Juan E. Méndez is the current UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. A native of Argentina, Mr Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights. As a result of his involvement in representing political prisoners, he was arrested and subjected to torture under Isabel Peron’s government. He was held in administrative detention for 18 months, 11 of them under the military dictatorship established in March 1976. During this time, Amnesty International adopted him as a ‘‘Prisoner of conscience.’’
Prior to his appointment as UN Special Rapporteur, Mr Méndez acted as Special Advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (2009-2010), and as Co-Chair of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (2010-2011). Until May 2009, he was the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice and he served as Kofi Annan’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide from 2004 to 2007. Between 2000 and 2003, Mr Méndez was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States, and served as its President in 2002. Between 1996 and 1999, he served as the Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica. For 15 years, he worked with Human Rights Watch, concentrating his efforts on human rights issues in the western hemisphere, and helping to build the organisation into one of the most widely respected in the world. In 1994, he became General Counsel of Human Rights Watch, with worldwide duties in support of the organisation’s mission.
Mr Méndez earned a J.D. from Stella Maris University in Argentina and a certificate from the American University Washington College of Law. He is a visiting Professor of Law at the American University Washington College of Law, the author of several publications and the recipient of several human rights awards.