NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- An independent U.N. human rights expert urged the United States to immediately end the solitary confinement of Albert Woodfox, convicted of murder 41 years ago.
"Keeping Albert Woodfox in solitary confinement for more than four decades clearly amounts to torture and it should be lifted immediately," said Juan E. Mendez, the special rapporteur on torture who repeatedly has urged the U.S. government to abolish the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement.
Herman Wallace, convicted in the same murder, was released last week when his conviction was overturned on appeal. On Wednesday, the day after his release, Wallace died of cancer after spending 41 years in solitary confinement.
"This is a sad case and it is not over," Mendez said. "The co-accused, Mr. Woodfox, remains in solitary confinement pending an appeal to the federal court and has been kept in isolation in an 8-foot-by-12 foot cell for up to 23 hours per day, with just one hour of exercise or solitary recreation."
Wallace and Woodfox denied killing Brent Miller, a guard at the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly called Angola Prison. They said prison officials targeted them because they founded the Angola Black Panther chapter.
Woodfox, Wallace and a third inmate who agreed to a plea deal became known as the Angola Three.
A federal judge ordered Wallace's release, setting aside his conviction and ordering a new trial or dismissal of the charges. A grand jury returned a new indictment Thursday, shortly before Wallace's death.
"The circumstances of the incarceration of the so-called Angola Three clearly show that the use of solitary confinement in the U.S. penitentiary system goes far beyond what is acceptable under international human rights law," he said.
He urged the U.S. government to adopt concrete measures to eliminate the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement under all circumstances.
Special rapporteurs are appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, to examine and report back on specific human rights themes.