An Argentine jurist will join the new Organ of Racial Justice of the UN

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UN) appointed Juan Mendez, an Argentine jurist detained during the last dictatorship civic military for having been a militant and lawyer for political prisoners, such as authority of the Racial Justice Body created after the international upheaval caused by the crime of George Floyd at the hands of the American police.

Méndez will be one of the three members of that body launched to ensure the equal treatment of the security forces and justice systems of Africans or people of African descent. The space will also be composed of the American Tracie Keesee and the South African Yvonne Mokgoro, who will chair it.

Méndez and his long international career

Due to his career, it is not the first time that the Argentine jurist has held a position of international responsibility. In 2004 he had been appointed special advisor for the Prevention of Genocide by the then head of the UN, Kofi Annan.

“It is an honor and a huge responsibility,” he told then to Page 12 and he considered that the fact of “being Argentine, with what I had to live with” influenced his appointment. “It was the reason why I dedicated myself to human rights”added.

Méndez was also president of the International Center for Transitional Justice and a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, who came to preside in 2002. And between 2010 and 2016 he was the UN rapporteur for torture, without abandoning his position as professor at the American University-Washington College of Law.

His long career also includes advisory work for the International Criminal Court, 15 years of collaboration with the human rights NGO Human Rights Watch and the direction, between 1996 and 1999, of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.

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Victim of State Terrorism in Argentina

But the basis of his experience dates back to the 1970s, when He was a victim of State terrorism in Argentina. In those years, along with colleagues like the iconic Eduardo Luis Duhalde, defended political imprisonment and was active in human rights organizations.

His commitment and militancy for human rights cost him detention and torture from 1975 to 1977, always as a prisoner at the disposal of the Executive Power (PEN). Later he must have gone into exile Together with his family to the United States, after passing through France.

During all these years, in Argentina he participated in multiple conferences and initiatives related to the fundamental rights of people. One of them was the debate over the sanction of the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy Act (IVE), in which he pleaded in favor.

What was the significance of the George Floyd case

The Racial Justice Body for which he was now appointed for three years is a new body created by the Human Rights Council on July 13 of this year. It was the result of the debates held throughout 2020 and 2021 in response to events such as the murder of George Floyd in the United States, which unleashed a global wave of protests against police mistreatment and discrimination against the black population.

It will be in charge of examining “the systematic racism and excessive use of force” against Africans and Afro-descendants in different countries. It will also monitor the treatment of anti-racist protests by security forces around the world.


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