Two judges referred to investigation for proposing an anti-torture draft law

The Cassation Court decided on Monday to refer two judges to investigation for proposing an anti-torture draft law, the private al-Watan newspaper reported.

In March, the two judges, Assem Abdel Gabbar from the Appeals Court and Hisham Abdel Raouf from the Cassation Court, both participated in an initiative led by the civil society organization United Group to draft a bill criminalizing torture in police stations and detention facilities.

Raouf also prepared a study titled “Torture is a crime against humanity” six months ago where he heavily criticized the legal status of torture in the penal code, concluding that major loopholes allow those who commit torture to evade punishment. In the study, he recommended new amendments to the penal code should be in accordance with international treaties against torture.

In a telephone interview with Mada Masr, Gabbar, one of the two judges referred to investigation, said that he was not officially notified about the investigation, but added that he got confirmation from journalists that the Cassation Court had decided to appoint a judge to conduct the investigation.

Gabbar expressed his astonishment at the decision, explaining that this is not the first time he helped proposed a draft law aimed at improving rights, explaining he previously participated in proposing a draft law on freedom of information.

“The law in question is the same draft law that the Justice Ministry presented to the government in 2013, so I really do not understand what the problem is,” he continued.

However, the draft law is different from the Justice Ministry’s in that it proposes harsher sentences for those who commit torture violations and puts direct legal responsibility on heads of police stations and detention facilities for torture crimes even if they are not directly involved in violations.

“Maybe this is what angered authorities. What I did is part of my background as a judge working in criminal judiciary. We put a draft law in accordance with international covenants and the constitution in a fully transparent manner,” Gabbar defended himself.

Negad al-Borai, rights lawyer and head of United Group, denounced the decision to refer the two judges to investigation on his official Facebook page saying  the investigation shows that the government does not want to put an end to torture.

“The government and the judiciary do not want to end torture, if they investigate whoever works on putting a scientific framework to end this shameful practice,” he asserted.

When asked what he expects following the investigation, Gabbar remained uncertain.

“I welcome any sort of investigation because I have nothing to hide. In such circumstances, it is hard to put any expectations for what may happen,” he said.

 

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