Juan Mendez was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in November 2010. Born in Argentina, Mendez began his human rights work in the 1970’s representing political prisoners of the Argentinian military dictatorship. He was arrested and tortured as a result, and then expelled from Argentina in 1977. He moved to the United States.
Since leaving Argentina, Mendez has been general counsel for Human Rights Watch; the Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica; president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide to then UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan; president of the International Center for Transitional Justice; and Special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
Mendez has taught law at various universities including Georgetown Law School and Oxford University. He has also received numerous awards for his work in international human rights law.
Mendez stepped down as Special Rapporteur in October 2016. He now teaches human rights law at American University’s Washington College of Law. He also oversees the UN Anti-Torture Initiative.