[Pnews] “Four decades in solitary confinement can only be described as torture” – UN rights expert
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 8 10:36:41 EDT 2013
*US: “Four decades in solitary confinement can only be described as
torture” – UN rights expert*
GENEVA (7 October 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on
torture, Juan E. Méndez, today called on the United States to
immediately end the indefinite solitary confinement imposed on Albert
Woodfox since 1972.
Mr. Woodfox was convicted of murder together with Herman Wallace, who
was released last week when his conviction was overturned on appeal. A
day later, on 2 October, Mr. Wallace died after battling cancer, having
spent 41 years in solitary confinement.
“This is a sad case and it is not over” stressed Mr. Méndez. “The
co-accused, Mr. Woodfox, remains in solitary confinement pending an
appeal to the federal court and has been kept in isolation in a
8-foot-by-12 foot (2.5 x 3.5 m. Approx.) cell for up to 23 hours per
day, with just one hour of exercise or solitary recreation.”
“Keeping Albert Woodfox in solitary confinement for more than four
decades clearly amounts to torture and it should be lifted immediately,”
said Mr. Méndez, who has repeatedly urged the US Government to abolish
the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. “I am deeply
concerned about his physical and mental condition.”
“The circumstances of the incarceration of the so-called Angola Three
clearly show that the use of solitary confinement in the US penitentiary
system goes far beyond what is acceptable under international human
rights law,” the independent investigator on torture and other cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment noted.
Mr. Méndez welcomed the federal court ruling of 1 October 2013, but
noted that the use of solitary confinement and its negative effects on
inmates is widespread throughout the US penitentiary system.
“Persons held in solitary confinement should always be allowed to
challenge the reasons and the length of the regime, and should always
have access to legal counsel and medical assistance,” Mr. Méndez said.
The human rights expert urged the US Government to adopt concrete
measures to eliminate the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary
confinement under all circumstances.
“I call for an absolute ban of solitary confinement of any duration for
juveniles, persons with psychosocial disabilities or other disabilities
or health conditions, pregnant women, women with infants and
breastfeeding mothers as well as those serving a life sentence and
prisoners on death row,” he said.
The Special Rapporteur addressed the issue of solitary confinement in
the US in his 2011 report* to the UN General Assembly and in numerous
communications to the Government. He has also repeatedly requested an
invitation to carry out a visit to the country, including state prisons
in California, but so far has not received a positive answer.
“It is about time to provide the opportunity for an /in situ/ assessment
of the conditions in US prisons and detention facilities,” Mr. Méndez
Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council
as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment on 1 November 2010. He is independent
from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez
has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a
long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. He is
currently a Professor of Law at the American University – Washington
College of Law and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the
International Bar Association. Mr. Méndez has previously served as the
President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ)
until 2009, and was the UN Secretary-General Special Advisor on the
Prevention of Genocide from 2004 to 2007, as well as an advisor on crime
prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, between 2009
and 2010. Learn more, log on to:
*(*) *Check the 2011 report on solitary confinement:
UN Human Rights Country Page – United States of America:
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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