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Regional and Global Perspectives on Impunity for CIA Torture and the Right to Remedies and Reparation

October 22, 2015  

right to remedies and reparation

On October 23, 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a hearing on “human rights situation of persons affected by the U.S. Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program.” The hearing, which was requested by the ACLU and the NYU Global Justice Clinic, focused on the right to remedies and reparations for survivors of the CIA torture program. In advance of the IACHR hearing, a coalition of human rights groups from the U.S. and Latin America held a public event at NYU Washington, DC, addressing the need for transparency and accountability for the CIA torture and secret detention program. What does U.S. failure to act in the face of well-documented acts of torture mean to global human rights and what are the consequences for endorsing impunity? What lessons could be learned from the Latin American experience in the search for truth and justice and ensuring non-repetition of torture and enforced disappearances? 

Meg Satterthwaite, Director, NYU Global Justice Clinic, provided welcoming remarks. 


This program is made possible through the collaborative efforts of these organizations.

Rev. Fred B. Morris

Rev. Fred B. Morris

Claudia Paz y Paz

Claudia Paz y Paz

Juan E. Mendez, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture

Juan E. Mendez

Chris Anders

Chris Anders

Rev. Fred B. Morris

Juan E. Mendez

Juan E. Méndez is a Visiting Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law and the author (with Marjory Wentworth) of "Taking A Stand: The Evolution of Human Rights", New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011. As of 1 November 2010, he was appointed the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

He was Special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He was also Co-Chair of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute from 2010-2011

Until May 2009 he was the President of the International Center for Transnational Justice (ICTJ) and in the summer of 2009 he was a Scholar-in-Residence at the Ford Foundation in New York. Concurrent with his duties at ICTJ, the Honorable Kofi Annan named Mr. Méndez his Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, a task he performed from 2004 to 2007.

A native of Argentina, 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. As a result of his involvement in representing political prisoners, the Argentinean military dictatorship arrested him and subjected him to torture and administrative detention for more than a year. During this time, Amnesty International adopted him as a “Prisoner of Conscience.” After his expulsion from his country in 1977, Mr. Méndez moved to the United States.

For 15 years, he worked with Human Rights Watch, concentrating his efforts on human rights issues in the western hemisphere. In 1994, he became general counsel of Human Rights Watch, with worldwide duties in support of the organization’s mission, including responsibility for litigation and standard-setting activities. From 1996 to 1999, Mr. Méndez was the Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica, and between October 1999 and May 2004 he was Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Between 2000 and 2003 he was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, and served as its President in 2002.

He has taught International Human Rights Law at Georgetown Law School and at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he teaches regularly at the Oxford Masters Program in International Human Rights Law in the United Kingdom. He is the recipient of several human rights awards: the Rafael Lemkin Award for contributions to the prevention of genocide by the Auschwitz Institute on Peace and Reconciliation (2010); the Goler T. Butcher Medal from the American Society of International Law (2010); a Doctorate Honoris Causa from the University of Quebec in Montreal (2006); the inaugural “Monsignor Oscar A. Romero Award for Leadership in Service to Human Rights,” by the University of Dayton (2000); and the “Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Award” of the Heartland Alliance (2003).

Mr. Méndez is a member of the bar of Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the District of Columbia, U.S., having earned a J.D. from Stella Maris University in Argentina and a certificate from the American University Washington College of Law. 

Claudia Paz y Paz

Claudia Paz y Paz grew up during the civil war which inspired her to study law, in order to help bring justice to her war-torn country. She took after her grandfather who was also a lawyer and earned a PhD in Human Rights and Criminal Law from the Salamanca University in Spain.

Throughout her career, Paz y Paz served as a judge in Supango, Guatemala. She was also the legal advisor for the Archbishop’s Office on Human Rights in Guatemala and a legal expert in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Claudia Paz y Paz quickly became a well-known supporter of women’s and indigenous groups’ rights. It was her tireless efforts on those two instances that led to her appointment as Guatemala’s Attorney General.

In the less than three years after she came to Office, Claudia Paz y Paz became globally renowned for standing up for impunity and for achieving significant improvements in the Guatemalan judicial system, which has been notorious for its corruption.

Claudia Paz y Paz established the Guatemalan Institute for Comparative Studies in Penal Sciences – an institute which defends and promotes the rule of law.

Paz y Paz was the first Guatemalan law enforcement official who prosecuted those who committed human rights violations during the military dictatorship of President Efrain Rios Montt, including those responsible for the genocide of more than 200 000 Mayans. Claudia Paz y Paz and her team built the case against former General Rios Montt for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Paz y Paz was also successfully prosecuted the four Guatemalan soldiers who were found responsible for the 1982 Dos Erres massacre in which 200 villagers were killed.

Paz y Paz has also been credited for reducing violence in Guatemala by dismantling criminal networks, rather than through focusing on individual criminals.

Claudia Paz y Paz (Peace & Peace, in Spanish) has gained worldwide recognition from many human rights groups and media sources such as Forbes, the New York Times, Al Jazeera.

In 2011, she was honoured by Hillary Clinton and the International Crisis Group. She is the recipient of CJA’s (Center of Justice and Accountability) 2013 Judith Lee Stronach Human Rights Award. 

Chris Anders

Christopher Anders (@andersaclu) is senior legislative counsel in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, where he represents the ACLU before Congress and the Executive Branch. Since joining the ACLU legislative team in 1997, Anders has represented the ACLU on a wide range of civil liberties and civil rights issues. For the past eight years, Anders has led the ACLU’s Washington, D.C. advocacy on torture, detention, war authority, and Guantanamo issues. Since 2006, he has led a national coalition of human rights, civil liberties, and religious groups working on detention and Guantanamo issues. He also has served as a human rights observer at military commission proceedings held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Prior to joining the ACLU’s Washington office, Anders spent eleven years with Washington law and lobbying firms. 

Jo-Marie Burt

Jo-Marie Burt

Moderator: Jo-Marie Burt is a senior fellow at WOLA specializing in Peru. She teaches political science at George Mason University, where she is currently acting co-director of the Center for Global Studies. Her research focuses on political violence and state power, human rights and transitional justice, and social movements in Latin America.

She currently directs a research project on efforts to prosecute perpetrators of grave human rights violations committed in the context of Peru’s internal armed conflict (for more information see the project website at and in Latin America more broadly.

Professor Burt has worked closely with human rights organizations in Latin America and the U.S., including Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator and the Institute for Legal Defense (IDL). In 2002-3, she worked as a researcher for the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

She was an international observer for WOLA to the trial of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, who in 2009 was convicted for his role in grave human rights violations. In 2010, she was the “Alberto Flores Galindo” Visiting Professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. 

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