The 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
During the week of Monday, October 20, 2014, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez attended the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), held a press conference, and participated in thematic side-events alongside UN colleagues, State delegates, and civil society partners in New York City. During the Session, the Special Rapporteur presented his latest thematic report on the role of forensic and medical sciences in the investigation and prevention of torture and other ill-treatment, and engaged in an interactive dialogue on his recent activities and other topics related to his mandate.
Presentation and Interactive Dialogue
On Tuesday, October 21, 2014, the Special Rapporteur addressed the Third Committee of the UNGA and engaged in an interactive dialogue with Member States about his thematic report and other recent activities and topics related to his mandate. This year’s interim report to the General Assembly focuses on the key role that forensic and medical sciences play regrading the obligation of States to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, especially with regard to individual responsibility and the fight against impunity. The Special Rapporteur presented the conclusions and recommendations of this report and provided updates on his 2014 country visits to Mexico, Tunisia, and Tajikistan before the Third Committee.
During the interactive dialogue, the Special Rapporteur was joined by the Chairman of the Committee Against Torture Mr. Claudio Grossman and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture Mr. Malcolm Evans, who discussed issues related to their mandates, including the status of ratifications of the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Optional Protocol and the issues of reprisals and corruption in relation to the fight against torture and other ill-treatment. During the interactive dialogue, the Special Rapporteur engaged with delegates from several states and organizations, including the European Union, Switzerland, Denmark, Argentina, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Bahrain, Norway, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Morocco. A video of the presentation and the interactive dialogue is available on UN TV.
The Special Rapporteur joined UNCAT Chair Mr. Grossman and SPT Chair Mr. Evans in a press conference following the presentation and interactive dialogue in the Third Committee. During the press conference, the Special Rapporteur discussed the findings of his latest thematic report on forensics, highlighting the conclusions that forensic services must be independent from law enforcement and that investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment must be prompt, impartial, independent, and thorough, and comply with the high standards set out in the Istanbul Protocol.
The Special Rapporteur received numerous questions from the media on a variety of issues, including his requests to visit the Guantanamo Bay facility as well as mainland prisons in the United States. A video of the press conference is available on UN TV.
Side-Events and Meetings
On Wednesday, October 22, 2014, the Anti-Torture Initiative co-organized a side-event on the role of forensic and medical sciences in the investigation and prevention of torture and other ill-treatment together with the UN OHCHR and the the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). Based on the Special Rapporteur’s latest thematic report on forensics, the side-event sought to sensitize UN member states to the important role played by forensic sciences in the fight against torture and ill-treatment.
The side-event featured a panel discussion with the Special Rapporteur and other experts, including the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Sir Nigel Rodley, Dr. Steen Holger Hansen, a forensic pathologist from the University of Copenhagen’s forensic medicine department, and Ms. Miriam Reventlow, Director of IRCT’s legal and advocacy team. You can watch the discussion here, and find more information about the event in this flyer.
The Special Rapporteur also participated in a number of informal meetings with UN colleagues and civil society partners, including Human Rights Watch, Defence for Children International, Penal Reform International, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, addressing an array of human rights issues.