Rights groups demand end to interrogation of judges working on anti-torture bill
Courtesy: ANHRI
 

A number of rights organizations and political parties demanded an end to the interrogation of two judges and a lawyer who worked on an anti-torture bill.

Five political parties signed a statement in their defense, including the Dostour Party, the Popular Current, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Bread and Freedom Party and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, along with 27 leading rights organizations.

The organizations assert that the anti-torture bill, drafted by judges Hesham Raouf and Assem Abdel Gabbar along with lawyer Negad al-Borai, benefits society and should have been hailed by the state and Supreme Judicial Council, rather than interrogating those behind it.

Borai, a prominent rights lawyer and director of the United Group, was summoned a number of times for questioning in recent months in relation to charges of broadcasting false information, disturbing public security, establishing an illegal group and receiving unauthorized foreign funding after he presented an anti-torture bill to the authorities.

Shortly before charges were brought against him in March 2015, the United Group submitted a bill criminalizing torture in police stations and detention facilities to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Borai also submitted the draft to the Court of Cassation and Parliament.

The two judges are expected to face charges of working in politics in violation of the law and cooperating with an illegal organization, specifically referring to the United Group.

In a previous telephone interview with Mada Masr, Gabbar said he wasn’t officially notified about the investigation, and was told by journalists that the Court of Cassation had decided to appoint a judge to conduct the inquiry.

Gabbar expressed astonishment at the decision, explaining that this is not the first time he has helped draft a law aimed at improving rights, and that 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 asserted.

The draft proposal by the judges and lawyer differs from the Justice Ministry’s in that it proposes harsher sentences for those who commit torture violations, and places direct legal responsibility with the heads of police stations and detention facilities for torture, even if they are not directly involved in violations.

“Maybe this is what angered the authorities. What I did is based on my background as a judge working in the criminal judiciary. We drafted a law in accordance with international conventions and the Constitution in a fully transparent manner,” Gabbar said.

Such interrogations reflect the state’s intention to introduce new legal reforms, the statement by rights groups and political parties suggests. Signatory organizations claim the charges may be a pretext for targeting the two judges, who are known for their stances in favor of judicial independence, and Borai for his rights advocacy work.

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