Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1274, (10 - 16 December 2015)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1274, (10 - 16 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Police under fire

The Interior Ministry has formed committees to monitor police performance following a spate of torture accusations, report Ahmed Morsy

Police under fire
Police under fire
Al-Ahram Weekly

“The entire apparatus cannot be judged on the basis of isolated incidents. There are 300 police stations in Egypt and violations that occur in one or two of them do not implicate them all,” said President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi during a visit to the Police Academy on Thursday.

He continued, “But I’m not here to deliver such a message, I’m here to thank you for your efforts in securing the parliamentary elections.”

Al-Sisi’s comments come amid growing concern over the alleged torture of detainees in police stations.

A day earlier, Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar told reporters that the ministry is setting up internal committees to monitor the actions of police officers in prisons and other detention centres.

The committees, said Abdel-Ghaffar, will monitor the performance of police officers, especially their interaction with the public, and will be authorised to investigate any violations. It will then be up to the ministry’s Monitoring and Control Division to determine the punishment for police personnel found guilty of any violation.

Recent cases of alleged torture in police stations have led to increased criticism of policing practices across Egypt. The latest incidents, in Luxor and Ismailia, where police have been accused of torturing two detainees to death, have fed concerns.

In Luxor last week, Taha Shabib, a 47-year-old father of four, is said to have been beaten to death within hours of his arrest in a coffee shop in the Awamiya district. His family learned he had died when his body was transferred to Luxor’s International Hospital.

His death sparked violent clashes between police and citizens and on Friday hundreds of people took to the streets of Luxor to protest Shabib’s treatment. Four policemen who have been accused of torturing Shabib have been transferred to a different governorate until investigations into the incident are complete.

In the same week, in Ismailia, a police officer raided a pharmacy and assaulted its owner, veterinarian Afifi Hosni. Hosni was then taken to a police station where it is alleged he was again assaulted, sustaining injuries that led to his death. The officer involved in the incident has been suspended by the Interior Ministry pending investigations.

Earlier, in Qalioubiya, officers at Shibin Al-Qanater police station were accused of beating Amr Abu Shanab to death. The officers have denied the accusation and claim that Shanab had underlying health issues and fell into a coma as medics were trying to save his life. Abu Shanab’s lawyer, and the young man’s family, reject the police account and have accused officers of pistol-whipping Shanab.

Last week, in Sixth of October City, a traffic policeman was remanded into custody for four days pending investigations over allegations that he violently beat a microbus driver and threatened to frame him on charges of drug possession.

Hassan Gomaa was driving pupils to school when he was stopped by the police officer. Students’ parents filmed the officer swearing at the driver before punching him in the face and threatening to frame him for drug possession.

The officer was apparently angry because Gomaa’s microbus had blocked his path. The microbus driver was then taken to a police station where the officer began to file drug possession charges, only for the parents to arrive and submit their video footage.

Al-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence documented tens of torture cases inside prisons in November. “In November, nine detainees were reported to have died during torture while three [died] after being refused adequate medical care,” said a report published by the Centre last week.

In the same week, the government-affiliated National Council for Human Rights released a statement condemning the death of three civilians in police stations after they were allegedly tortured. The council says it is monitoring the situation and called for the punishment of any officers found accountable.

“Anyone who committed a wrongdoing will be punished,” Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said during a cabinet meeting last week.

Despite growing public concern, the interior minister insists that “violations committed by police personnel can be counted on the fingers on one hand.” He denied there was any evidence of systematic torture in police stations and refuted Al-Naddem Centre’s report of “forced disappearances.”

Abu-Bakr Abdel-Karim, deputy minister for public relations and media, claimed the ministry handles all allegations against its personnel transparently. “We will not allow our image to be tarnished, or the sacrifices of policemen undermined,” he said.

The Socialist Popular Alliance Party has called for the interior minister to be sacked. In a statement issued last week the party said that the torture and killing of citizens inside police stations is part of a concerted policy to instill fear in the public.

“Security forces are attempting to reverse the gains of the January revolution when the people overcame their fear of the police. The police are now taking revenge on the people for taking part in the revolution,” said the statement.

Tagammu Party leader Hussein Abdel Razeq criticised the Interior Ministry in an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm daily for “taking advantage of the people’s solidarity with the police in their battle against terrorism and trying to reinstate its old practices.”

Torture is forbidden by Egypt’s 2014 Constitution. Article 52 states that “torture in all its forms is a crime with no statute of limitations.”

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