Role of Forensic and Medical Sciences in the Investigation and Prevention of Torture

6365386329_f24a5e7976_zMendez discussed his report on the use of forensic science to combat torture, as it still persists in over 100 countries. Ms. Reventlow, Denmark, Switzerland, and Mendez, believe it’s the state’s obligation to prevent and investigate torture through medical/forensic examination. Denmark and Switzerland feel it’s essential to establish a standard for legal investigations. Denmark and Mendez also believe victims should be given rehabilitation and reparations.

Switzerland deems the eradication of torture a matter of political will and insufficient resources. Another cause maybe the lack of medical and forensic personnel training, which prevents proper documentation of torture cases. It is also pointed out that torture investigations must follow the Istanbul Protocol because it analyzes the physical and psychological effects of torture. Doctors, lawyers, judges, and prosecutors must become educated in this Protocol. A significant type of torture comes from interrogators trying to coerce a confession. This causes official medical examiners to be influenced by the department inflicting the torture.

Mendez insists on implementing safeguards to ensure that examinations are credible, independent, and objective. Some states may reject the Istanbul Protocol because they claim they are too poor, but Mendez and Hansen point out these examinations are not expensive. Rodley explains how forensic evidence can greatly affect the outcome of a torture case. He also mentions that victims of torture may face deportation because officials do not want to deal with these “undesirables”.

Hansen explains his work with the Protocol and its legal implications. He strongly recommends the use of the Protocol, and explains that the major aspect of forensic examinations lies in consistency. Finally, Hansen mentions that time does not affect the significance of forensic examinations. The conference concluded with the need to establish a framework to deal with torture cases, and the need to raise awareness of the issue.

Meeting: The Role of Forensic and Medical Sciences in the Investigation and Prevention of Torture and Other Ill-Treatment (co-organization by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Permanent Missions of Denmark and Switzerland, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (ICRT), Amnesty International and the American University Washington College of Law Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law’s Anti-Torture Initiative)
Date/Location: October 22nd, 2014; Conference Room 7, UN HQ, New York.
Speakers: Switzerland, Denmark, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Sir Nigel Rodley, Director of IRCT’s legal and advocacy team Ms. Miriam Reventlow, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez, and Dr. Steen Holger Hansen from the University of Copenhagen’s forensic medicine department.
Written By WIT Representative: Ellie Guner
Edited by WIT Representative: Aslesha Dhillon

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