[Ppnews] UN Torture Investigator Calls on Nations to End Solitary Confinement

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 19 13:20:39 EDT 2011

UN Torture Investigator Calls on Nations to End Solitary Confinement

October 19, 2011

by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

The UN’s torture investigator, Juan Mendez, 
yesterday called on UN members nations to ban 
nearly all uses of solitary confinement in 
prisons, warning that is causes serious mental 
and physical harm and often amounts to torture. 
Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture 
and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment, 
a written report on solitary confinement to the 
UN General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee, 
which singled out for criticism the routine use 
of supermax isolation in the United States. He 
also gave a press conference and 
in a forum with American civil rights and human rights groups.

reports, Mendez stated that solitary confinement 
“‘can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman and 
degrading treatment or punishment when used as a 
punishment, during pretrial detention, 
indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for 
persons with mental disabilities or juveniles.’” 
He continued, “‘Segregation, isolation, 
separation, cellular, lockdown, supermax, the 
hole, secure housing unit
whatever the name, 
solitary confinement should be banned by states 
as a punishment or extortion (of information) technique.’”

Mendez was precise in defining solitary 
confinement, and in outlining the limitations 
that should be placed on its use. He 

“I am of the view that juveniles, given their 
physical and mental immaturity, should never be 
subjected to solitary confinement. Equally, in 
order not to exacerbate a previously existing 
mental condition, individuals with mental 
disabilities should be provided with proper 
medical or psychiatric care and under no 
circumstances should they ever be subjected to 
solitary confinement. My recommendations are, 
first, to see if we can have a complete ban on 
prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. And 
I more or less arbitrarily defined that as 
anything beyond 15 days of solitary confinement, 
meaning someone being confined to a cell for at least 22 hours a day.”

As Reuters reports, “Mendez told reporters he 
conceded that short-term solitary confinement was 
admissible under certain circumstances, such as 
the protection of lesbian, gay or bisexual 
detainees or people who had fallen foul of prison 
gangs. But he said there was ‘no justification 
for using it as a penalty, because that’s an inhumane penalty.’”

Mendez made reference to the case of accused 
WikiLeaker Bradley Manning, who spent after eight 
months in solitary at a military brig in Virginia 
before being moved to general population to await 
court-martial. Mendez said he “planned to issue a 
report on Manning and other cases in the next few weeks.”

Mendez also told reporters that he himself had 
spent three days in solitary in the 1970s in his 
native Argentina, then under military 
dictatorship, and they were “the three longest days in my life.”

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