Egypt: verdict in case of police who tortured and killed detainee reinforces limited justice for crimes by state officials
The South Cairo Criminal Court’s conviction and sentencing on 11 November 2018 of Assistant Detective Mohamed Sayed Abdel Halim and Police Officer Mohamed Ahmed Salem to three years and six months’ imprisonment respectively for conduct involving the torture and killing of 22-year-old Mohamed Abdel-Hakim Mahmoud does not amount to justice for the crimes against him, the ICJ said today.
The ICJ called on prosecutors to consider options for appeal or new charges that could hold the perpetrators properly to account for serious crimes, with sanctions appropriate to the gravity of their conduct and in line with international law.
The two officers apparently unlawfully arrested Mohamed Abdel-Hakim Mahmoud, otherwise known as “Afroto,” on 5 January 2018 and subjected him to severe beatings and other torture, as a result of which he died.
The Court convicted Abdel Halim of “beating that led to death,” a crime that carries a sentence of three to seven years’ imprisonment under Article 236 of the Egyptian Penal Code, and Salem of “light beating.”
“The low sentences imposed by the Court are completely disproportionate to the conduct of the perpetrators, who beat Afroto, threw him into a cell and then beat him again when he complained he was unable to breath. The perpetrators should have been held accountable for their true criminal conduct, which included torture and murder in police custody,” said Kate Vigneswaran, Senior Legal Adviser of the ICJ MENA Programme.
“The Egyptian authorities’ consistent efforts to immunize public officials from real accountability denies the victims and their families their right to redress and reinforces the Egyptian people’s increasing lack of trust in the Egyptian government and judicial system,” she added.
The definition of torture under Article 126 of the Egyptian Penal Code only establishes liability for torture for the purpose of obtaining a “confession” against a suspect, falling far short of the standard required by the Egyptian Constitution and the Convention Against Torture (CAT), which contemplate torture being undertaken for any number of purposes. The Penal Code also imposes penalties—hard labour and the death penalty—inconsistent with human rights, including for torture and murder.
“Egypt should amend the Penal Code to prohibit all forms of torture and abolish the death penalty and hard labour,” said Kate Vigneswaran.
“The authorities are obligated under international law to ensure effective justice for crimes committed by public officials by charging them with crimes and imposing sentences reflecting their criminal conduct. Legislative reform is needed to both ensure accountability for victims and uphold the rights of perpetrators,” she added.
Kate Vigneswaran, Senior Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, m: +31 624894664, e: email@example.com
Egypt-Afroto Verdict-News-2018-ENG (full story with additional information, in PDF)News