Sheikhs, torture, and videotape

The United Arab Emirates vows to conduct a speedy and "comprehensive review" of the publicized videotaped torture of an Afghan grain dealer, apparently carried out by a member of the royal family and a police man. The clip, made public by ABC News about a week ago, has caused uproar among rights groups and recently attracted much media attention. Reports also say the tape is delaying a civil nuclear deal between the US and the UAE.
Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, brother of the United Arab Emirate's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed © CNN

BEIRUT, April 30, 2009 (MENASSAT) - The notorious clip depicts what apparently is Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, brother of the country's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed, repeatedly beating an Afghan man, Mohammed Shah Poor, with electronic chords, wooden planks, and a whip.

Sheikh Issa then proceeds by pouring salt on the man’s wounds and driving over him with his Mercedes SUV. A man wearing a UAE police uniform is seen on the tape holding Shah Poor down while the Sheikh carries out the torture practices.

It is said that Sheikh Issa was cheated in a deal by Shah Poor, an Afghan grain dealer. But instead of raising a legal case against the man, Sheikh Issa apparently took the law in his own hands and decided on what he thought was a suitable punishment.

In an initial response to the clip, which was smuggled out of the UAE and made available to ABC News, the UAE Ministry of the Interior said in a statement that it had “reviewed the tape and acknowledged the involvement” of Sheikh Issa in the torture incident.

But the Ministry also emphasized that the abuse depicted in the tape was an isolated incident and not "part of a pattern of behavior.”

The Minister of the Interior is also one of Sheikh Issa's brothers.

In the most recent development, the Abu Dhabi government agency issued a statement on Wednesday promising to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the case.

"The Government of Abu Dhabi unequivocally condemns the actions depicted on the video and will conduct a comprehensive review of the matter immediately," read the statement issued by the Judicial Department's Human Rights Office.

The initiative was welcomed by rights groups.

Tape delays US-UAE civil nuclear deal

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the decision as a “positive first step in restoring public confidence in the country’s criminal justice system.”

But in a country where the rulers embody the law, doubts remain over whether justice will prevail.

HRW emphasized the importance of an inquiry into the incident by an independent legal body.

“It is essential that the Judicial Department establish an independent body with authority not only to investigate the torture episode, but also to recommend disciplinary steps or criminal prosecution of all persons implicated in the abuse,” said the organization.

HRW also called on the UAE to ratify the Convention against Torture and establish a training program for the country’s police on the acceptable use of force.

The clip was initially brought to light against Sheikh Issa in a federal civil lawsuit filed in Texas by Bassam Nabulsi, a U.S. citizen. Former business partners, the two men are said to have had a recent falling out, partly over the tape.

Sheikh Issa’s attorny said in a statement to CNN that Nabulsi is trying to influence the court over a dispute regarding a business deal.

On Thursday, US officials said that the torture tape is delaying the ratification of a civil nuclear deal between the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

According to CNN, the officials claimed the administration is currently holding off on the ratification process because it believes “sensitivities over the story can hurt its passage.”

The civil nuclear agreement was signed in January between the United Arab Emirates and the Bush administration, but the deal must now be recertified by the Obama administration. Obama has yet to sign the document, which should have reached the Capitol by now, according to US officials. They also say the deal has deliberately not yet been sent to Congress for ratification.

See the video here.

Warning: the tape contains disturbing material.