Tunisia / Torture: UN rights expert launches first mission under transitional Government

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GENEVA (12 May 2011) – Independent human rights expert Juan Méndez will visit Tunisia from 15 to 22 May 2011, to assess problems and challenges faced by the transitional Government.“ The new authorities have taken a number of steps towards ensuring accountability and long-term reforms. As the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, I will focus on identifying areas where I can be of assistance,” he said.

“My ultimate task is to engage with decision-makers and key actors to help the interim Government ensure justice in terms of a successful transition and assist efforts to establish the rule of law, fulfill the rights to reparations for victims of torture and ill-treatment, promote accountability for past abuses and allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and ensure that alleged perpetrators are held responsible in conformity with international law,” Mr. Méndez said.

This is the first official visit to Tunisia by a UN independent human rights expert since the establishment of the interim Government. It is also the first mission by Special Rapporteur Méndez since he took up his mandate on 1 November 2010.

During his seven-day mission, the Special Rapporteur will hold meetings with representatives of the provisional Government, the fact-finding Commission dealing with human rights abuses since 17 December, the Council on constitutional reform and protection of the objectives of the revolution, the judiciary, legislature, media, the civil society, United Nations agencies and international organisations based in Tunisia. Mr. Méndez will also meet victims and their families. The Special Rapporteur, who visits the country at the invitation of the Government, will travel to Tunis, Bizerte and Kasserine.

Mr. Méndez will share his preliminary comments and recommendations at a press conference to be held on 21 May 2011, at 11:30, at the Hotel Belvedere (10 Avenue des Etats Unis d | Tunis Bélvedère, Tunis TN-1002). The Special Rapporteur will present a final report to the Human Rights Council in 2012.

Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on 1 November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. He is currently a Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association. Mr. Méndez has previously served as the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) until 2009, and was the UN Secretary-General Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide from 2004 to 2007, as well as an advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, between 2009 and 2010.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/index.htm

Check the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Tunisia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/TNIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Nathalie Rondeux (Tel.:+41 79 444 49 17 /email: nrondeux@ohchr.org) or Mr. Joseph Schechla (Tel.:+216 93 308 821 / email: jschechla@ohchr.org) or write to sr-torture@ohchr.org.