Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1321, (24 - 30 November 2016)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1321, (24 - 30 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial: Crime against humanity

Al-Ahram Weekly

The death of an ordinary Egyptian citizen in Al-Amiriya Police Station is a heinous crime that we must not forget. That appalling incident belongs to a time before the rise of the humanitarian spirit, to types of government that have dwindled down to a handful of regimes that are censured and ostracised by the international community. It is a crime that is a stain on the reputation of our nation.

The victim was a simple, lower class Egyptian, which is to say from the poorest sector of society. Magdi Makeen worked as a cart driver in the fish market. This was not a sectarian crime; it was a crime against humanity. Makeen was tortured to death not because he was Christian but because he was poor.

According to a statement by a Ministry of Justice official, the burial permit for Makeen states that he died due to “circulatory collapse”, but no further details are mentioned. But then, the victim’s family revealed shocking imagery of alleged torture marks on the body of the deceased, precipitating widespread rumours and denunciations of the coroner’s report, which has yet to be released, but which many have come to believe will be drafted in a way to exonerate the police in advance of any investigation.

The murder by torture of Magdi Makeen furnishes concrete proof of the types of practices that some policemen still use in their dealings with Egyptian citizens. This can have very dangerous repercussions for the country, both domestically and abroad.

We are fully aware that the Egyptian police is a national and patriotic agency and that most of its membership works in accordance with the law. But this does not negate the fact that there have been many cases, such as that of the police captain who allegedly killed Madgi Makeen using methods of torture that date from the Ottoman era. These cases will be used to sully the reputation of the government and the nation, a process that will continue the more we hear of incidents of murder under physical abuse and torture or by police-issued firearms, as has occurred in various parts of the country in the past few months.

What is needed now is for the Ministry of Interior to determine exactly what happened. It must not intervene in the investigatory process or attempt to influence witnesses, it must present the facts in full to the public and it must do all in its power to ensure that the perpetrator receives the punishment he deserves, so this can serve as a deterrent to others. The Ministry of Interior acted well when it took the initiative to suspend the accused from work until investigations are over. But, in keeping with the principles of responsibility and accountability, the interior minister should also take the initiative to issue an apology to the Egyptian people for the fact that one of his employees stands accused of committing such an atrocity.

The minister should bear in mind that he is a public official charged by the president and parliament with the performance of the duties of his office. Neither he nor members of his ministry are masters; nor are the Egyptian people — and especially their poor — his or his ministry’s slaves. In fact, the Egyptian people are sovereign. They own the mandate that they gave to the president and the House of Representatives, which gave its vote of confidence to the government so that it can exercise its duties in the pursuit of the interests and welfare of the people.

As a member of this government, the interior minister swore to uphold the constitution and the law when he took the oath of office. This is all the more reason why he should issue an official apology to the Egyptian people. He should simultaneously pledge to the people never to conceal such wrongdoings and to publicise the facts in their entirety. In the event of anything less than this, the whole government may end up paying the price for that appalling crime, which is something we neither support nor desire.

Actually, the Ministry of Interior will be the first to benefit by bringing outlaws among its staff to justice. The starting point for this is to demonstrate its seriousness in publicising the information it has available and to take the necessary measures called for by law against the accused. It does not harm the ministry that one of its members or even some of its members have been implicated in crimes. The harm comes from failing to appreciate the crucial point that bringing wrongdoers within its own ranks to justice benefits it. By stringently observing this duty, the ministry will ensure the ongoing respect of the public which, in turn, will help it in the performance of its mission to protect the people while, conversely, going easy on wrongdoers works to tarnish the reputation of all honest policemen who put their lives at risk as they defend the public against crime and terrorism.

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