Torture and police, what now?

in «Politics & Human Rights» by mostafa

Warning! This post is very old and may contain information or opinions that are no longer valid or embarrassing.

AlJazeera English Inside Story aired a 25 minutes interview with psychiatrist Dr. Ahmed Okasha, Hisham Safie Eldin a former police officer and Wael Omar a film maker about torture and the relationship between people and the police.

The program showed some footage of police officers and policemen protesting in the past few days. But didn't interview anyone from El Nadim centre for rehabilitation of victims of torture, which is the only centre in Egypt that worked in psychological and medical rehabilitation of victims of torture and police violence, documented incidents of torture through tens of publications and provides legal aid n(I worked there for 3 years).

Not even anyone from any human rights organisation who may have worked with victims of torture was interviewed.

This made the program overlook many aspects of why torture is systematic in the country and didn't mention any of the reports of torture in the hands of the military police that are being reported in the past few weeks.

Dr. Okasha attributed the problems to lack of trust between people and the police due to the previous practices of the police in the past. And that some officers enjoyed the torture as a form of sadism. He also went on saying that torture is enjoyable to torturers because of opiates released in the brain and so on.

The entire program also felt like that the police should do something about itself because of the events of the past few weeks. And that's also the message in state media. The reality is that they should do something about the past 30 years of dark bloody history of torture, murder, abuse and intimidation of an entire nation. They should do something about their branch of secret police that uses torture as the default method for investigation and operates extra-legally (or under emergency laws if you like) to kidnap people.

What was totally missed in this programme is that police officers work in an environment of total impunity. This is on a legislative level and policy level.

Article 126 of the criminal code, which defines torture in Egyptian law isn't compatible with the international definition of torture and thus leaves many incidents to be considered as misuse of force. Requests to change this article in the parliament was denied more than once.

In the case of Khaled Said the entire regime was determined to stand behind an obvious crime with all it's dirty tactics. It pushed forensic specialists to write lies in their forensic reports, not once but twice. Pushed it's media to launch a smear campaign against Khaled and his family.

Victims of torture who try to ask for their rights by seeking human rights groups or centres are intimidated by phone calls from the department in the ministry of interior designed to receive complaints. Or by the police officers themselves who threaten people and their families.

The prosecution and judiciary don't have people to go and arrest officers except the police force itself. Which makes it weak in front of the police force and in cases of state security officers the ministry of interior responds with saying that they don't have anyone working with that name or description. There are also cases of collusion between the prosecution and police.

Currently the army and state media are trying to send a message to people to trust the police force again so they can bring some rule of law to the country. But they miss the point, there was no rule of law before 25th of January because it wasn't applied to the ruling elite and the police.

Therefore, the government should bring every single person responsible for 30 years of injustice and brutality to justice first. Dissolve the state security apparatus, make the files available (this happened with the Stasi in East Germany) for a judicial commission that will ensure a fair trail for people listed there.

What the government and army want will not happen. Firstly because people are not naive and one of the messages sent by people of Tahrir square was no to torture. Secondly, with the old regime still in power in the cabinet and the military command council which it's own military police and intelligence are being accused of torture in the past few weeks.

Sending lame SMS messages asking people to cooperate with the police without any real solid accountability to past crimes and hanging blame on the former minister of interior only isn't going to make people change their opinion. Responding to the protests by policemen first and raising their wages before other workers will make people angrier.

The reason Mubarak's government tortured normal people, whether they are politically active or not is because it was a source of power. Torture was for them a way to enforce their power and control.