JUAN GONZALEZ: Your response on this issue of looking forward instead of back and not allowing witch hunts to take place?
JUAN MÉNDEZ: Well, this has been a debate all over the world every time we have to look at egregious conduct by state officials. People always say we want to look forward and not backward. I reject the notion that investigating and prosecuting international crimes is a way of just looking backwards and being—and engaging in a witch hunt or being vengeful. I think, on the contrary, it’s a proper way of looking forward: it’s settling the stories the way they should be settled, deciding on what was done by order of whom and against whom, and moving forward only after we know the whole truth....
I want to stress that that’s not a discretionary decision by any state. Every state that signs and ratifies the Convention Against Torture is legally obliged to investigate, prosecute and punish every single act of torture.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan Méndez, we only have 30 seconds, but you speak from personal experience. I mean, you come from Argentina. In Argentina, there are hundreds of trials going on now of torturers.
JUAN MÉNDEZ: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: You, yourself, were tortured for representing political prisoners—that’s right?—in the 1970s?
JUAN MÉNDEZ: That’s correct, yes. That’s right. You know, and I am following the trials in Argentina. They are, you know, very uplifting, and they are a way of looking forward. It’s a way in which the country sees itself in the mirror, reckons with its past, and makes sure that it doesn’t happen again. So, that’s a way of looking forward.