with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
UN expert calls for adoption of a minimum set of fundamental human rights for those in detention

UN expert calls for adoption of a minimum set of fundamental human rights for those in detention

May 18, 2015 – Today, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez called for the adoption of the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, proposed for adoption as the “Mandela Rules,” in an open letter to the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The Rules are being considered by the 24th session Commission this week in Vienna, and the adoption of a Resolution on the Rules this week will enable the Rules to proceed forward and be considered by the UN General Assembly in December 2015. The revised Rules contain a number of practical elements that provide detainees with increased protection from torture and other ill-treatment, such as a specific prohibition on the use of prolonged solitary confinement, which is defined as that exceeding 15 days. “The time is now to adopt the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; anything less would send a negative signal to the international community,” the Special Rapporteur stated. “The adoption and implementation of these rules reinforces human rights principles and provides greater protection for persons deprived of their liberty, updated procedural safeguards, and more effective guidance to national prison administrations,” he explained. The revised Rules also include key safeguards such as the recognition of the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and requirements for independent healthcare professionals who have a duty to refrain from participating in torture or other ill-treatment, and have a vital role in detecting such ill-treatment and reporting it. However, the Special Rapporteur warned that “[r]egrettably, there is a lack of guidance on the use of force in the revised Rules which gives rise to the risk that excessive force may be used by prison guards and which, under appropriate circumstances, constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” In addition, he noted that the proposed naming of the Mandela Rules would serve to “honour the great Statesman and inspirational leader who served many years in prison in the name of freedom and democracy, by ensuring that all those deprived of their liberty are guaranteed a minimum set of fundamental human rights.” You can read the press release and open letter in full on the OHCHR website.

International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia: Discriminated and Made Vulnerable: Young LGBT and Intersex People Need Recognition and Protection of Their Rights

International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia: Discriminated and Made Vulnerable: Young LGBT and Intersex People Need Recognition and Protection of Their Rights

May 13, 2015 – Speaking ahead of the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez and other United Nations and international human rights experts from regional organizations have called for an end to discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and intersex young people and children, urging  Governments worldwide to protect these young people and children from violence and discrimination, and to integrate their views on policies and laws that affect their rights. The experts noted that around the world, children and young people who are LGBT or intersex, or seen as such, still face stigma, discrimination and violence because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity, or because their bodies differ from typical definitions of female or male, at home, in schools, and institutions. “In some countries, young LGBT persons are subjected to harmful so-called ‘therapies’ intended to ‘modify’ their orientation or identity,” which may amount to torture, the experts continued. In addition, “intersex children and young people may be subjected to medically unnecessary, irreversible surgery and treatment without their free and informed consent,” which should be prohibited. According to the experts, laws that directly or indirectly criminalize people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity further exacerbate violence and discrimination. Urging states to “act to protect all children and young adults from violence and ensure that effective child protection and support systems are in place,” the experts concluded by calling on States to to comply with their obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all children and young adults without discrimination, to ensure that LGBT and intersex children and young people are consulted and participate in discussions on policies and laws that impact on their rights. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

 

Paraguay Has Failed to Protect A 10-year Old Girl Child Who Became Pregnant After Being Raped, Say UN Experts

Paraguay Has Failed to Protect A 10-year Old Girl Child Who Became Pregnant After Being Raped, Say UN Experts

May 11, 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez and other UN human rights experts have said that the Government of Paraguay has failed to protect the rights of a 10-year old girl child who became pregnant after repeated sexual abuse at the hands of a close relative, by refusing her access to treatments to save her life and preserve her health, including safe and therapeutic abortion, in a timely manner. Paraguay’s restrictive abortion law only authorises the termination of a pregnancy when the life of the woman or the girl is at serious risk and does not provide any other exceptions, especially in cases of rape, incest or unviable foetus. The authorities failed to take measure to protect the health and physical and mental integrity of the girl, despite requests made by the girl’s mother and medical experts to terminate the pregnancy which puts the girl’s life at risk, the experts stated. Stating that “[n]o proper interdisciplinary and independent expert assessment with the aim to insure the girl’s best interests was carried out before overturning life-saving treatments, including abortion,” the experts welcomed the Government’s subsequent decision to establish a a multidisciplinary panel of experts to assess the overall health of the girl and to give an opinion on the risks and recommendations to ensure her health, and called on the panel to “promptly assess in an objective and integral manner the girl’s situation, taking into account her physical and psychological health and all options available to protect her human rights.” With regards to information that girl’s mother had reported the sexual abuses suffered by her daughter in 2014, the experts deplored “the authorities’ unresponsiveness to take action to prevent the reoccurrence of such abuses and deeply regret that the State has failed in its responsibility to act with due diligence and protect the child.” They added that it is crucial that the alleged rapist, who has just been arrested, be duly prosecuted. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

