In new Egypt, police talk to human rights groups

Reuters News
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Posted: May 20, 2011 1:21 PM
In new Egypt, police talk to human rights groups

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's police, whose credibility was shattered for using excessive force against anti-government protesters who toppled President Hosni Mubarak from power, will give more focus to human rights, the government said on Friday.

Police, who in Mubarak's era, routinely took bribes, used torture to get confessions and crushed opposition, have been on a charm offensive to regain credibility and deal with a security breakdown threatening the country's economic recovery.

The Interior Ministry launched a department to communicate with human rights and civil society groups, in what it says was a reflection of the ministry's keenness to turn a new page.

"The ministry is keen to achieve security in Egypt, while fully respecting human rights and freedoms," Marwan Moustafa, the official spokesman of the Interior Ministry, said in comments carried by state media.

As Egyptians grapple with establishing a democracy, they are faced with a security breakdown that is testing the Arab world's most populous nation's ability to transition to civilian government.

People on the outskirts of Cairo have reported marauding armed gangs, prisoners have staged jail breaks and some Egyptian are buying guns for protection. Restoring security was the priority for Egyptians surveyed for al-Ahram newspaper.

Police were taken off the streets a few days after the uprising erupted on January 25. They had lost control and the army was sent in. Alhough police are back on patrol, their morale and grip on security has been weakened.

The Interior Ministry said the new department would be open to complaints from human rights groups and would investigate violations committed by police officers.

(Reporting by Dina Zayed)