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UN human rights expert condemns use of torture for confessions in Egyptian court

Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez.
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez.

UN human rights expert condemns use of torture for confessions in Egyptian court

The Government of Egypt must quickly investigate allegations of torture in its courts and discontinue the trials of those whose testimonies were obtained under duress, an independent United Nations expert urged today.

In a statement referring to Egypt’s 2006 Supreme State Security Emergency Court trial which was allegedly plagued by severe irregularities, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Mendez, voiced his deep concern over the special court’s use of confessions elicited from three men who had reportedly been tortured. The men were subsequently sentenced to death based on the evidence.

“A State’s obligation to ensure that any statement made as a result of torture should not be used as evidence in any proceedings, must apply in all circumstances, including in the context of military courts,” Mr. Mendez said.

“The Egyptian authorities should proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation of the allegations of torture claimed by the three defendants,” he added.

In February 2011, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights condemned the Egyptian court’s trial, conviction and sentencing of the three men on the grounds of having violated the African Charter’s prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and failing to ensure that evidence obtained through torture was not admitted at trial, according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

While the Government of Egypt complied with the African Commission’s request to not carry out sentencing pending a full examination of the cases, Mr. Mendez noted with concern that the review of the cases had been sent to a different panel of the same security court which had tried the men in the first place.

“It is of deep concern that the cases have nevertheless been resubmitted to a different panel of the same state security court,” Mr. Mendez said, adding that the move showed the “inability and unwillingness of a state security court to address complaints of torture with the seriousness they deserve.”

The new hearing of the three cases is scheduled to take place on 12 September 2012.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Mr. Mendez, are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.