Americas: Regional Dialogue explores steps to promote effective interviewing

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

More than 90 representatives of National and Local Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs/LPMs) from 11 Latin American countries recently took part in the APT’s first Regional Dialogue on the Principles for Effective Interviewing and Information Gathering.

The Regional Dialogue, held on 13 October 2021, was an opportunity for those responsible for monitoring places of detention to discuss how the Méndez Principles, as they are known, promote safeguards for people deprived of liberty and support investigating authorities to shift from interrogation practices to rapport-based interviewing.

Introducing the discussion, Juan Méndez, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, noted that torture is ineffective in obtaining the truth and ultimately undermines efforts to fight crime.

“The Principles offer a constructive alternative to the use of torture and coercion. They ensure that interviews – with suspects, witnesses, victims are others – are useful to the investigation and, above all, respect the rights and dignity of those who are interviewed,”

Juan Méndez, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

The APT – represented by Sara Vera López, Sylvia Dias and Audrey Olivier Muralt – introduced the key concepts that underpin the Méndez Principles, including that coercive interrogation practices are ineffective in obtaining accurate and reliable information.

During the two-hour discussion, participants noted that, despite reforms to criminal justice systems across Latin America, the first hours of detention remain the time of greatest risk to people deprived of liberty.

They also shared insights on their respective country and provincial situations, the challenges they face in their monitoring work and the opportunities that exist to disseminate the Méndez Principles with police and other stakeholders and engage in dialogue with them.

Discussions during the regional dialogue confirmed: 

  • The Méndez Principles represent an evidence-based response to attempts to justify torture in the name of ‘security’ and the ‘war on organised crime’
  • The Méndez Principles contribute to the preventive work of NPMs and LPMs in the Americas
  • The torture prevention community can play an important role to build bridges with police and other investigating authorities in the region and help shift mindsets from interrogation to effective interviewing
  • The shift away from coercive interrogations will require comprehensive training for investigating authorities, a commitment to accountability and transparency of institutions
  • Legal and policy changes are necessary to lay a solid foundation for the implementation of the Mendez Principles at the national level.

The APT will continue to promote dialogue at the regional and national levels in Latin America to promote understanding of the Méndez Principles and the benefits for investigating authorities, persons deprived of liberty and national justice systems.

The APT will also host Regional Dialogues for NPMs and national human rights institutions in the Asia Pacific (26 October), Europe (3 November), Arab Network (15 November) and Africa.

Staff members