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

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, in conjunction with other Special Rapporteurs, urges Pakistan authorities to halt the execution of a 50 year-old man with psychosocial disability

28 September 2016 — Yesterday, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, together with the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the independence of judges and lawyers, and the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, called for Pakistan authorities to halt the execution of a 50 year-old man with psychosocial disability and re-try him in compliance with international standards.  Mr. Imad Ali was sentenced to death in 2002 for the alleged murder of a religious scholar.  Despite the fact that his psychosocial disability was raised at his first trial, Mr. Ali’s condition was not mentioned in the court ruling sentencing him to death. The experts issued a joint statement, noting that “[w]e are concerned at Mr. Ali’s deteriorating psychosocial condition, among other things, due to lack of appropriate treatment and reasonable accommodation in detention.”  They urged that “States must do their utmost to address this risk, including by providing accommodation during all phases of legal proceedings, and by granting adequate protection from any form of discrimination against them because of their mental health condition.”

See the website of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights for more information.

Relator Especial sobre la Tortura atendió al evento de FLACSO-México

Relator Especial sobre la Tortura atendió al evento de FLACSO-México

29 de agosto de 2016 – El Relator Especial sobre la Tortura, Juan E. Mendez, atendió el pasado viernes 26 de agosto al evento de FLACSO-México, con motivo de su Décimo Aniversario de la Maestría de Derechos Humanos y Democracia. En este evento el Relator destacó como orador principal y conversó sobre temas de democracia y derechos humanos.
En palabras del Relator: “la tortura es un crimen internacional, pero es de lesa humanidad cuando es sistemático y generalizado contra la población civil”. El Relator Especial también tuvo la oportunidad, en esta visita a México, de reunirse con miembros de la Cámara de Diputados, un juez de la Suprema Corte de Justicia, autoridades de la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores y la sociedad civil para discutir sobre el progreso en la lucha contra la tortura y otros malos tratos.

Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Human Rights Experts Urged Bangladesh to Annul Death Sentence against Opposition Member

Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Human Rights Experts Urged Bangladesh to Annul Death Sentence against Opposition Member

August 23, 2016- Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts urge Bangladesh to annul the death sentence against Mir Quasem Ali, a senior opposition member of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, and to re-try him in compliance with international standards. Their request comes as the Supreme Court prepares to review the case on Wednesday 24 August. “Mr. Ali’s trial and appeal processes were reportedly marred with irregularities and failed to meet international standards on fair trial and due process for the imposition of the death penalty,” they said. “The death penalty is the most severe form of punishment,” the experts stressed, adding that “[i]n light of its irreversibility” it is imperative to take every measure to ensure that all defendants receive a fair trial.

You can read the press release in full here.

Special Rapporteur on Torture urged the Turkish Government to uphold its obligations under international human rights law

Special Rapporteur on Torture urged the Turkish Government to uphold its obligations under international human rights law

August 19, 2016- The Special Rapporteur on Torture together with United Nations Human Rights experts urged the Turkish Government to uphold its obligations under international human rights law, after the Government notified the Secretary-General of its invocation of Article 4 derogation provision of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Turkey ratified in 2003. The derogation provision in Article 4 allows States to temporarily relax some of their obligations under the Covenant under certain narrow conditions.
“The invocation of Article 4 is lawful only if there is a threat to the life of the nation, a condition that arguably is not met in this case,” the experts noted. “Even in situations that meet this high threshold, Article 4 establishes limits to how much a state may deviate from its obligations under the Covenant”, they added. “One cannot avoid, even in times of emergency, obligations to protect the right to life, prohibit torture, adhere to fundamental elements of due process and non-discrimination, and protect everyone’s right to belief and opinion,” the experts underscored.
Since the attempted coup on 15 July, and in particular since the declaration of state of emergency on 20 July, Turkish society has seen an escalation of detentions and purges, in particular in the education, media, military and justice sectors. In addition, allegations of torture and poor detention conditions have been raised following legislative provisions that enable wide and indiscriminate administrative powers that affect core human rights.
“While we understand the sense of crisis in Turkey,” the experts said, “we are concerned that the Government’s steps to limit a broad range of human rights guarantees go beyond what can be justified in light of the current situation”. In recent statements, UN human rights experts have urged the Turkish Government to uphold the rule of law in time of crisis, voicing their concern about the use of emergency measures to target dissent and criticism. “Turkey is going through a critical period. Derogation measures must not be used in a way that will push the country deeper into crisis,” the experts stressed.
See the full press release here

Special Rapporteur on Torture called on Brazilian legislators to protect the human rights of children by rejecting the proposal of lowering the age of criminal responsibility of children

Special Rapporteur on Torture called on Brazilian legislators to protect the human rights of children by rejecting the proposal of lowering the age of criminal responsibility of children

17 August 2016- The Special Rapporteur on Torture called on Brazilian legislators to protect the human rights of children in conflict with the law by rejecting a proposed constitutional amendment that would lower the age of criminal responsibility of children. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture said that “The detention of children is inextricably linked with the ill-treatment of children, who are at heightened risks of violence, abuses, and acts of torture when deprived of their liberty,” and also stressed that “Children’s unique vulnerability requires States to implement higher standards and broader safeguards for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.”

