SWLAW Blog | Events

Juan Mendez, U.N. Special Rapporteur

February 4, 2016

Juan Mendez, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, to deliver inaugural José Siderman Human Rights Lecture at Southwestern Law School

On Thursday, February 25, 2016, Southwestern Law School will present the inaugural José Siderman Human Rights Lecture, which will feature speaker Juan Méndez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He will speak on “How International Law Can Eradicate Torture: A Response to Cynics.”

In addition to his position at the UN (equivalent to the level of Assistant Secretary-General), where he has served since 2010, Mr. Méndez is a Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence at American University–Washington College of the Law.

A native of Argentina, Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, particularly in the Americas. As a result of his involvement in representing political prisoners, the Argentine military dictatorship of 1976-83 arrested and tortured him for more than a year. Amnesty International adopted him as a “Prisoner of Conscience” in response.

After his expulsion from his country in 1977, Mr. Méndez moved to the United States, eventually founding Americas Watch for the organization that later became Human Rights Watch, and becoming General Counsel of Human Rights Watch in 1994. From 1996 to 1999, he served as Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica, and from 1999 to 2004, he was Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame Law School. Between 2000 and 2003, he was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, serving as President in 2002.

The Honorable Kofi Annan named Mr. Méndez his Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, a task he performed from 2004 to 2007. From 2004 to 2009, he was President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), and is currently its President Emeritus. In 2009 and 2010, he was the Special Advisor on Prevention to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

In addition to his current appointment at American University, Professor Méndez has taught International Human Rights Law at Georgetown Law School and at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and has been a Scholar-in-Residence at the Ford Foundation in New York. He also teaches regularly on the Oxford Master’s Programme in International Human Rights Law in the United Kingdom. He is the author of various publications including the recent book “Taking A Stand: The Evolution of Human Rights” (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), co-authored with Marjory Wentworth.

Additional information on Mr. Méndez is available at:

The José Siderman Human Rights Lecture is the latest collaboration in Southwestern’s longstanding relationship with the family of José Siderman, a successful businessman who was a victim of Argentina’s “dirty war” and suffered kidnapping, torture and exile during the 1970′s and 80′s at the hands of that country’s military dictatorship. In a landmark human rights case heard in federal court in Los Angeles in 1996, the government of Argentina agreed to settle damage claims by Mr. Siderman and his family after a 14-year legal battle led by the American Civil Liberties Union. Six years ago, Mr. Siderman’s family established a fellowship in human rights law at Southwestern in his memory to train Argentine lawyers.

A cocktail reception from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. will precede the lecture and Q & A, which will be held from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Southwestern Law School, 3050 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. There is no cost to attend, however, reservations are required by contacting advancement@swlaw.edu or (213) 738-6814. Please RSVP by February 18. Parking is available on campus for $10.