(New York) - The announcement by the United Arab Emirates that the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department will conduct an expeditious and "comprehensive review" of   the videotaped torture of an Afghan grain dealer, apparently by a royal family member and the police, is a positive first step in restoring public confidence in the country's criminal justice system, Human Rights Watch said today.

It is essential, however, 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, as urged by Human Rights Watch in its letter sent to the UAE president on April 28, 2009. It should also set up a training program for police on the acceptable use of force.

"It is good that the UAE government is responding quickly," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.  "But the real test of this investigation will be whether it leads to punishment of the people involved in this brutal attack and changes to prevent something like this from happening again." 

The UAE should also ratify the Convention against Torture and publicly and unequivocally renounce the use of torture and physical abuse by the police, others in positions of authority, or private citizens, Human Rights Watch said.