Former Special Advisers
Former Special Adviser Juan Méndez
The Secretary-General appointed Juan Méndez of Argentina as his Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide on 1 August 2004, on a part-time basis at the level of Assistant Secretary-General. He held the position until Francis Deng took up the position on 1 August 2007. On 6 October 2010, Juan Méndez was appointed Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment by the United Nations. He will serve a three-year term starting 1 November 2010.
Immediately prior to his appointment with the United Nations, Mr. Méndez was serving as President of the International Center for Transitional Justice. A native of Lomas de Zamora, Argentina, Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defence 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, he was arrested and subjected to torture and administrative detention for a year and a half during the Argentinean military dictatorship. During this time, Amnesty International adopted him as a “prisoner of conscience”. After his release from detention in the late 1970s, 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, and helping to build the organization into one of the most widely respected in the world. In 1994, he became General Counsel of Human Rights Watch, with worldwide duties in support of the organization’s mission, including responsibility for the organization’s 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. Between October 1999 and May 2004 he was Professor of Law and Director of the Centre 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 President in 2002.
He has taught International Human Rights Law at Georgetown Law School and at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he teaches regularly at the Oxford Master’s Programme in International Human Rights Law in the United Kingdom. He is the recipient of several human rights awards, the most recent being the inaugural “Monsignor Oscar A. Romero Award for Leadership in Service to Human Rights” by the University of Dayton in April 2000, and the “Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Award” of the Heartland Alliance in May 2003. Mr. Méndez is a member of the bar of Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires, Argentina and of the District of Columbia, United States, having earned a J.D. from Stella Maris University in Argentina and a certificate from the American University, Washington College of Law. Born on 11 December 1944 in Lomas de Zamora, Argentina, Mr. Méndez is married with three children.