Thursday, February 03, 2011

Torture as a leading issue in Egypt?

So argues this writer at Aljazeera English:

The pro-democracy uprising was propelled by a non-partisan coalition of young activists, who at long last tapped into a current of popular revulsion at the police-state techniques that the regime used to maintain its grip on power.
Whose public interest?
The opposition parties have a role to play in creating an alternative to Mubarak's rule. They are not necessarily well prepared to play this role after decades of hopeless marginalisation by the ruling NDP.
In order to bring about structural change to Egyptian politics they will have to focus not on the social context that makes regime's downfall possible (police state suppression, unemployment and poverty), but on Egypt's laws and constitution.
An end to torture as a primary tactic for maintaining the regime's power will require reforms in a legal system that combines powers of criminal prosecution with police investigation. These two functions are separate in the legal systems of Europe and the United States, but combined in Egypt and in many socialist countries.
The result in Egypt is that the office of public prosecutor (al-niyaba al-‘amma) has the authority to gather evidence in the criminal cases that it pursues. This would be considered an obvious conflict of interest in the United States.
In Egypt it means that a prosecutor who represents "the public interest" (aka the state) possesses powers of police investigation. This leads to systematic torture justified on grounds of it being "in the public interest".
It is no coincidence that when the power of the state was broken on the "day of rage" (January 28th), the pro-democracy protesters attacked many police stations throughout the country.
Police stations, not just the ministry of interior's Central Security Forces, were targeted because the Egyptian public has been subject to systematic torture by a police-judiciary nexus throughout the 30 years of Mubarak's rule.

1 comment:

  1. The system of of having the investigation in charge of the prosecuting magistrate is the same as the French one, and I guess here a post-Napoleonic export. I'm not sure that I see exactly where the conflict of interest lies here, since where this system does not apply, the police have the rights to gather this evidence and they too aim to bring someone to justice, and could use the same 'public interest' argument for beating someone up in the cells (and surely have done, in the past). I suppose it's how much access the defence has to the evidence? I believe that the French justification is that it prevents impossible cases being brought to court, although I have only hearsay to go on here. But in any case, it's clear I think that the system itself is not the thing that enables torture; that's the fact that the system is in the hands of a brutal dictatorial régime that hasn't much bother with due process, and such a régime doesn't need a system feature to make torture possible.

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