New international Principles set standards for effective investigations and torture prevention

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Geneva, Washington, Oslo - New international Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering (also known as the ‘Méndez Principles’) are launched today by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), the Anti-Torture Initiative (ATI), and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR).

“The Principles aim to end accusatory, coercive and other confession driven practices during investigations. They will also assist States to ensure that only guilty persons are convicted, that wrongly accused persons are freed, and that justice is served for victims and for society at large” said Juan E. Méndez, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

The Principles offer guidance to replace coercive interrogation by rapport-based interviewing and implementation of safeguards, such as the presence of the lawyer and the notification of family. They will assist investigators in obtaining accurate and reliable information in full respect of the human rights and dignity of all. These new Principles aim to transform the relationship between States and their citizens. They are intended to change how public authorities conduct interviewing and as a result improve trust in the State. “The Principles will guide implementation of effective interviewing in multilateral and bilateral contexts and will preserve the integrity of the practice they promote,” said Gisle Kvanvig, Director for ASEAN/Vietnam at the NCHR.

The initiative to develop the Principles followed the call by Juan E. Méndez in his last report to the UN General Assembly in December 2016. The process was driven by a group of 15 women and men from around the world, with expertise in the fields of interviewing, law enforcement, human rights, and psychology. Juan E. Méndez acted as one of the co-chairs of the initiative, together with Mark Thomson, former Secretary General of the APT.

‘The finalisation of the Principles represents a huge step. They will contribute to changing police practices worldwide by, at the same time, reducing torture and ill-treatment and ensuring better outcomes for investigations. Presumption of innocence will be respected and justice served, making societies safer for all’ welcomed Barbara Bernath, APT Secretary General.

The launching event features opening remarks by H.E. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Ms. Miwa Kato, Director of the Division for Operations at the UNODC, as well as interventions by H.E. Christian Guillermet, Deputy Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, H.E. Ramses Cleland, Ambassador of Ghana to the United Nations in Geneva, H.E. Mona Juul, Ambassador of Norway to the United Nations in New York, and Prof. Nils Melzer, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This event also launches the advocacy campaign for the endorsement of these Principles by the United Nations in 2022. In the coming months, the Principles will be translated into all United Nations languages.

The full text of the Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering can be found here

Contact information:

Association for the Prevention of Torture, Alexis Comninos, Legal Adviser
(acomninos@apt.ch / +41 22 919 2168).

Anti-torture Initiative, Washington College of Law: Vanessa Drummond, Assistant Director (vdrummon@wcl.american.edu; +1(202) 274-4192).

Norwegian Centre for Human Rights: Gisle Kvanvig, Director for ASEAN/Vietnam (gisle.kvanvig@nchr.uio.no; +47 982 34 681).