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Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez*

20-02-2011 00:00

This is the first report submitted by the incumbent Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council.
The Special Rapporteur took up his appointment on 1 November 2010, replacing Manfred Nowak who had served two terms as Special Rapporteur.
  The report gives an overview of the activities of the mandate over the reporting cycle, including the activities carried out by the former Special Rapporteur up to the end of his mandate on 31 October 2010.
The Special Rapporteur outlines his working methods and vision, and notes, in relation to follow-up country visits, that invitations from States to conduct follow-up visits constitute a good practice that should be disseminated.
  The Special Rapporteur advocates a victim-centred approach to the work of his mandate.
He believes that all human rights standards are subject to the norm of “progressive development,” in that they evolve in accordance with new repressive actions and features.
In this regard, it is important to consolidate current interpretations of what constitutes torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and to insist on effective implementation of States’ obligations to prevent and to punish violations.
In keeping with the progressive development of international jurisprudence, the Special Rapporteur believes that expansive interpretations of norms are possible as long as they better protect individuals from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
At the same time, such expansive interpretations should evolve from agreements among all stakeholders reached after frank and open debate.
It is the role of the Special Rapporteur to generate such discussion as appropriate.
  The Special Rapporteur intends to engage constructively with States with a view to ensuring enhanced respect for, and adherence to, the Convention, in particular, the exclusionary rule enshrined in article 15, and the necessity for States to ensure that torture is a criminal offence in domestic legislation, punishable by appropriate penalties and thereby necessitating effective investigation and prosecution of each instance of torture, as provided for in article 4 of the Convention.
Noting with deep regret the long-term physical and psychological trauma that victims of torture experience, he intends to promote actions leading to the rehabilitation and other forms of reparation for victims of torture.
He believes that, without undermining the rights of defendants to all guarantees of fair trial, victims should be allowed to participate actively in attempts to hold torturers accountable.
  The Special Rapporteur acknowledges that there are credible and human rights friendly forensic and other scientific alternatives which have been proven to achieve the desired results in law enforcement and crime prevention than torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Scientific advances have made possible the provision of evidence to corroborate evidence that torture has been administered; hence these new techniques are important tools for achieving accountability.
The Special Rapporteur wishes to further develop linkages between science and forensics as an effective alternative to be employed in law enforcement, countering terrorism and effective criminal prosecution.
  Lastly, the report re-emphasizes the mandate’s position on pretrial detention, non refoulement and diplomatic assurances, conditions in detention and torture in secret detention.
It also highlights important issues requiring longer term consideration and engagement with States.

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