National Police Day in Egypt a troubling holiday

National Police Day in Egypt a troubling holiday

When the police day in Egypt was first brought to attention, it was a stunning reminder of the arrogance of the Egyptian government. Shocking to say the least, that a government that continually denies the abuses of its police force would bring forth a holiday in their honor. Activists and human rights advocates undoubtedly laughed at the notion that today, January 25, 2010, would be a day-off in commemoration of the police in this country; their abuses and torture of average citizens fresh in everyones’ mind.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) held a press conference in Cairo on Sunday, and while they probably did not schedule the meeting to coincide with Monday’s holiday, their words of warning and calls for greater rights and freedoms in the country could not have come at a more opportune moment. Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, told a small audience of journalists and rights workers of the injustices of the Egyptian government, highlighting the use of torture in Egyptian prisons.

Then, I had a conversation with Ramy Raouf, a leading human rights advocate and blogger, who talked of the government report to be sent to the United Nations for review this February. He said the government admits to torture; well, not really. The report says there have been 12 cases of torture in the past five years in the country. Right, because the hundreds of documented cases that local media and rights groups have reported are not torture. It is an appalling state of affairs in Egypt.

Instead of dwelling on the history, which is well-known to most who scour the Internet for details on torture and police harassment, it is a time to look forward and understand how to make Egypt a better place for all to live. Let us focus on Egypt’s leading blogger and activist, Wael Abbas, who now faces imprisonment for upsetting his neighbor who happened to be related to a police officer.

According to Raouf, Abbas’ neighbor claims his Internet line was spliced by Abbas. This, of course, would not lead to imprisonment, but when your name is Wael Abbas, anything can get you in trouble. So, the neighbor called his police relative and pressed charges. The police simply trumped up fabricated charges against the blogger and a court upheld the ruling to sentence the man to 6 months in jail. Come on, they can’t be serious, you are asking. Oh, but they are.

Abbas faces a final trial date in the coming weeks and if his lawyers are unable to reverse the verdict, he will see the inside of a jail cell. With all the torture and abuses Abbas has reported on his blog in recent years, jail will not be a welcome vacation. Police will certainly take advantage of the situation and carry out further abuse and torture against Egypt’s stalwart defender of the average citizen.

So, what needs to happen is this. Cairo must understand that if they want to gain the respect of the international community and tackle the real problems, the police force needs to be purged. No longer can they stand to witness more reports of violence, torture, rape and harassment by the already dirtied hands of police officers in this country. If their arrogance continues, there is no hope for a Egypt that transcends sectarian and divisions, instead, it will be a country full of hate and disappointment.

Happy Police Day to all and to all a good night.

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