CAIRO: To coincide with the international day in support of torture victims, the Lawyers Syndicate organized a conference against torture on Thursday.
Activist lawyers such as Mohsen El-Bahnassy described their experience of fighting for justice on behalf of torture victims.
El-Bahnassy described the case of Nasr Ahmed Abdallah from Mansoura, who in July 2007 died of brain hemorrhage caused by a physical assault at the hands of officers from the Mansoura police station.
Abdallah was taken, unconscious, to the police station after being assaulted in his home. When lawyers went to the police station they found that he had been hidden, in a coma, underneath a desk.
Police officers found responsible for Abdallah s death were eventually sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
Lawyer Hamdy El-Assiouty questioned who is responsible for continuing incidents of torture in Egypt. He held the interior ministry and the Egyptian President – in his capacity as head of the police force – accountable.
El-Assiouty was also critical of legislative shortcomings which he said contribute to the occurrence of torture, such as the Law 57 passed in 1968 which allows the Interior Minister to specify that detainees may be kept in locations other than formal places of detention.
El-Assiouty also recommended that the study of human rights in schools should be made mandatory and that the president s power to transfer any crime for trial in a military court should be rescinded.
Activists say civilians tried in military courts are denied guarantees of due process.
Judge Ashraf Baroudy told the conference that he and other judges have noted a “decline in the public prosecution office in recent years. “When I was in the public prosecution office district attorneys would go en mass and search police stations. These days district attorneys have to have the permission of their seniors, who almost always say no.
Baroudy said that the problem is that Egypt is a “dictatorship , adding that “Egyptians must learn how to change their fear into anger. Egyptians have forgotten that they have dignity.
Lawyer Taher Abo Nasr discussed the case of Islam Nabih and Reda Fathy, policemen who in 2006 were convicted of torturing minibus driver Imad El-Kebeer by sodomising him with a stick.
Released in March, the two policemen have been allowed to return to work.
Abo Nasr told the press conference that the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence have filed a case demanding that the Interior Minister s decision to allow the men to return to work be rescinded.