Imposing Security Services By Any Other Name, Part III

Will Egypt's SCAF ever end the abuse?

Do we need any more evidence that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has done nearly nothing to reform the security services in Egypt? With SCAF’s inability (or unwillingness) to push for perhaps the most important post-Mubarak reform, it seems that instead of acting as a vehicle used to peacefully manage the revolution, SCAF has become Mubarak with a different name. While torture and military tribunals continue, the good news is that, finally, Egyptians are willing to speak out against their government. Unfortunately, the current government doesn’t seem to care. From McClatchy:

Egyptian human rights activists say they’ve documented hundreds of cases of civilians tortured by police and army forces since the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, but that none have yet gone to trial.

Under former President Mubarak, the security services were notorious for abuses, but since he left office in February dozens of cases have been filed to the general prosecutor’s office accusing police and military authorities of torture and other crimes against anti-government protesters.

For activists, that’s a sign that the interim military government hasn’t reined in the security forces, which were all-powerful during the Mubarak era. The only difference in post-revolution Egypt, they say, is that victims empowered by the uprising are speaking publicly of their brutal experiences…

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Interior Ministry officials continue to deny any acts of torture. Human rights activists who attended a meeting in June with military officials said that Gen. Hassan El-Roweini, a member of the military council, denied torture by the military police.

“When handed pictures, videos and other material proving torture acts, he promised to investigate the incidents, but he never admitted any wrongdoing by the military police,” said Ragiah Omran, a member of the Egyptian human rights group No Military Trials who attended the meeting.

A few days later, journalist Rasha Azab was summoned to the military prosecutor’s office for questioning about an article she wrote alleging torture by military authorities. After three hours of questioning by the prosecutor, Azab was charged with spreading false rumors and disrupting national stability.

Activists and journalists acknowledge that they have greater freedom to discuss such violations by Egyptian authorities, but reforms haven’t taken place. While the military council is expected to hand power to a civilian government after elections that are due to be announced in September, the Interior Ministry and its police departments remain a concern for rights groups because many police officials from the Mubarak era remain in their posts.

“The government did change its tone since the revolution, but it’s not a matter of conferences and dialogue,” said Heba Morayef, the Human Rights Watch representative in Egypt. “There should be real reform measures, and the Interior Ministry should admit that torture is systematic within the police force.”

Morayef said that transparency was the only way to guarantee real reform. “We have no way of knowing if police officers are even being questioned or punished for such violations,” she said.

Photo from the Guardian

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