A video broadcast by Al Jazeera Thursday apparently showed an Egyptian police van charging into a crowd of peaceful protesters.
Egypt’s police have largely vanished as a visible presence in Cairo since protesters took over Tahrir Square, but many have accused them of simply going underground and working to lead pro-Mubarak mobs in attacking peaceful gatherings.
Starting on January 25, Egyptians have been clashing with police in a series of dramatic flare-ups that resulted in President Mubarak announcing his intent to retire at the end of his term in September.
Members of the police force were also behind attempts at looting Cairo’s invaluable museum, according to Human Rights Watch.
Police identification cards were also found on other looters around Cairo and Egypt. Bouckaert implied that police forces may have been responsible for the escape of thousands of prisoners, describing it as “unexplainable.”
“The locals say the only people with weapons are police who’ve taken off their uniforms and are responsible for most of the looting and crime,” Human Rights Watch deputy director for Middle East and North Africa Division Joe Stork wrote from Suez Sunday.
“Mubarak’s mantra to his own people was that he was the guarantor of the nation’s stability,” Bouckaert said. “It would make sense that he would want to send the message that without him, there is no safety.”
US diplomatic cables published by secrets outlet WikiLeaks showed that Egypt’s police are an infamous and feared organization.
In one leaked cable, an Egyptian human rights activist, whose name was redacted by WikiLeaks, said the US government’s number one human rights priority in Egypt should be urging the government of Egypt to combat the use of torture by its police force.
Although Article 42 of Egypt’s constitution prohibits the infliction of “physical or moral harm” upon persons who have been arrested or detained, the human rights activist told US diplomats that police torture was pervasive. He blamed the Interior Ministry of Egypt for putting pressure on officers to extract confessions “by any means necessary.”
During murder investigations police regularly round up 40 to 50 suspects from a neighborhood and hang them by their arms until they obtain a confession from someone, according to the cable.
Another leaked cable notes that “credible human rights lawyers believe police brutality continues to be a pervasive, daily occurrence in [Egyptian] detention centers, and that [the State Security Investigative Service] has adapted to increased media and blogger focus on police brutality by hiding the abuse and pressuring victims not to bring cases.”
The video below is provided with little context due to the chaotic nature of events transpiring. It is unclear when and where this took place, and a translation was not immediately available.
It would appear to be an example of the callous and indeed cruel treatment Egyptian protesters are subject to in their campaign of resistance against Mubarak.
This video was published to YouTube on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Warning: Graphic violence.