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

UN rights Expert, joined by Special Rapporteur on Torture, Calls for Independent Investigation into Lethal Use of Water Cannon

28 September 2016 – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, joined by Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, expressed dismay over the 25 September death of South Korean protester Baek Nam-gi, and called for a full and independent investigation into the police’s use of a water cannon last year that led to his death.

Mr. Baek, a 69-year old farmer, was knocked to the ground by a water cannon operated by the police while taking part in a peaceful rally in Seoul on 14 November 2015. He had remained in a coma until his passing.

“I express my deepest condolences to the relatives and friends of Mr. Baek Nam-gi for this tragic loss. I had the chance to meet Mr. Baek’s daughters in Seoul during my country visit in January 2016 and in Geneva last June. I was very humbled by their courage and determination to seek justice for their father in such harrowing times,” Mr. Kiai said.

“I call for a full and independent investigation into the police’s use of water cannon during the rally of November 2015 that unambiguously led to Mr. Baek’s death according to video footage available,” the expert stated. “The perpetrators should be held accountable and the family of Mr. Baek receive appropriate compensation; in addition, adequate measures must be taken to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future”, added Mr. Kiai.

The Special Rapporteur also reiterated his recommendation made to the South Korean authorities in his country report* of June 2016 to “review tactics used for the management of assemblies – including the use of water cannons and bus barricades – to ensure that they are not applied indiscriminately or against peaceful protestors, they do not result in escalation of tensions, and are directed at facilitating rather than preventing the exercise of assembly rights.”

He also echoed similar recommendations made in his joint report** with the former Special Rapporteur on the extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, on the proper management of assemblies presented to the Human Rights Council in March this year.

“It is critical that the authorities learn the lessons from this painful tragedy so that it never happens again,” the human rights expert stressed.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur called on the authorities to respect the will of the family not to have the body of Mr. Baek taken for autopsy. The police and the Prosecutor’s Office requested a warrant from the Seoul Central District Court to proceed with an autopsy as the cause of death is allegedly not clear, but it was denied by the court. They have reportedly filed another request.

UN Experts Call For International Commission to Help Investigate Systematic Violence Against Protesters in Ethiopia

10 October 2016 –United Nations human rights experts today, including Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, urged the Ethiopian authorities to end their violent crackdown on peaceful protests, which has reportedly led to the death of over 600 people since November 2015. They further called on the Government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the protests and the violence used against peaceful demonstrators.

“We are outraged at the alarming allegations of mass killings, thousands of injuries, tens of thousands of arrests and hundreds of enforced disappearances,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard. “We are also extremely concerned by numerous reports that those arrested had faced torture and ill-treatment in military detention centres.”

“In light of the lack of progress in investigating the systematic violence against protesters, we urge the Ethiopian Government to allow an international independent commission to assist in shedding light on these allegations,” they stated.

The human rights experts highlighted in particular the 2 October events in Oromia, where 55 people were killed in a stampede.

“The deaths in the Oromia region last weekend are only the latest in a long string of incidents where the authorities’ use of excessive force has led to mass deaths,” Mr. Kiai said noting that peaceful protests in the Ahmara and Konso Wereda regions have also been met with violence from authorities.

“The scale of this violence and the shocking number of deaths make it clear that this is a calculated campaign to eliminate opposition movements and silence dissenting voices,” he added.

The UN Special Rapporteurs voiced particular concern over the use of national security provisions and counterterrorism legislation – the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 – to target individuals exercising their rights to peaceful assembly.

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez Joins UN Experts to Express Concern About Jailed Human Rights Activists

19 October 2016 – A group of United Nations human rights experts including Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez expressed serious concern that Mauritanian activists jailed for their alleged role in a protest against forced evictions in Nouakchott are being targeted by the Government for their anti-slavery advocacy.

The human rights defenders were sentenced in August to prison terms ranging from three to fifteen years. The date for an appeal will be set later this week by the Appeals Court in Nouadhibou.

Thirteen of the activists are members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), the leading Mauritanian civil society organization fighting against slavery. They denied any role in the eviction protests, during which several people, including police officers, were injured.

“There seems to be no legal basis or justification for the transfer of the detainees,” they underlined. “This is yet another indication that these legal proceedings are politically motivated and intended to suffocate groups and individuals that promote human rights and oppose Government policies.”

“We urge the authorities to ensure that the activists be transferred back to Nouakchott and afforded a fair hearing by a competent, independent and impartial court in accordance with international human rights law,” the experts stated.

They also expressed concern about the serious health condition of some detainees, reminding Mauritania’s obligation to protect detainees’ right to health and provide them with the urgent and adequate medical care needed regardless of their legal status.

“It is vital to ensure that human rights defenders can exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms free from intimidation or fear of reprisals. Anti-slavery activism cannot be a crime,” the experts stressed. “The Government of Mauritania needs to revisit its criminal law in order to comply with its international obligation to respect and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The UN independent experts have been in contact with the Mauritanian government to clarify this situation.

