Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1284, (25 February - 2 March 2016))
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1284, (25 February - 2 March 2016))

Ahram Weekly

Policing the police

New legislation is being drafted to help curb police excesses, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Following a meeting with Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail announced that the cabinet will draft new legislation in an attempt to curb violations by the police.

“The proposed legal changes will regulate the security services’ performance and the relationship between the public and police,” said Abdel-Ghaffar.

The move follows a number of widely reported incidents of police abuse of power. On Friday President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi instructed Abdel-Ghaffar to address “irresponsible acts by some members of the police force”, and asked him to prepare legislation to curb malpractice within 15 days, according to presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef.

“The powers given to the security forces are intended to protect the lives and property of citizens within a framework of mutual respect between the police and citizens,” Youssef said.

He described recent violations as “irresponsible acts that affect the rest of the patriotic police apparatus”.  He continued, “New legislation is necessary to control security forces and ensure anyone who abuses his position is brought to justice.”

Al-Sisi demanded that Abdel-Ghaffar act to curb police malpractice a day after a low-ranking policeman shot dead a man in the Cairo district of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar. Policeman Mostafa Abdel-Hakim shot 24-year-old truck driver Mohamed Ismail in the head following a dispute over money.

Immediately following the incident, the Cairo Security Directorate issued a statement saying that the fatal shot was fired accidentally.

 “A low-ranking policeman was accompanying his relative to buy some goods and when both were uploading goods to a truck they had a fight with the driver,” the statement said.  “The policeman pulled his gun to end the fight and control the crowd but a bullet came out of the gun by mistake, killing the taxi driver.”

Abdel-Hakim is now facing murder charges. He is said to have told investigators that he shot Ismail when the driver tried to charge more that the LE30 they had agreed on for the journey.

Following Ismail’s death, thousands of people demonstrated in front of the Cairo Security Directorate, shouting anti-police slogans. In an attempt to calm the situation, the head of the Cairo Security Directorate met with Ismail’s sister on Saturday. The following day Abdel-Ghaffar met with Ismail’s parents at the Interior Ministry’s headquarters to offer his condolences.

On Saturday, a policeman was reported to have killed his neighbour during a dispute in the Giza district of Al-Khosoos. The policeman has been detained on suspicion of committing murder. Earlier this month, thousands of doctors staged a demonstration to protest police assaults on two doctors at Al-Matareya Hospital.

Under former president Hosni Mubarak, the torture of suspects by members of the police was an open secret. The beating death of Khaled Said by policemen in the middle of the day on an Alexandrian street was one of the catalysts of the uprising that toppled Mubarak. The public was appalled not just by the brutal murder but by the way the Interior Ministry at first denied that the incident had taken place and then cooked up false forensic reports.

Last August, hundreds of low-ranking policemen took part in a sit-in at the Zagazig Security Directorate, forcing the closure of six police stations. Among their demands were better health care and the payment of incentive bonuses that had been withheld. In February 2014, police protested in Alexandria and Kafr Al-Sheikh, forcing the temporary closure of the Kafr Al-Sheikh Security Directorate. They too were demanding better pay and working conditions.

Security expert Brigadier General Khaled Okasha believes legislation is necessary to ensure low-ranking policemen “respect human rights and act within the law”.

Media coverage of recent incidents of the police abusing their powers has become increasingly strident. On Saturday TV host Wael Al-Ebrashi invited seven leaders from the Coalition of Low-ranking Policemen onto his show to give the policemen’s version of events.

On the way to the studio, however, the policemen were arrested. General Prosecutor Nabil Sadek ordered all seven to be detained for 15 days pending investigations. The prosecution has accused them of inciting strike action at their work places, organising illegal protests, and belonging to a group that is seeking to undermine the police force.

Al-Ebrashi condemned the arrests as a “crime” and an act “not befitting the Interior Ministry”. On Sunday, policemen demonstrated in solidarity with the seven detainees in front of the Security Directorate in Al-Sharqiyah.

Omanaa Masr, a Facebook page for low-ranking policemen, posted a statement following the arrests saying that low-ranking policemen would “not be the scapegoats on which the Interior Ministry blames its corruption”.

The statement added that the policemen behind the page would “reveal corruption within the ministry at any cost’’. Within hours of being posted, the page was shut down by the Interior Ministry.

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