Thursday, February 08, 2007

Police Officer Goes on Trial for Torture

A trial worth watching: an Egyptian police officer is going on trial for the torture and murder of the prisoner Mohammed Abdel Qader El Sayed.

The trial started last week -- Feb. 3, in Cairo Criminal Court. The defendant is State Security Investigation officer Captain Ashraf Mostafa Hussein Safwat.

As with many political Egyptian trials, the testimony lasted for only part of the day. The first day's testimony focused on evidence presented by the head forensic doctor, and then adjourned for three months to May 5, when the defense will present arguments.

For more on the case, click here.

This is an important trial because of the long history of impunity that has defined security officials and police's relationship with the use of torture. Amnesty International has noted a few cases such as this, in which officers were brought to trial, but generally these cases are marked by minor sentences that are not always carried out. The vast majority of torture allegations never receive any public investigation at all.

We can end torture. There isn't anything essential or inevitable about it. Amnesty has developed a 12-point program for the elimination of torture. Point 5 is independent investigation of torture allegations, and Point 8 is bringing torturers to justice. Egypt has traditionally done neither. Here's hoping this trial can provide momentum for changing that.

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