Egypt MPs ask parliament to discuss recent police abuse incidents

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 20 Feb 2016

Over 100 MPs submitted the request to parliament in the wake of several incidents involving police abuse

Ali Abdel-Al
Egyptian Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al (File Photo: Reuters)

More than 100 Egyptian MPs said on Saturday that they requested that parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al devote a part of Sunday's plenary session to review the performance of the interior ministry in the wake of several incidents involving police abuse.

The request came after prosecution authorities ordered a number of low-ranking police officers be detained on charges of assaulting doctors at a hospital and killing a citizen in two impoverished Cairo neighbourhoods in recent days.

MPs said in their request that "the arbitrary practices of low-ranking policemen affiliated with the interior ministry have reached a crescendo, and the time has come for a complete overhaul of the performance of the interior ministry to be conducted in parliament."

The MPs also pressed for interior minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar to come before parliament to face questions on the ministry's policies and review possible disciplinary actions for the security apparatus and how ordinary citizens can be protected from any further attacks.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ordered on Friday that legislative amendments be submitted to parliament with the objective of stemming the tide of "irresponsible acts by some members of the police force" against citizens.

MP Ahmed Mostafa Abdel-Wahed from the Nation Guardians Party proposed that police personnel found guilty of assaulting ordinary citizens be referred to military trials.

In response, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Magdi El-Agati told reporters Saturday that "the interior ministry will be the one responsible for translating President El-Sisi's orders into proposed legislative amendments."

"As far as I understand, the proposed amendments should be presented to parliament within 15 days," said El-Agati.

He also indicated that he expects that the proposed amendments will include amending the interior ministry's internal code of conduct and forming "disciplinary councils" with the task of imposing penalties on police who use excessive force.\

"However, I do not think that these amendments will include referring police personnel to military trials because this goes against the new constitution and because military trials apply to military people and central security forces only," said El-Agati.

El-Agati argued that "if disciplinary councils were formed in the interior ministry, it would be able to take all measures necessary to put all those responsible for arbitrary practices to account."

MP Abdel-Wahed said violation of citizens’ rights by low-ranking police officers have sharply increased in recent weeks.

"Three weeks ago, police personnel stormed a public hospital in Matariya [in East Cairo]," said Abdel-Wahed, adding that "the killing of an ordinary citizen at the hands of a low-ranking policeman in Darb El-Ahmar district on Thursday should ring alarm bells."

Abdel-Wahed said there is a pressing need now to review the performance of the security apparatus as a whole.

"While we highly appreciate that policemen sacrifice their lives fighting terrorism in Sinai and other Egyptian governorates, we also warn that arbitrary practices by the security apparatus could tarnish the image of the interior ministry as a whole," said Abdel-Wahed.

MP Anwar Al-Sadat has asked interior minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar to submit his resignation.

"Minister Abdel-Ghaffar should bear the political responsibility of the grave deterioration in the performance of the interior ministry," said Sadat, citing "a dramatic rise in the level of irresponsible behaviour on the part of policemen who resort to practicing torture and random killing."

"My advice to Minister Abdel-Ghaffar is that if you are not able to contain the arbitrary practices of the security apparatus, it is better that you and other ministry officials submit you resignation and before things get out of control," said Sadat.

Atef Makhaleef, an independent MP representing the Matariya district, said his proposed amendments of the penal code suggest that police personnel found guilty of violating citizen rights face harsh penalties, such as lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines.

"I also propose that the interior ministry be entirely restructured to prevent low-ranking officers... from randomly and illegally arresting citizens... and using torture in prison cells,” Makhaleef said.

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