with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
Special Rapporteur on Torture Undertakes 12 Day Country Visit to Brazil

Special Rapporteur on Torture Undertakes 12 Day Country Visit to Brazil

August 3, 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez is undertaking a country visit to Brazil at the invitation of the Government from August 3 to 14, 2015, to identify and assess the main challenges related to torture and other ill-treatment in the country. During the 12 day visit, the Special Rapporteur will conduct unannounced visits to places of detention such as police stations, pre-trial facilities, and penitentiaries in the federal district and the states of Sao Paulo, Sergipe, Maranhao, and Alagoas. “I look forward to engaging with the Brazilian Government on how the meet the challenges of upholding the rule of law, promoting accountability, and fulfilling the right of reparations for victims,” the Special Rapporteur has stated. He will meet with relevant authorities and human rights institutions at the federal and state levels, as well as with international and regional civil society organizations, victims and their families. The Special Rapporteur will share his preliminary comments and recommendations at a press conference to be held on Friday 14 August 2015 at the UN House in Brasilia. The Special Rapporteur will present a final report to the Human Rights Council in March 2016. To read the press release announcing the visit, please visit our page dedicated to the Brazil visit the OHCHR website.

Special Rapporteur urges Pakistan to halt the ongoing surge in executions and to reimpose the death penalty moratorium

Special Rapporteur urges Pakistan to halt the ongoing surge in executions and to reimpose the death penalty moratorium

29 July 2015- Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Médez and other UN human rights experts have urged Pakistan to halt the ongoing surge in executions in the country and to reimpose a moratorium on the death penalty. Since the lifting of the moratorium in December 2014, more than 182 prisoners have been executed, including two earlier this week. The experts also called on the Government to commute without delay the sentences of those on death row, an estimated 8,000 persons. The Special Rapporteur asked Pakistan to “reconsider whether the use of the death penalty per se respects the inherent dignity of the human person, causes severe mental and physical pain or suffering and constitutes a violation of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The experts also drew attention to the case of Mr. Shafqat Hussain, whose trial fell short of international standards, and called on the Government to abide by due process of law and fair trial standards. Convicted for a crime reportedly committed as a child, Mr. Hussain is scheduled to be executed on 4 August despite the experts’ appeal.

To see the full article click here.

Special Rapporteur urges Israel to halt legalization of force-feeding of hunger-strikers in detention

Special Rapporteur urges Israel to halt legalization of force-feeding of hunger-strikers in detention

28 July 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, reiterated his call for Israeli authorities to stop the legalization of force-feeding and medical treatment of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike. The Special Rapporteur stressed that even when intended to benefit the health of the detainees, force-feeding induced by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints can be “tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

This call comes after the Israeli parliament moved to reconsider a proposed amendment Bill to the Prisons Act that would allow force-feeding and forced medical treatment of detainees regardless of their consent. This Bill is expected to primarily affect Palestinians held by Israel, including those in administrative detention.

Special Rapporteur Danius Pûras on the Right to Health has joined Méndez in emphasizing that “the way to end the hunger strikes is not to force feed hunger-strikers but to address the underlying human rights violations against which they are protesting, namely, the practice of administrative detention.” Both UN experts have urged the Government of Israel to consider resolving the hunger strikes through good faith dialogue, rather than resorting to coercive remedial measures that intentionally disregard the detainees’ consent.

To see the full article click here. 

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

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.

UN experts urge China to halt detentions “Lawyers need to be protected not harassed”

UN experts urge China to halt detentions “Lawyers need to be protected not harassed”

GENEVA 16 July 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E Méndez joined group of other UN human rights experts to urge Chinese authorities to stop what appears to be a targeted campaign of intimidation of lawyers.

More than 100 lawyers have allegedly been arrested and detained or interrogated since July 9, 2015 in direct connection with their legal work. Most are believed to have been working on human rights-related cases, with many representing well known political dissidents, journalists and artists.

