President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi praised the performance of the police during his visit to the Police Academy on Thursday, asserting that they play a major role in ensuring the stability of the country.
Sisi urged against blaming entire systems for isolated incidents. “There are 300 police stations across Egypt, violations only occur in one or two. Anyway, I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to thank you,” he said.
Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar declared Wednesday that committees would be formed inside the ministry to monitor the performance of police officers in prisons and detention facilities.
The new committees will be tasked with monitoring the performance of police officers, particularly concerning their interaction with citizens. They will also investigate any alleged violations in coordination with a National Security department tasked with releasing periodic reports on police performance, Ghaffar told the privately owned Youm7 newspaper.
He explained officers could be suspended by the ministry’s monitoring and control division, which has been authorized to determine appropriate punishments for offending police personnel.
“We penalize officers for coming five minutes late to work, how come we don’t penalize them for violating the rights of the Egyptian people?” Ghaffar asked, asserting that there would be no cover up efforts from the ministry concerning police violations.
Ghaffar’s comments follow a series of cases in police stations where detainees were reportedly tortured, leading to their deaths. This triggered mounting public anger against police practices across Egypt, especially in Luxor and Ismailia, where police were reportedly involved in torturing two citizens to death.
Such anger has transcended the usual circles of activists and human rights advocates, according to Dina al-Khawaga, professor of political science at Cairo University.
“They don’t care about activists protests, but once the average citizen takes to the streets, they take it seriously and make accommodating measures,” Khawaga asserted.
On Wednesday, a new torture case involving a minor in Shubra al-Kheima Police Station was reported. Hagar Mohamed told the privately owned Al-Tahrir newspaper that she was beaten, handcuffed and threatened with rape for hours on Thursday to force her to confess that she stole her aunt’s jewelry.
Even after prosecution ordered her release, police officers refused, and one reportedly asked her to show him her breast. “I asked him if he would accept this to happen to his daughter and he said, ‘My daughter is your age, but she is not as beautiful as you’,” she said in a video interview with Al-Tahrir.
Last week, thousands of protesters in Ismailia and Luxor governorates protested the deaths of Afify Hosny and Talaat Shabeeb, allegedly at the hands of officers in police stations. ًMohamed Ibrahim, who was accused of killing Hosny, was jailed pending investigations by the prosecution, but five officers working in Luxor Security Directorate who were implicated in killing Shabeeb were merely transferred to other cities.
Social media users launched the hashtag #مفيش_حاتم_بيتحاكم (No Hatem is sent to trial), which started as a slogan used by graffiti artists in Luxor. Hatem is the low-ranking police officer played by late actor Khaled Saleh in the film Heya Fawda (Chaos, 2007), directed by Youssef Chahine and Khaled Youssef, which addresses Mubarak-era police brutality and corruption.
Associate Director at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Heba Morayef, explained to Mada Masr that promises of monitoring police practices is a “typical response” from the ministry to accusations of torture.
“This is so 2010. Resorting to internal human rights committees whose penalties are mostly administrative is a normal attitude by the Interior Ministry to evade any real implementation of criminal justice or accountability,” she explained.
Although incidents of police torture did decrease in 2011 because many police officers were trialed for the killing of protesters, they were all later acquitted, Morayef added, including former President Hosni Mubarak and his security aides.
She emphasized the need for external monitoring by independent bodies like human rights organizations, or even the National Council of Human Rights (NCHR), explaining that the NCHR cannot currently conduct spot checks on police stations or prisons, as they require authorization from the public prosecution and Interior Ministry.
She asserts, “Such internal monitoring techniques may have an impact, but it will always remain minimal, it will never get close to real accountability.”