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Shedding Light

World-renowned human rights expert enlightens ONU students on torture and punishment issue

For most people, the grave subject of torture doesn’t often cross their minds. For renowned human rights advocate and torture survivor Juan Mendez, it never leaves his.

Mendez has devoted his life to eradicating torture and cruel and unusual punishment. This spring, he shared his thoughts and theories on torture and its status in today’s world with several Ohio Northern University students on campus.

A native of Argentina, Mendez knows the horrors of torture firsthand, having been victimized as a young man for defending political prisoners in his native country. While detained in a torture chamber for 18 months, he was subjected to electric prods and threatened at gunpoint, to cite two examples. Needless to say, the lifelong mental and physical scars from this experience have plagued him for most of his life.

Since then, he has taken on numerous roles in the international sphere to eradicate such cruel practices, including being a national advisor to the United Nations on genocide and executive director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica.

ONU students learned things they may have never known otherwise from Mendez, who is an attorney, college professor and steadfast defender of human rights. Notably, the students also learned that torture entails more than just physical abuse. Inhumane conditions such as solitary confinement, sleep or food deprivation, or even unsanitary detainment conditions are also considered methods of torture.

According to Mendez, torture continues to be inflicted around the world at alarming rates, and the problem is far from resolved. Nevertheless, he continues to make an impact by educating others on the subject and doing everything in his power to help decrease its presence in the world.