfillment of the obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and the non-implementation of the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. The Special Rapporteur also reiterated that the decision to cancel his intended visit to Bahrain was taken unilaterally by the Government and that he has not reneged on his intention to visit. He elaborated that his repeated requests to reschedule the visit have been unanswered by the Government. To watch the video address in full, please visit this link.

 

Special Rapporteur Marks International Day in Support of Victims of Torture with UN Press Release and ATI #TortureFreeWorld Campaign

Special Rapporteur Marks International Day in Support of Victims of Torture with UN Press Release and ATI #TortureFreeWorld Campaign

June 26, 2014 – This June 26, we marked the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture by launching our #TortureFreeWorld social media campaign, which engaged individuals and organizations working to prevent and combat torture worldwide in a conversation and Q&A with the Special Rapporteur on Torture on social media. At the same time, the UN Committee against Torture, Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, and the Special Rapporteur issued a joint press release calling for a torture free world. In the press release,the Special Rapporteur stated that imagining a torture free world should not “require a stretch of the imagination” and reminded states of their long-standing obligation under international law to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish all acts of torture and ill-treatment. To learn more about and view documentation about our #TortureFreeWorld social media campaign, please visit our page dedicated to the event. To read the June 26 press release in full, please visit the UN OHCHR website.
Force-Feeding is Cruel and Inhuman – UN Experts Urge Israel Not to Make it Legal

Force-Feeding is Cruel and Inhuman – UN Experts Urge Israel Not to Make it Legal

June 25, 2014 -Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Anand Grover have urged the Israeli Parliament not to amend the Prisoners act to authorize force-feeding and medical treatment of prisoners on hunger strike against their will.  The Special Rapporteurs urged the Government to respect and guarantee the rights to life, health and personal integrity of all detainees and refrain from force-feeding and other coercive measures, stressing that the authorities have a duty to look for solutions to the crisis generating the hunger strike, including good faith dialogue with the inmates on their detention, its conditions and treatment. They also echoed the repeated call of UN bodies and the international human rights community to end the practice of prolonged administrative detention. The appeal comes at a time when hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strike since April 24 to protest the fact that they have been detained with charge or trial and their treatment in Israeli prisons. Professor Méndez stated that “[i]t is not acceptable to force-feed or use threats of force-feeding or other physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike to protest against their detention without charge and conditions of detention and treatment.” He added that “the desire of the inmates not to eat must be respected for as long as it is clear that they are making that choice voluntarily.   Even if it is intended for the benefit of the detainees, feeding induced by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints are tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

Reforms Away From Universal Jurisdiction in Spain A Step Back in the Fight Agaist Impunity

Reforms Away From Universal Jurisdiction in Spain A Step Back in the Fight Agaist Impunity

June 23, 2014 – In a new Spanish-language interview with La Informacion, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez discussed several topics, including recent reforms away from universal jurisdiction in Spain, which he identified as a step back in the fight against impunity for systematic violations of international human rights law, including torture. The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern about the fact that instances of torture and ill-treatment in the context of counter-terrorism are sometimes identified as “inevitable,” in contravention of fundamental principles of international human rights law. To read the full article, please visit this page.

 

Tunisia: Special Rapporteur on Torture and ATI To Conduct Follow-Up Visit, Assess Implementation of 2011 Recommendations: June 4 – 6, 2014

Tunisia: Special Rapporteur on Torture and ATI To Conduct Follow-Up Visit, Assess Implementation of 2011 Recommendations: June 4 – 6, 2014

June 3, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and the ATI will conduct a follow-up visit to Tunisia from 4 to 6 June 2014, to follow up on the implementation of his 2012 recommendations for combating and preventing torture and ill-treatment. The Special Rapporteur hopes his second visit to Tunisia will “assist the Government in coping with some of the remaining challenges it faces regarding the fight against torture and in finding solutions that ensure the promotion of human rights and dignity of all persons.” During the visit, the team will meet with key government decision makers, civil society, and victims and their families. During a full-day roundtable event, the Special Rapporteur and members of local and international civil society will discuss the main challenges and strategies for preventing and combating torture and ill-treatment on the ground, with a special focus on the topics of access to justice, reparations and rehabilitation, and conditions of detention. The roundtable has been organized by the ATI along with the OHCHR in Tunis, the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), and Actions by Christians against Torture (ACAT). The Special Rapporteur has stated that he looks forward to helping Tunisian authorities “to further implement my recommendations, uphold the rule of law, promote accountability for present and past abuses and allegations of torture and ill-treatment, fulfill the right to reparations for victims, and to ensure that alleged perpetrators are held responsible in conformity with international law.” You can read the UN OHCHR press statement announcing the visit here. For more details, daily updates, and background information on the Special Rapporteur’s 2011 mission and work in Tunisia, please visit our Tunisia Country Page.

Syria: Door Remains Wide Open for Further Atrocities after Lack of Referral to the ICC, UN Experts Warn

Syria: Door Remains Wide Open for Further Atrocities after Lack of Referral to the ICC, UN Experts Warn

May 30, 2014 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez and other independent UN human rights experts have emphasized that the UN Security Council’s decision not to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) “leaves the door wide open for new atrocities in the ongoing conflict.” The experts stated that last week’s double veto of a resolution referring the Syria situation to the ICC is likely to expose the Syrian population to further gross human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations. “The failure to hold those responsible for the violations to account may fuel further atrocities,” they continued. A referral to the ICC would have been an “important and most necessary step both to protect civilians against continued and future violations by all sides to the conflict, and to curb impunity for the grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law, some amounting to crimes against humanity,” the experts concluded. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.