“In societies governed by the rule of law, lawyers advocate within the legal system on behalf of clients, even where their personal views may differ from the clients’ views,” the independent experts stated. “Lawyers should never have to suffer prosecution or any other kind of sanctions or intimidation for discharging their professional duties.”

The experts are concerned that these arrests and detentions are in direct contravention of the Chinese Criminal Procedure Code, the UN Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They further emphasized that “as one of the three main actors of an independent justice system, lawyers have an essential role to play in protecting human rights, in particular due process and fair trial guarantees, and ultimately contribute greatly to ensuring respect for the rule of law.”

See the full press release here. 

Special Rapporteur Endorses David Kaye’s Press Release to Review Singapore’s Sentencing of Teenager Blogger

Special Rapporteur Endorses David Kaye’s Press Release to Review Singapore’s Sentencing of Teenager Blogger

July 8, 2015 –

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez has endorsed a new statement by Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, urging Singapore to review the decision to sentence a 16-year old blogger to four weeks in prison for posting a video and a caricature of Singapore’s founder Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

“Condemning an adolescent to prison for expressing his opinion is clearly unacceptable according to international standards for freedom of expression and for the rights of the child,” Mr. Kaye said, while welcoming this week’s release of the blogger, who already served more than one month in custody, reportedly under harsh conditions which affected his health. Mr. Kaye warned of the “deterrent effect” on others in Singapore as regards criticism of public figures the government. He also emphasized that international standards protect individual freedom of expression from penalty on the basis of alleged insult to a public figure, insisting that “openness to all forms of criticism is always to be expected in the necessary debate on present or past public figures, no matter how revered by the public.”

For more information  see the full article here.

Special Rapporteur speaks with International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ)

Special Rapporteur speaks with International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ)

July 14, 2015 – Last month, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez spoke with the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) to draw attention to the struggle against torture and the need to build up the moral condemnation required for the effective abolition of torture. The Special Rapporteur reminded us that “no part of the world is safe when it comes to torture,” despite the clear prohibition of torture under the Convention Against Torture and customary international law, and the obligation of all States to investigate, prosecute and punish each instance of torture or other ill-treatment. He reiterated the need to reinforce our “common commitment” to obtaining a ‪#‎TortureFreeWorld‬, a goal that while seemingly very idealistic, “many of us think is or should be within reach.”

To access the full article please click  here. 

Special Rapporteur Interviews with LA NACION in Argentina

Special Rapporteur Interviews with LA NACION in Argentina

July 9, 2015 – In this Spanish language article, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez speaks with Argentine newspaper LaNacion about his work and obstacles that present themselves in the fight for a ‪#‎TortureFreeWorld‬, including state practices that do not conform to existing legal standards and public opinion.

“Before 2001 and the 9/11 attacks, there was a clear global consensus that the use of torture was immoral and inefficient. Today, pop culture, TV and cinema are conditioning us to accept torture as a necessary evil in the fight against terrorism. Until we recover a universal moral consensus against the use of torture, it will be very difficult to eradicate worldwide.”

The Special Rapporteur further emphasized the need for States to find a solution to prison overcrowding, to decriminalize certain minor offenses with a view to reducing the prison population, and to implement national preventive mechanisms against torture. By accepting the use of torture in prisons, the Special Rapporteur warned, we risk “destroying the fabric of our society.”

To read the full article in LANACION, please click here.

The Anti-Torture Initiative and its partners successfully raise awareness against torture during Torture Awareness Month

The Anti-Torture Initiative and its partners successfully raise awareness against torture during Torture Awareness Month

June 29, 2015 – This year’s Torture Awareness Month was marked by the success of the Anti-Torture Initiative’s #TortureFreeWorld. Along with its partners, the ATI successfully raised awareness against torture throughout the world by spreading a message of hope and solidarity embodied by #TortureFreeWorld.

For its second edition, the #TortureFreeWorld campaign brought together 6 organizations fighting against torture in over 100 countries: the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), and REDRESS.

