April 28, 2009 -- Outrage in the human rights community continues to grow after an ABC News investigation last week revealed a chilling videotape of a Royal Sheikh from the United Arab Emirates mercilessly and sadistically torturing a man with whips, cattle prods, and lighter fluid. Human Rights Watch on Tuesday sent a letter to the President of the UAE demanding that the incident be properly investigated and prosecuted.
The UAE Ministry of the Interior acknowledged to ABC News that it had reviewed the tape and that Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, the brother of the country's crown prince, had been involved in the incident. But, the ministry said "the incidents depicted in the video tapes were not part of a pattern of behavior." The Minister of the Interior is also one of Sheikh Issa's brothers.
Also appearing on the videotape , a man in a UAE police uniform who ties the victim's arms and legs and later holds him down as Sheikh Issa pours salt on the man's wounds and then drives over him with a Mercedes Benz SUV.
The UAE government's statement said its review found that "all rules, policies, and procedures were followed correctly by the Police Department."
But Human Rights Watch writes that the actions of the officer violate the state's Constitution, as well as international human rights law.
"The actions by the police, which included tying Mr. Poor's arms and legs to facilitate torture and restraining him as Sheikh [Issa] al Nahyan poured salt on the wounds, are tantamount to state complicity in the torture; as the officer appeared in full police uniform, his actions appear to be under the color of law," stated the letter penned by Sarah Leah Whitson, an executive director at HRW.
Human Rights Watch calls on the UAE President to establish an independent commission to investigate Sheikh Issa and the policeman involved and to allow that commission to recommend criminal prosecutions or disciplinary action.
"Since the Ministry [of the Interior] is satisfied with the police department's flawed investigation, believes the matter is closed, and appears to be uninterested in seeking justice against the perpetrators of this heinous crime, I respectfully urge you, as President of the United Arab Emirates, to move without delay to ensure the establishment of an independent counsel or commission," writes Whitson.
Secretary of State Clinton Still Mum on Tape
Last week, the co-chairman of the House Human Rights Commission, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), said in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the tape "shocks the conscience" and demanded she "express the outrage of our nation regarding these acts, and call for an end to the impunity that has provided Sheikh Issa the freedom and license to carry out such heinous acts without the fear of legal reprisal or consequences."
McGovern, who repeatedly referred to ABC News' investigation on Nightline and was interviewed for the initial story, said the existence of the torture tape requires the U.S. to take action.
In his letter to Clinton, he requested she investigate whether a Department of Homeland Security official stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, who was reportedly shown the torture tape by the Houston businessman who smuggled it out of the UAE, brought the tape to the attention of higher-ranking officials and "what action these higher-ranking officers then undertook, if any."
So far, the State Department has remained mum on the issue of the tape.