Juan E. Méndez is a Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence at the American University – Washington College of Law, where he is Faculty Director of the Anti-Torture Initiative, a project of WCL’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. He was the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment between November 1, 2010 and October 31, 2016. He is the author (with Marjory Wentworth) of “Taking A Stand: The Evolution of Human Rights” (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), a Spanish and updated version of which will appear in 2019 by Fondo de Cultura Económica, México. In early 2017 Professor Méndez was elected Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists, Geneva, Switzerland. In February 2017, he was named a member of the Selection Committee to appoint magistrates of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and members of the Truth Commission set up as part of the Colombian Peace Accords, a task the Selection Committee successfully completed in December of that year. He was an advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court from 2009 to 2011 and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association in 2010 and 2011. Until May 2009 he was the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), of which he is now President Emeritus. Concurrent with his duties at ICTJ, the Honorable Kofi Annan named Mr. Méndez his Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, a task he performed from 2004 to 2007.
A native of Argentina, Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights. As a result of his representation of political prisoners, the Argentinean military dictatorship arrested him and subjected him to torture and administrative detention for more than a year. During this time, Amnesty International adopted him as a “Prisoner of Conscience.” After his expulsion from his country in 1977, Mr. Méndez moved to the United States. He has taught International Human Rights Law at Georgetown Law School and at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he teaches regularly at the Oxford Masters Program (MSt) in International Human Rights Law in the United Kingdom, where he is a Visiting Fellow of the Kellogg College. He is the recipient of several human rights awards, including the Rafael Lemkin Award for contributions to the prevention of genocide by the Auschwitz Institute on Peace and Reconciliation (2010).