O relator especial contra a tortura Juan E. Méndez pediu que os legisladores brasileiros protejam os direitos humanos das crianças e adolescentes em conflito com a lei e rejeitem a Proposta de Emenda Constitucional número 33/2012, que prevê a redução da maioridade penal de 18 para 16 anos para crimes hediondos. O apelo ocorreu enquanto a Comissão de Constituição e Justiça e de Cidadania do Senado prepara-se para votar a proposta. O relator falou que “a prisão está intrinsecamente ligada a maus-tratos de crianças, que estão em maior risco de sofrer violência, abusos e atos de tortura quando privadas de liberdade,” e alertou que “a vulnerabilidade das crianças requer que o Estado implemente padrões mais altos e garantias mais amplas de prevenção à tortura e maus-tratos.” O relator também expressou preocupação com projeto de lei 333/2015 que prevê elevação do prazo máximo de cumprimento de medida socioeducativa para crianças e adolescentes infratores com mais de 14 anos de três para dez anos. Ele explicou que “crianças são menos desenvolvidas emocional e psicologicamente que os adultos. Então, elas são menos responsáveis por suas ações, e as sentenças devem sempre refletir os princípios da reabilitação e da reintegração na sociedade.” O relator complementou que aprovação dessas propostas pioraria a situação das penitenciárias brasileiras que já estão seriamente superlotadas, uma condição que frequentemente significa tratamento cruel, desumano e degradante.
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Special Rapporteur on Torture urges China to stop ill-treatment of human rights defender Guo Feixiong

Special Rapporteur on Torture urges China to stop ill-treatment of human rights defender Guo Feixiong

August 4, 2016- Human rights experts expressed deep concern today about the health condition of prominent Chinese human rights defender, Yang Maodong, also known as Guo Feixiong. Mr. Guo was arrested in August 2013 for participating in a public protest against the censorship of a Guangzhou newspaper and was sentenced to six years imprisonment in November 2015 for “gathering crowds to disturb public order” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” The experts are concerned about repeated incidents of degrading and humiliating treatment suffered by Mr. Guo, including “sleep deprivation, harassment, and humiliating medical procedure filmed by prison officials for public release.” Mr. Guo has been on a hunger strike for approximately three months and is demanding to be transferred to another prison where he would not be subjected to ill-treatment. The experts stated that Mr. Guo’s public profile as a human rights defender “seems to [be] the cause and aggravating factor for the denial of appropriate medical care and ill-treatment.” They went on to say that “Mr. Guo’s six-year imprisonment is connected to his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities” and that “[h]is only wrong-doing was to have exercised his rights to peaceful assembly and expression concerning censorship in China.” The experts urged the Chinese Government to heed Mr. Guo’s demands and take immediate measures to stop the degrading and humiliating treatment, ensure independent medical care (with Mr. Guo’s consent), and transfer him to another prison.
See the full press release here

Special Rapporteur on Torture Interviewed about Alleged Abuse against Children in Australian Juvenile Detention Center

Special Rapporteur on Torture Interviewed about Alleged Abuse against Children in Australian Juvenile Detention Center

August 1, 2016 — Last Thursday, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez was interviewed by Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National about footage of alleged abuse against children in the Don Dale detention facility in Australia’s Northern Territory. The Special Rapporteur indicated that the troubling acts depicted in the video can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. When asked whether the alleged abuse potentially qualifies as a crime under international law, he stated that although more evidence is needed “there is no question that here there has been an infliction of very severe pain and suffering [and] that the perpetrators are or seem to be State agents. What we need to know is whether appropriate action has been taken afterwards,” he continued. The Special Rapporteur stated that he is encouraged by the Government creation of a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, and stressed that a proper response on the part of the Government would not entail not only an investigation of the allegations, but also ensuring that all persons participating in the abuse “including those who may have covered it up, [be] appropriately punished,” and offering and paying reparations to the victims.

Read about the Special Rapporteur’s interview here.

Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Human Rights Experts Urge Indonesia to Halt Executions for Drug-Related Offences

Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Human Rights Experts Urge Indonesia to Halt Executions for Drug-Related Offences

July 27, 2016 — Fourteen death row prisoners in Indonesia, all of whom have been sentenced to death for drug-related offences, are scheduled to be executed by firing this week. A group of UN human rights experts have urged the Indonesian Government to halt the executions of individuals convicted of drug-related offences and re-try them in compliance with international standards.

