EOHR concludes the third workshop of “ How to combat the crime of torture”

September 11th, 2013 by Editor

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights concluded the third workshop of building the capacity of Egyptian students, activists, and journalists to fight the crime of torture, on Wednesday, September 11. This workshop aimed at building a network of those who are interested in combating the crime of torture; as torture violates the human rights of mere Egyptian citizens.

Dr. Noha Shehata, Political Researcher at EOHR, initiated the second day of the workshop with the topic of “Media and Journalism Role in Combating the Crime of Torture”. Dr. Noha asserted that scientific and technological advancement that has swept the world in recent years led to several developments; advancement in means of communication and the emergence of satellite channels lay in the forefront of those developments. These developments have led to progress on political, social, and cultural scales, more importantly is that state’s monopoly over the media has transferred to the possession of private companies with the developments happened to satellite channels; also those channels have headed towards specialization by the emergence of news and entertainment channels.

Dr. Shehata added that satellite channels played a vital role that can’t be denied in supporting various cases, as well as forming points of view and objections concerning particular cases to be presented to the public opinion and decision makers; hence media means through satellite channels were considered to be double edged weapons at the start, in order to expose public opinion trends towards a certain case, and on the other hand those media means were used as tools in the hands of decision makers to promote a certain issue.

Dr. Shehata asserted that satellite channels became, in the recent period, a substitute for political parties and political power that abandoned their role, and with the growing role of satellite channels; visual media along with civil society organizations became the primary candidates- although there are many restrictions imposed on them- for the adoption of essential and sensitive issues that demand a menacing behavior from their advocates, i.e., causes related to democracy, human rights, torture, corruption, and the deviation of state’s institutions.

Moreover, Dr. Shehata stressed on the importance of the role of the mass media should play regarding the combat of the crime of torture; as the percentage of illiteracy reached 50%, also the percentage of those who read newspapers, magazines, and books is very low. This enhances the important role and responsibility of visual and audio media; thus mass media should work essentially to present human rights organizations and their role via television programs. In addition, UN and international organizations possesses documentaries with high technical proficiency about human rights issues that can attract a regular spectator, without being an expert in public and political affairs; hence the Egyptian Television can present these movies, and it can sponsor, in a later stage, the production of similar documentaries in Egypt. Also, there must be a presentation of the nature and content of the international agreements and declarations signed and ratified by Egypt, as well as the presentation of documentaries that can be borrowed from other states, via their embassies and cultural centers, to show how these countries have solved their grave problems like combating torture, especially that many countries have progressed in this area; thus those documentaries will be considered as a big media favor.

Afterwards, Mr. Moahmed Al-Badawy, Head of the Field Work Unit at EOHR, has discussed the topic of “The Role of the Civil Society in Combating the Crime of Torture”, as he asserted that civil society organizations are considered to be the main stakeholder in political participation, also these organizations, especially NGOs, play a vital role in the process of spreading a positive political culture within the society, and in defending public rights and freedoms inside the state as well as combating human rights violations.

Mr .Al-Badawy further added that the concept of Civil Society has a long history in political thought and western practices, as the basic principle of civil society refers to an intertwined fabric of connections between civil society from one side and the state from the other side; these connections are based on mutual interests and benefits, mutual contract, mutual consent, mutual agreement and disagreement, rights, duties, and responsibilities, and accountability of the government to civil society organizations. Hence, these connections, in order to be viable, should be embodied in social, economic, cultural, and civil voluntary institutions based on a solid base of the state’s legitimacy, and the existence of means of monitoring and questioning of the government.

Mr. Al-Badawy stressed on the independence of civil society from the state’s supervision; as civil society organizations are characterized with autonomy, regular organizing, collective and individual initiative spirit, collective and voluntary work, enthusiasm to serve public interest, and the protection of the rights of the disenfranchised; and though civil society work raise the status of individuals, the civil society work is based on collectivism through a wide network of cooperative work among its organizations.

Al-Badawy added that with the development of methods of torture, the work of civil society organizations concerned with human rights has developed in return. He also stressed on the important role of these organizations to immediately inform Attorney General to carry out his legal role of reporting immediately about the detention of the suspects and the accused from the citizens, and to follow-up reports about torture and assault incidents in public prosecution and legal medicine to eliminate any security intervention to hide facts.

Al-Badawy proposed a range of mechanisms for the role of civil society in fighting the crime of torture through monitoring the Egyptian government’s commitment to human rights’ agreements, mobilizing public opinion, raising domestic and international awareness of the seriousness of the crime of torture, its effect, and the usage of cruelty against the Egyptian citizens in order to form means of pressure on the authorities to stop these violations, allowing human rights organizations to visit prisons and confinements, and amending the legislative structure.

At the end of the day, Mr. Tarek Zaghlol, Executive Director at EOHR, presented the certificates of the work shop to the trainees. Finally, he asserted that lawyers and journalists are human rights defenders in accordance with international agreements and conventions; therefore they must be familiar with dealing with the crime of torture to defend the rights of victims, as well as facing this crime by any means.

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