 

 

ATI Webinar on Children Deprived of Liberty: Avenues for Advocacy Features Special Rapporteur Mendez, Other International Children’s and Human Rights Experts

ATI Webinar on Children Deprived of Liberty: Avenues for Advocacy Features Special Rapporteur Mendez, Other International Children’s and Human Rights Experts

May 5, 2015 – The Anti-Torture Initiative and Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez hosted a Webinar entitled Torture of Children Deprived of Liberty: Avenues for Advocacy, during which practitioners and experts from around the world discussed the recent thematic report on children deprived of liberty by the Special Rapporteur, addressing its significance for their work on the ground worldwide. The participants also discussed challenges posed by the detention of children worldwide in a variety of settings, including detention in prisons, institutions outside the criminal justice system, and immigration detention facilities. The Webinar featured talks by the Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez; Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Vice-Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; Jo Becker, Advocacy Director, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch; and Ian M. Kysel, Dash/Muse Fellow, Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute. A podcast of the Webinar is available here. To learn more about the report and our work on this topic, please refer to the information below and read our Storify.

UN Human Rights Experts Welcome Mexico’s Constitutional Reforms on Enforced Disappearances and Torture

UN Human Rights Experts Welcome Mexico’s Constitutional Reforms on Enforced Disappearances and Torture

April 30, 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez and members of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances have welcomed new constitutional reforms approved by Mexico that empower its Congress to pass legislation on enforced disappearances and human rights violations including torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The experts welcomed the move as a positive first step in addressing the recommendations issued by Special Rapporteur Mendez and the Working Group in 2015 and 2012, respectively. They noted that the future legislation should ensure a comprehensive policy response to the serious problems faced by Mexico with regards to enforced disappearances and the prevalence of torture and other ill-treatment, and must meet the highest international standards. They further stressed that the laws should be drafted and approved pursuant to an inclusive participatory process involving consultations with civil society and victims, and that legislative measures can only be effective if their effectively implemented in practice. To read the Spanish-language press release in full, please click here. To learn more about the Special Rapporteur’s work on Mexico, please visit our page dedicated to Mexico.

UN Human Rights Experts Welcome US Review of Lethal Drone Attacks, Urge Transparency and Accountability

UN Human Rights Experts Welcome US Review of Lethal Drone Attacks, Urge Transparency and Accountability

April 29, 2015 – The Special Rapporteur on Torture and other independent experts have welcomed the announcement by the United States Government of a review of two counter-terrorism operations involving the use of drones, stressing the need for transparency and accountability. Welcoming President Obama’s apology to the families of victims killed during counter-terrorism operations conducted in January in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the experts noted that while “purely ex post facto assessments into what has possibly gone wrong are important for the purposes of evaluating impact, identifying lessons learnt and putting in place operational arrangements to mitigate against repetition, [] they are not enough for a finding of State, as well as individual, responsibility.  Any plausible allegation of killing of or serious injury to civilians triggers the obligation to investigate,” said the experts’ statement. “This is an obligation that is imposed by international human rights law and international humanitarian law on States using drones as well as on States on whose territory such technology is used.” Special Rapporteur Mendez stressed that according to internationally recognized legal standards, investigations must be prompt, impartial, independent and exhaustive. Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, pointed to the fact that the ”legal framework for maintaining international peace and the protection of the right to life is a coherent and well-established system,” explaining that “States using drones have an obligation to respect international standards and prevent violations.” The statement also expressed hope that the commitment made by the US Government will provide new impetus towards a concerted response by the international community to the unresolved controversies surrounding the use of armed drones, and to ensuring that armed drones should be used in a manner that is compatible with international law. In this regard, Ben Emerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, stated  that ”there are a number of legal questions on which there is either no clear international consensus, or where current practices and interpretations appear to need further discussion. Only a legitimate consensus across the international community can pave the way to a sound, ethical and legal response to these questions” he continued. To read the press release in full, please visit the UN website.

