A native of Argentina, Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, primarily in the Americas. 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. For 15 years, he worked with Human Rights Watch, on human rights issues in the western hemisphere from 1982 to 1994 and, between 1994 and 1996, as General Counsel.
Juan E. Mendez 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 to 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 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). 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.
His current field of practice is International Human Rights Law, with expertise in Transitional Justice, Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, and the Right to Personal Integrity.