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez Presents Final Thematic Report to General Assembly

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez Presents Final Thematic Report to General Assembly

October 26, 2016–Last week, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez presented his last thematic report before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. The report calls on States to develop a universal set of standards for non-coercive interviewing methods and procedural safeguards aiming to ensure that no person is subjected to torture, ill-treatment, or coercion during questioning.

“Persons interviewed by authorities during criminal or other investigations may be confronted with the entire repressive machinery of society,” the Special Rapporteur stated, adding that “questioning, particularly of suspects, is inherently associated with risks of intimidation, coercion, and mistreatment. But scientific data and irrefutable evidence from the criminal justice system demonstrate that coercive methods of questioning, even when not amounting to torture, produce unreliable information and false confessions, and are indeed counterproductive for public safety, Moreover, torture, ill-treatment, and coercion have devastating long-term consequences on individuals, institutions, and society as a whole. Ultimately, torture only breeds more crime by fuelling hatred and a desire for vengeance.”

“My report seeks to promote the development of standards and guidelines on non-coercive interview methods and other procedural safeguards, that ought, as a matter of law and policy, to be applied at a minimum to all interviews by law enforcement officials, military and intelligence personnel, and other bodies with investigative mandates,” the Special Rapporteur said. Such protocol “must design a model that promotes effective, ethical, and non-coercive interviewing and is centered on the principles of presumption of innocence and the pursuit of truth. In this way, States will not only enhance the degree to which their interviewing methods comply with human rights standards, but also their effectiveness in solving crime and keeping societies safe,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.

A VIDEO of the presentation and interactive dialogue with States before the Third Committee is available here: http://webtv.un.org/…/third-committee-19th-m…/5175313119001…

A press release about the Special Rapporteur’s report is available here:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx…

You can read the Special Rapporteur’s report here: http://antitorture.org/…/2016/09/Report_A-71-298_English.pdf

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez Launches Groundbreaking Study on Solitary Confinement Worldwide

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez Launches Groundbreaking Study on Solitary Confinement Worldwide

October 24, 2016–Last week, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and the Anti-Torture Initiative launched the publication of a new groundbreaking study on the use of solitary confinement worldwide. Undertaken together with partners from the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, the study explores laws, policies, and practice of solitary confinement in 35 jurisdictions around the world, and is accompanied by commentaries from leading international experts on this topic. The study provides a much needed comparative analysis of different aspects of the practice of solitary confinement, such as its purpose and authorization, challenges and appeals concerning limitations on its use, and accommodation, access to the outside world, and the use of physical restraints. You can read the publication here: http://antitorture.org/…/Solitary_Confinement_Publication.p…

The study was launched on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week with a panel discussion featuring distinguished guests from civil society, academia, and Government, including the ACLU Nationwide, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez warns that the death penalty should not be used as a deterrent for terrorism

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez warns that the death penalty should not be used as a deterrent for terrorism

October 10, 2016–Speaking on the occasion of World Day Against the Death Penalty, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations human rights experts have warned that the death penalty should not be used as a deterrent for terrorism. “Faced with terrorist attacks or terrorist threats in their countries, some governments have recently turned to the death penalty in an attempt to curb terrorist action, by either expanding the scope of offenses punishable by death or resuming executions for terrorist-related offences after years of moratoriums in executions. These measures are problematic in many ways. Reintroducing the death penalty in countries that were de jure or de facto abolitionist runs contrary to the international trend towards the progressive abolition of the death penalty,” the experts stated.

“Some countries made legal changes to introduce or expand the scope of the death penalty to terrorism-related offences. Many of those offenses do not amount to ‘most serious crimes’, meaning those involving intentional killing, for which the death penalty may be imposed under international law. Arbitrary sentencing exists in several of the small minority of countries around the world which most frequently resort to capital punishment, and many States where the death penalty is used for terrorism-related offences lack a system of fair trial,” the experts continued.

“We acknowledge the risks to public safety and to lives posed by terrorism, but this threat does not justify departing from international standards for the protection of human rights. Resorting to this type of punishment to curb terrorism is illegal as much as it is futile. There is a lack of persuasive evidence that the death penalty could contribute more than any other punishment to eradicating terrorism. The death penalty is also an ineffective deterrent because terrorists who are executed may just gain in prestige as may their cause,” the experts concluded, noting further that the practice is also contrary to “an emerging customary norm that the imposition and enforcement of the death penalty, in breach of international standards, is a violation per se of the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Read the experts’ full statement here:http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20659&LangID=E

Read a newly released United Nations report on the death penalty here: http://ohchr.org/EN/newyork/Documents/Death-Penalty-and-the-Victims-WEB.pdf?platform=hootsuite

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez endorses Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed’s call on the Islamic Republic of Iran for the immediate and unconditional release of detainees

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez endorses Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed’s call on the Islamic Republic of Iran for the immediate and unconditional release of detainees

October 8, 2016– United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez has endorsed Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed’s call on the Islamic Republic of Iran for the immediate and unconditional release of a British-Iranian national sentenced to five-years in prison for charges unknown to her, and of two elderly dual nationals who are suffering from serious health conditions that require urgent and adequate medical attention.

