The first months of 2017 have been extremely tough for the human rights community. The use of torture as a legitimate form of interrogation in the war against terror is being revisited by the world’s most powerful country. And sadly, the man who fought tirelessly to bring to an end the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, passed away on 25th January 2017.
Professor Rodley was a world renowned academic, professor, international lawyer and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (serving from 1993-2001). He was also incredibly humble and kind, not wishing his students or colleagues to refer to him as ‘Sir’ or indeed, ‘the authority on international law’, despite his encyclopedia knowledge of the subject.
As Amnesty International’s legal adviser, his passion and tireless campaign to end torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment led to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1975 and then led to the development of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) in 1987. This work was recognized in his appointment as Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1993.
Following on from his work as Special Rapporteur, he served on the UN Human Rights Committee from 2001-2016. At the same time, he continued to teach students at the University of Essex, where he co-founded the internationally renowned Human Rights Center in 1990, where he is already greatly missed.
Professor Rodley’s life and dedication to the cause of human rights should serve as an inspiration to us all to ensure that there is, in his words, ‘no safe haven for torturers’. To find out more about the life of Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, please see the pieces published about him on the Guardian,Amnesty International, and the BBC. To leave a tribute, please follow this link.