Juan E. Méndez papers, 1980-2017

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Human Rights Archive (Duke University) and Méndez, Juan E.
Juan E. Méndez is a lawyer and human rights activist who is the former president of the International Center for Transitional Justice. This collection contains a portion of his writings, conference materials, subject and research files, and materials documenting his work with ICTJ and the United Nations, where he served as the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide.
13 Linear Feet
15.4 Gigabytes
Majority of the materials are in English; a portion of the materials are in Spanish.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The collection consists of materials documenting Méndez's work with the United Nations and ICTJ (2004-2015), as well as a small representative of his overall writings and professional engagements (dating approximately 2005-2012). Méndez's policy work as the UN Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture represent the bulk of the collection. There is a smaller amount of administrative and event-related materials documenting his work while president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, as well as a selection of files from his various speaking engagements, consultancies, and leadership roles as a global expert on transitional justice, torture, and genocide.

The papers have been arranged into series. The first series, Americas Watch, consists of reports produced while Méndez was an executive director in that organization.

The series for the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide includes administrative correspondence, materials exploring the mandate of the office (and its limitations), Advisory Committee files, UN meeting notes and agendas from Méndez's communications with various country officials, itineraries from various country visits (including Sudan/Darfur and Rwanda), and subject files. The series includes a substantial amount of materials documenting the UN's approach to the Darfur crisis, including policy statements, reports from the Sudan government, research, and visits to the region by Méndez and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

Méndez's files from his role as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment and Punishment also contain subject and country files, administrative and conference notes about meetings with various UN officials and NGOs, a selection of files about specific legal cases Méndez was involved in as the SRT, and documentation about assorted country visits and missions. There is a small amount of material relating to United States' policies on solitary confinement, as well as materials about the WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning case.

Méndez's ICTJ files are largely miscellaneous; some relate to the group's organization and leadership, and others regard his role as a public figure for that organization.

The Writings series is far from complete; it includes a portion of Méndez's many journal articles and publications, as well as some more recent correspondence and outlines from his work on his autobiography.

The Lectures, Teaching, Consultancies, and Leadership Roles documents Méndez's many roles outside of the UN and ICTJ, revealing his professional engagement and service as an expert in genocide, torture, and transitional justice. These files tend to relate to specific events, human rights consultations, and conferences Méndez participated in during the early 2010s.

Biographical / historical:

Excerpted from the UNHRC website, with input from Méndez:

"Juan E. Méndez is a Professor of Human Rights Law in residence 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. Between 1 November 2010 and 31 October 2016, he was 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 (2009-2010). He was also Co-Chair of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (2010-2011). Until May 2009 he was the President of the International Center for Transitional 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. In 2000-2003 he was a member of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States, and its President in 2002. He was Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute on Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica (1996-1999) and a Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame (1999-2004).

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, where he worked in various capacities for Human Rights Watch (1982-1996)."

Acquisition information:
The Juan E. Méndez Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 2016 and 2017.
Processing information:

Processed by Ben Saalfeld, Meghan Lyon, October 2016. Updated by David Romine, Christian Cleveland, November 2017. Updated by Michelle Runyon, April 2020.

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2016-0030; 2017-0170

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Collection is open for research. Collection contains electronic records that must be requested and accessed in our reading room. Contact Research Services with questions.

Original digital and electronic materials are closed to use. Contact Research Services in advance to request access to these materials.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Juan E. Méndez Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.