The UN human rights experts have drawn attention to the case of Ms. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on 3 April 2016 along with her 22 months old daughter. The authorities confiscated their passports, preventing her daughter from traveling back to the UK to be with her father. On 14 August, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was tried, on secret charges, in a Tehran revolutionary court and, on 6 September, she was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. She was only able to meet her lawyer three days before the beginning of her trial. Her health has also seriously deteriorated since her arrest.

They also expressed concerns about the health of two other dual nationals, Mr. Baquer Namazi and Mr. Kamal Foroughi, who are currently incarcerated in Evin prison. Mr. Namazi, an 80 year-old Iranian-American has been held in detention since 22 February 2016 on unknown charges and without access to a lawyer. Mr. Foroughi, a 77 year-old British-Iranian businessman is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence on charges of espionage and possession of alcoholic beverages. He was arrested on 5 May 2011.

“Arbitrarily depriving individuals of their liberty and violating their right to fair proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal are flagrant violations of Iran’s obligations under international law,” Mr. Shaheed stated. “Sentencing individuals for charges that are kept secret from defendants and their defence lawyers is a mockery of justice,” he continued. “It is also evidence of the Iranian judiciary’s complete disregard for the most basic fair trial and due process guarantees enshrined both in Iranian domestic laws and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, to which Iran is a State party.”

The UN experts welcomed the release on 26 September 2016 of Homa Hoodfar, an Iranian-Canadian national who was arrested on 6 June 2016. “I call on the Government of Iran to take all necessary measures to similarly release Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Mr. Namazi and Mr. Foroughi and allow them to be reunited with their families,” Mr. Shaheed concluded.

http://shaheedoniran.org/english/dr-shaheeds-work/un-rights-expert-calls-for-the-immediate-release-of-dual-nationals/

Special Rapporteur on Torture to Address 71st Session of United Nations General Assembly

Special Rapporteur on Torture to Address 71st Session of United Nations General Assembly

On Tuesday, October 18, 2016 Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez will be addressing the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly.  During his final appearance before the General Assembly as Special Rapporteur, Mr. Mendez will present his latest thematic report on the need for the development of a universal protocol for investigative interviewing and attendant safeguards that is grounded in absolute legal prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. For more information about the presentation, side-events, and other activities in which the Special Rapporteur is slated to take part next week, please visit this page.

The public is cordially invited to attend a side-event on this topic, which will take place from 10 AM to 12 PM on Wednesday, October 19, in Conference Room 11 at the United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ).  

Please continue to follow the Anti-Torture Initiative (ATI) on Twitter and Facebook as our team will be accompanying the Special Rapporteur and providing LIVE UPDATES and LIVE STREAMING of events between October 17 and October 19.

Special Rapporteur regrets postponement of country visit by Government of Turkey

Special Rapporteur regrets postponement of country visit by Government of Turkey

October 1, 2016 – Special Rapportuer on Torture Juan E Méndez has expressed deep disappointment with the Turkish government’s decision to postpone his visit to the country, which was scheduled to begin on 10 October. “While I understand that the developments in Turkey during the last months demand the government’s fullest attention, I believe that postponing my visit at this late stage sends the wrong message,” the Special Rapporteur stated. “In light of the thousands of arrests made following the failed coup-attempt of 15 July 2016, and the allegations of severe overcrowding and poor conditions in many detention centres throughout the country, my visit is of utmost importance,” he continued.

The Special Rapporteur stressed that independent monitoring is a crucial safeguard against ill-treatment and torture, explaining that due to the sensitivity of his mandate, there will never be a perfect time for a visit. He further stressed that even in a state of emergency, safeguards against torture and ill-treatment and other fundamental human rights must remain in place, and conveyed to the Turkish Government his understanding that the invitation for a fact-finding visit is extended to his successor.

To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website

Special Rapporteur calls on States across the world to repeal restrictive abortion laws

Special Rapporteur calls on States across the world to repeal restrictive abortion laws

September 29, 2016 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts called on States across the world to repeal restrictive #abortion laws and policies, as well as all punitive measures and discriminatory barriers to access safe reproductive health services.

The experts explained that in the twenty-first century unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity. According to the World Health Organization, about 22 million unsafe abortions take place each year worldwide and an estimated 47,000 women die annually from complications resulting from the resort to unsafe practices for termination of pregnancy,” they continued.

“Criminalisation of abortion and failure to provide adequate access to services for termination of an unwanted pregnancy are forms of discrimination based on sex. Restrictive legislation which denies access to safe abortion is one of most damaging ways of instrumentalising women’s bodies and a grave violation of women’s human rights. The consequences for women are severe, with women sometimes paying with their lives,” the experts stated.

“We cannot tolerate the severe violation of women’s human rights on the basis of their sex and biological differences. We cannot tolerate the high incidence of women’s and girls’ preventable deaths resulting from maternity-related issues, including from unsafe abortion,” they concluded. #sept28

Read the full message here