Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1307, (11- 17 August 2016)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1307, (11- 17 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Parliament approves new police law

The performance of the Interior Ministry was scrutinised by parliament this week, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

On Sunday MPs approved in principle long overdue amendments to the Police Law (109/1971). According to a report prepared by parliament’s National Defence Committee, the changes address police abuses.

“The amendments will hold police officers accountable for irresponsible acts that violate the codes set by the Interior Ministry and security apparatuses,” said the report.

The amendments come in the wake of several widely published instances of police abuse of power, including the shooting of citizens by policemen.

“The changes are intended to deal with the tiny minority of police whose actions create antagonism between members of the public and the security apparatus,” said the report.

According to Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdel-Mulla the amendments will compel police officers to respect the constitution and human rights. “All police officers are obliged to observe the constitution’s articles on respect of human rights, freedom, human dignity and democratic values,” said Abdel-Mulla.

He added that the changes will oblige the Interior Ministry to issue periodical reports on how freedoms and rights enshrined in the new constitution are being maintained. “Police officers will be required to ensure they do not abuse the rights of citizens or treat them in a way that might harm their dignity and tarnish the image of the security apparatus,” said Abdel-Mulla.

“Police officers should be disciplined, capable of exercising self-restraint and strictly implementing orders,” added the deputy minister.

Mustafa Sayed Ahmed, head of the Interior Ministry’s Legal Affairs Department, told MPs police officers’ use of force will be severely restricted. They will be allowed to use firearms in very limited conditions, while on service and only when acting in self-defence.

“Police officers must control their reactions. They will now have to be examined and approved by a medical council before being appointed,” said Ahmed.

Fixed penalties will be put in police for any violations of the police codes. “If a police officer is accused of murder, he or she will be referred to prosecution within 24 hours,” said Ahmed. “Violators will also face other penalties, including a 25 per cent reduction in pay, a three year ban on promotion and possible dismissal from the force.” 

Legal changes began to be considered four months ago when two low-ranking police officers were found guilty of shooting a taxi driver and a street vendor. According to Ahmed, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar pushed for security forces to move quickly to improve their public image.

“The amendments will also provide incentives to policemen who excel by guaranteeing promotion and financial bonuses,” said Ahmed.

The committee’s report explained that the changes will uphold article 207 of the 2014 constitution which requires that a Higher Police Council be established to regulate the performance of the police force and guarantee policemen perform their duties in accordance with the law.

“The Higher Police Council will comprise senior members of the security apparatus and the head of the State Council’s department of fatwas and legislation,” said the report. “The council will assist the Interior Minister in drawing up general policies and upgrading overall performance.”

“It will include members capable of crystallising a clear vision to help the Interior Ministry respond quickly to rapid developments in the security sector.”

“When many policemen have sacrificed their lives defending the country against terrorists in North Sinai, something citizens appreciate, it is clearly unfair to blame the Interior Ministry for the failings of a small number of its employees,” said the report.

Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee, said he hoped the changes would lead to a significant improvement in the performance of the Interior Ministry. He also criticised the ministry for continuing to refuse to allow the Human Rights Committee to inspect detention centres, police stations and prisons and for failing to provide exact figures of the number of “political prisoners” and “forced disappearances”.

Abdel-Mulla insisted “most reports on forced disappearances in Egypt” are based on incorrect information.

“These reports are mainly propagated by the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood to tarnish the image of Egypt,” said Abdel-Mulla.

Abdel-Mulla did, however, admit that “Egypt’s prisons have become overcrowded.”

“This is something out of our control. We are currently trying to build new prisons that meet international standards on the rights of prisoners.”

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