‘Actions by States are increasingly transnational,’ UN expert warns, stressing prohibition against torture

20 October 2015

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Méndez today urged governments across the world not to allow a vacuum of human rights protection even when they act beyond their borders, saying “torture is torture here, there and everywhere.”

“Actions by states are increasingly transnational in nature, which has significant impact on the fundamental rights of individuals outside their borders,” Mr. Méndez said presenting his latest report to the UN General Assembly.

“Extraterritorial practices include cross-border military operations or use of force the occupation of foreign territories; anti-migration operations; peacekeeping; the detention of persons abroad; extraditions, rendition to justice, and extraordinary rendition; and the exercise of de facto control or influence over non-State actors operating in foreign territories,” according to the report, “Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The independent human rights expert warned that “States must not undermine the absolute legal prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment by evading or limiting responsibility for extraterritorial acts or effects caused by their agents.”

He also drew attention to “the absolute prohibition of non-refoulement applies at all times, even when States are holding individuals or operating extraterritorially, such as during border control operations on the high seas.”

The principle of non-refoulement is the cornerstone of asylum and of international refugee law, and means the expulsion of persons who have the right to be recognised as refugees.

“I am calling upon States to exercise jurisdiction over acts of torture and ill-treatment, regardless of the locus where wrongfulness took place, and to provide civil remedies and rehabilitation for victims of acts of torture or other ill-treatment, regardless of who bears responsibility for mistreatment or where it took place,” Mr. Méndez said.

Mr. Méndez was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. He serves in his individual capacity and does not receive a salary for his work.

 

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