Under international law, the death penalty may only be imposed for the most serious crimes, meaning those involving intentional killing, and “drug related offences do not meet this threshold,” the experts said. The experts also expressed alarm that at least four of those scheduled for execution were reportedly tortured and forced to incriminate themselves. “Resorting to this type of punishment to prevent drug trafficking is not only illegal, it is also futile,” they said, noting further that “there is a lack of any persuasive evidence that the death penalty contributes more than any other punishment to eradicating drug trafficking.” The experts emphasized that the “death sentences are unlawful and tantamount to an arbitrary execution as they are undertaken in contravention of Indonesia’s international human rights obligations.”

To read the full press release, please click here.

“Grave retroceso en el derecho a la salud de las dominicanas” exhorta el Relator Especial sobre la Tortura

“Grave retroceso en el derecho a la salud de las dominicanas” exhorta el Relator Especial sobre la Tortura

27 de julio de 2016- El Relator Especial sobre la Tortura, Juan E. Mendez, junto con otros expertos en derechos humanos de las Naciones Unidas exhortaron al Presidente de República Dominicana y a los legisladores a que protejan el derecho a la salud sexual y reproductiva de las mujeres y las niñas en el país. Condenan el grave retroceso en el derecho a la salud de las mujeres y niñas dominicanas, especialmente en cuanto al acceso a servicios de salud seguros.

Los Expertos expresaron su preocupación al respecto de que según la enmienda propuesta, la interrupción del embarazo queda disponible en un solo caso: cuando hay riesgo para la vida de la mujer o niña embarazada. El nuevo texto del Código Penal también establece que las mujeres que se inducen la terminación de su embarazo serán sentenciadas a 2 o 3 años de cárcel y que los profesionales de la salud que realicen abortos en cualquier otra circunstancia diferente a la permitida serán castigados y condenados a entre 4 y 10 años de prisión.

El Relator manifestó que “negar que las mujeres y niñas tengan acceso a servicios de aborto seguros por razones de salud, malformación fetal y embarazo derivado de una violación, ciertamente causará un excesivo y duradero sufrimiento físico y psicológico de muchas mujeres”

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The Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez, along with other United Nations human rights experts called on the President of the Dominican Republic and its legislators to protect the right to sexual and reproductive health for women and girls in the country. The experts condemned the serious setback to the right to health for women and girls in the Dominican Republic, especially in terms of access to health insurance.

The experts expressed concern that according to the proposed amendment, termination of pregnancy is available in only one instance: when there is a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or girl. The Criminal Code’s new text also establishes that women who seek to terminate their pregnancies will be sentenced to 2 or 3 years in prison, and that health professionals who perform abortions under circumstances other than the one permitted will be punished and sentenced to between 4 and 10 years in prison.

He said ” denying that women and girls have access to safe abortion services for health reasons, fetal malformation and pregnancy resulting from rape, certainly will cause excessive and lasting physical and psychological suffering for many women.”

Read the full press release here (in Spanish)

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts have called on the Turkish Government to abide by its international human rights obligations when dealing with the aftermath of last week’s military coup attempt.

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts have called on the Turkish Government to abide by its international human rights obligations when dealing with the aftermath of last week’s military coup attempt.

July 19, 2016 Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and other independent United Nations Human Rights experts have called on the Turkish Government to abide by its international human rights obligations when dealing with the aftermath of last week’s military coup attempt. Condemning in the strongest terms the recent events in which over 230 people have reportedly lost their lives, the experts stressed that “in times of crisis, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is more essential than ever,” and that “constitutional order will only be fully re-established if the separation of powers and the rule of law are upheld.”
“We are particularly alarmed at the sheer number of judges and prosecutors who have reportedly been suspended and arrested since Saturday,” the experts noted, in the wake of reports that the Turkish High Council for Judges and Prosecutors suspended a reported 2,745 judges and prosecutors of their functions, and that hundreds of arrest warrants have allegedly been issued, resulting so far in the arrest of possibly up to 755 judges and prosecutors, including two judges of the Constitutional Court. “According to international law, judges can be suspended or removed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence after fair proceeding,” they stated , calling on the authorities to “release and reinstate these judges and prosecutors until credible allegations of wrong doing are properly investigated and evidenced.”
The human rights experts also drew attention to the number of arrests carried out to date, which official sources estimate at approximately 7,5000, calling on the Government to fully respect the physical integrity and rights of the detainees, in particular their “right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to have effective access to a lawyer of their choice,”
“No sustainable end to this crisis will be achieved if journalists or other critical voices in politics or civil society are harassed or silenced by authorities or any other group,” continued the experts, while recalling the importance of guaranteeing public freedoms during these critical days. “We also urge the Turkish authorities to investigate independently and thoroughly all deaths related to this event, and to prosecute the perpetrators in full compliance with guarantees of due process and fair trial,” they added.
The group expressed serious concerns regarding calls to re-introduce the capital punishment abolished in 2004. “Re-introducing the death penalty is not legally permissible under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention on Human Rights and runs counter to the worldwide trend to abolish this form of punishment,” the independent experts cautioned.
Read the full statement here: