Friday, February 02, 2007

Why is Torture So Important?

Once again we are confronted with another serious allegation of torture in Egypt, one gaining the attention of human rights groups in Egypt. Here's a brief excerpt from a statement released Friday by a coalition of HR groups:

"As this statement is being written a number of policemen from Imbaba police station are present in Ihab Farouk's residence waiting for him to return. This development followed a night long interrogation of his father and wife, followed by taking his younger brother, Mohamed Magdi Farouk, hostage until this moment.

Less than 24 hours after the release of today's issue of the daily El Masry El Yom (Thursday, 1 February 2007) featuring the story of torture of citizen Ihabd Magdi Farouk, 19 years, at Imbaba police station, the police started looking for him at his residence. Not finding him there, they arrested his father and wife, took them to the same police station and interrogated them for 5 hours – from 2a.m. until 7 a.m. asking about the whereabouts of Ihab. Why do they want him? In order to settle some matters between him and some police sergeants, as claimed by the Imbaba police.

When Ihab did not show up the police arrested his younger brother, Mohamed Magdi Farouk, as hostage until the appearance of Ihab. At the same time a number of Imbaba police force remained at his residence waiting for his return."

I believe we always have to keep a focus on torture. I believe it is at the core of any system that abuses human rights. You can not improve a human rights situation without getting rid of torture; at the same time, ending torture brings significant improvements in a whole range of human rights abuses. Let me just count a few -- prolonged incommunicado or administrative detention, military and security courts, unfair trials in general, the death penalty, arrest of family members or friends of suspects and impunity for human rights abusers.

When you look at these abuses in Egypt in particular, you almost always find evidence of the presence of torture. The legal and political edifice created to facilitate torture and to protect torturers inevitably ends up being used in other violations.

When you hear debates, post-Abu Ghraib, about the necessity of the use of torture to fight "bad guys" or as Vice President Chaney allegedly said "to work the dark side a little bit," please remember that this is a path that always leads in places that we don't want to be.

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