Juan E. Méndez

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Juan E. Méndez
Juan Mendez - Chatham House 2012.jpg
Juan Méndez speaking at Chatham House in 2012
Born (1944-12-11) December 11, 1944 (age 75)
Lomas de Zamora, Argentina
OccupationLawyer, human rights activist, United Nations special rapporteur
Awards Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award (2014)

Juan E. Méndez (born December 11, 1944) is an Argentine lawyer, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, [1] and human rights activist known for his work on behalf of political prisoners.



Méndez was born in Lomas de Zamora, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. [2] In 1970, he received his law degree from Stella Maris University in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires province. [3]

Early in his career, he became involved in representing political prisoners. As a result, he was arrested by the Argentine military dictatorship and subjected to torture and administrative detention for 18 months. During this period, Amnesty International adopted him as a "Prisoner of Conscience," and in 1977, he was expelled from the country and moved to the United States. [4]

Subsequently, Mendez worked for the Catholic Church in Aurora, Illinois, protecting the rights of migrant workers. In 1978, he joined the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under the Law in Washington, D.C., and in 1982, he launched Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Americas Program. He continued to work at Human Rights Watch for 15 years, becoming their general counsel in 1994. [3] He is also a visiting scholar at American University Washington College of Law's Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, a Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence at the Washington College of Law, and the Faculty Director of the Anti-Torture Initiative at the law school.

From 1996 to 1999, Mendez served as the Executive Director of the Inter-American Human Rights Institute, based in Costa Rica. [2] He then worked as a Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame in the United States from October 1999 to 2004. [5]

In 2001, Mendez began working for the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), an international human rights NGO. He served as its president from 2004 to 2009 and now is its President Emeritus. From November 2010 to October 31, 2016, he was the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. [1]

Mendez has taught human rights law at Georgetown Law School, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the University of Oxford Masters Program in International Human Rights Law in the UK.

Mendez is on the Steering Committee of The Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, a rule of law project launched in 2008 by the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute to study the need for a comprehensive convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity, analyze the necessary elements of such a convention, and draft a proposed treaty. [6] The proposed treaty is now being debated before the UN International Law Commission. [7] [8]


He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Goler T. Butcher Medal from the American Society of International Law; a Doctorate Honoris Causa from the Université du Québec à Montréal (University of Quebec in Montreal); the "Monsignor Oscar A. Romero Award for Leadership in Service to Human Rights" by the University of Dayton; the "Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Award" of the Heartland Alliance.; [9] the Doctorate Honoris Causa from the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina (National University of La Plata), June 10, 2013; [10] and the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies in 2014. [11]

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  1. 1 2 "UN Special Rapporteur on Torture". Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  2. 1 2 "La Oficina del Asesor Especial para la Prevención del Genocidio". www.un.org.
  3. 1 2 "Juan E. Mendez", Source Watch
  4. "Washington College of Law Faculty", American University
  5. "Faculty Bio", Washington College of Law
  6. The Crimes Against Humanity Initiative Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute
  7. Cecilia Marcela Bailliet, "UN International Law Commission to Elaborate New Global Convention on Crimes Against Humanity" IntLawGrrls
  8. William A. Schabas, "International Law Commission to Work on Draft Articles on Crimes Against Humanity" PhD studies in human rights
  9. "Washington College of Law Faculty", American University
  10. "Instituto de Derechos Humanos - UNLP", Instituto de Derechos Humanos - UNLP
  11. Constable, Pamela (October 14, 2014). "Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards go to border activists, lawyer, Latina organizers". Washington Post . Retrieved October 22, 2014.