 

 

Special Rapporteur Presents During International Seminar on Transitional Justice and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Special Rapporteur Presents During International Seminar on Transitional Justice and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

April 24, 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez spoke during an international seminar on Transitional Justice and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Cartagena, Colombia. The event took place as part of activities planned during the 52nd Extraordinary Session of the Court and was opened by the President of Colombia Mr. Juan Manuel Santos. The Special Rapporteur spoke about transitional justice in international law and the Colombian peace process in particular. For more information about the event, please visit the Court’s webpage.

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez Welcomes Pakistan Supreme Court Decision to Suspend Death Sentences Imposed by Military Courts

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez Welcomes Pakistan Supreme Court Decision to Suspend Death Sentences Imposed by Military Courts

April 21, 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez and other independent UN human rights experts  have welcomed a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to suspend death sentences imposed by military courts. Formerly, the experts expressed concern at Pakistan’s decision to rescind the unofficial six-year moratorium on death penalty for non-military personnel in terrorism-related cases. “Terrorism attacks should not prevent States from complying with the stringent requirements of international law for the imposition of the death penalty,” the experts explained, noting that international law requires that the death penalty be imposed only in the context of a stringent functioning of the law and order system, so as to ensure the highest respect of due process and fair trial guarantees for the defendants. “Only full respect of these guarantees distinguishes capital punishment as possibly permitted under international law from an arbitrary execution” the experts stressed, stating also that “the administration of justice through military tribunals raises serious questions, particularly in terms of access to justice, independence and impartiality of the court, and respect for the fair trial rights of the accused.” According to the statement “using military tribunals to try civilians in the name of national security, a state of emergency or counter-terrorism, runs against all relevant international and regional human rights standards and established case law,” and military tribunals should never have the power to impose the death penalty. “We have repeatedly called on all States to assess whether the use of the death penalty is compatible with the right to life, as well as the inherent dignity of the human person, causes severe mental and physical pain or suffering and constitutes a violation, inter alia, of the absolute prohibition of torture,” the experts further stated. “We hope that the decision of the Supreme Court will provide an opportunity for all relevant actors in Pakistan to pursue a critically important dialogue aiming to address the questions relating to the legality of military tribunals, and the use of the death penalty, in line with Pakistan’s international human rights obligations.” To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

 

Special Rapporteur Urges Spain to Comply with Legal Obligation to Extradite Perpetrators of Grave Human Rights Violations

Special Rapporteur Urges Spain to Comply with Legal Obligation to Extradite Perpetrators of Grave Human Rights Violations

April 15, 2015 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations human rights experts have urged Spain to comply with its legal obligation to extradite perpetrators of grave human rights violations if the State fails to take measures to guarantee victims access to justice and to the right to truth in its domestic courts. The statement came after Spain’s Council of Ministers refused to extradite 17 Spanish citizens accused by Argentine tribunals of committing grave human rights violations during Franco’s regime. In the Spanish-language statement, the independent experts affirmed that the government of Spain cannot invoke the statute of limitation to avoid complying with its responsibility to either extradite or investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for gross violations of human rights. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

El Relator Especial contra la tortura, Juan E. Méndez, junto con otros expertos en derechos humanos de las Naciones Unidas, alertaron que España está obligada a extraditar a los responsables de violaciones graves de los derechos humanos si el país no toma medidas para garantizar el acceso a la justicia y el derecho a la verdad de las víctimas ante los tribunales locales. El motivo detrás de esta declaración es la negativa por parte del Consejo de Ministros de España de extraditar a 17 ciudadanos españoles acusados por la justicia argentina de haber cometido este tipo de violaciones durante el regimen franquista. Los expertos independientes afirmaron que “el Estado español no puede escudarse en los principios de prescripción y extinción de la responsabilidad penal para no extraditar, o juzgar, a los responsables de violaciones graves de los derechos humanos.” Acá el link al comunicado de prensa de la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez Discusses Report on Mexico

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez Discusses Report on Mexico

April 8, 2015 – This week, the Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez published an op-ed in Mexico’s El Universal and gave an interview on CNN en Español, discussing his recent report on Mexico. The Special Rapporteur addressed the Government’s concerns regarding the report’s characterization of the use of torture in Mexico as “generalized,” noting that the term is intended to denote that the use of torture is not limited to one particular investigative body or authority within the country. He further detailed his method of work, noting that his report was based, among other sources, on extensive interviews with detainees in more than 11 detention facilities in five regions of Mexico conducted during his visit to Mexico in the spring of 2014. The Special Rapporteur stressed that he looks forward to continued constructive dialogue with the Government of Mexico and to the possibility of conducting a follow-up visit to Mexico in the future. You can watch the interview on CCN en Español here and read the op-ed in El Universal here.