The webinar hosted by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez on June 26 to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, led to a productive and stimulating conversation with participants from the OMCT, Redress, the NRCAT and the CVT on focused on “Working Together to Create a #TortureFreeWorld.” You can view the webinar in full on the #TortureFreeWorld website.

Participants in the webinar included:

Gerald Staberock, Secretary General, World Organizations Against Torture (OMCT)

Carla Ferstman, Director, REDRESS

Rev. Laura Markle Downton, Director, U.S. Prisons & Policy Program, National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT)

Annie Sovcik, Director, Washington Office, Center for Victims of Torture (CVT)

 

A coordinated action throughout Torture Awareness Month

Throughout the month, the ATI’s partners held their own events, which were instrumental in contributing to the overall success of the #TortureFreeWorld campaign. Thanks to this coordinated action,  the #TortureFreeWorld campaign reached millions of people in more than 90 countries, including seven that are currently the object of the Special Rapporteur’s country visits, namely  Georgia, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Morocco, Tunisia.

Those events included:

–       A June 22 webinar on “Making justice a reality for torture survivors.” The webinar, hosted by REDRESS featured former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Sir Nigel Rodley and representatives from human rights organizations in Perú, Libya, Kenya and Nepal who discussed the legal cases they are working on, the challenges that they face in their work and the wider impact of torture in their societies. You can view the webinar in full on the REDRESS website.

–       A June 24 benefit in honor of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, organized by the CVT in Washington D.C. The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture was awarded the CVT’s Eclipse Award in recognition of the work done by the fund in providing financial support to 179 torture survivor rehabilitation programs around the world to rebuild lives after torture. You can learn more about the reception on the CVT website.

–       A June 26 “Run against Torture” in support of Amnesty Switzerland, organized by the APT in Bern, Switzerland. You can learn more about the event on the APT website.

 

A widespread message

The Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez also made several addresses during events hosted by other organizations committed to fighting torture worldwide, further strengthening the links between the ATI and those organizations, and increasing the reach of the #TortureFreeWorld campaign. Those events included:

–       A June 24 conference in support torture survivors in Africa and all over the world, organized by TASSC at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. You can learn more about the event on the TASSC website.

–       A June 25 conversation on “Legalized Torture: From Guantánamo Bay to Rikers” organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights and its allies Amnesty International USA Mid-Atlantic Region, National Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF), Witness Against Torture and CODEPINK: Women For Peace. You can learn more about the event on the CCR website.

Once again the #TortureFreeWorld message was adopted and endorsed by organizations worldwide including the United Nations, the European Union, the International Criminal Court. The #TortureFreeWorld website will continue to serve as a platform where torture survivors and human rights activists can share their stories and their view of a #TortureFreeWorld with a view of increasing awareness against torture worldwide.

U.N. human rights experts call for U.S. moratorium on death penalty

U.N. human rights experts call for U.S. moratorium on death penalty

June 27, 2015 – United Nations human rights experts, including Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez urged the United States to impose a moratorium on death penalty, and to ultimately abolish the practice.

This call comes as Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, sentenced to death by lethal injection last May, was moved on Thursday to a Colorado “Supermax” facility for high-risk prisoners. While Massachusetts abolished the death penalty for state crimes in 1984, federal crimes such as the ones Tsarnaev was convicted of are still punishable by death.

The Special Rapporteur, joined by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Executions Christof Heyns, strongly condemned the decision which “contradicts the trends toward abolishing the death penalty in the country in law and practice,” noting that the death penalty, which has no proven deterrent effect, is no longer in use in more than three-quarters of countries worldwide.

The Special Rapporteur, who has been requesting access to United States’ prisons where 80,000 people are in solitary confinement, also denounced the Government’s lack of cooperation in granting the request, despite the U.S. human rights ambassador Keith Harper’s assurances that the visit would take place this year. You can read the article in full on Reuters.