Western news outlets have finally turned their attention to Egypt's unjust detention policy, following the arrest - without charge - of two Canadian filmmakers but, as Eihab Boraie explains, the problem is bigger than John Greyson and Tarek Loubani.
These days, Egypt's is faced with myriad of problems and while the constitutional committee worries about the constitution, the most pressing issue of unjustified detentions is left untouched. For far too long, the enforcement of the rule of law in this land has been consistently abused by the very same authority responsible for enforcing it. The policy of ‘arrest first and find a charge later’ has been the standard procedure in Egypt for decades, and is only effective in fuelling anger and destroying Egypt's image.
Recently, Egypt's detention policy has been garnering a lot of negative attention around the globe. The reason for the spotlight is because of the police continuing to flippantly arresting foreigners without charge, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Case in point is the story of Canadian filmmakers John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani, who are currently on their sixteenth day of a hunger strike at the Torah Prison.The two Canadians were arrested on August 16th at Ramses Square. Cecilia Greyson, John’s sister, told CBC that "John and Tarek were simply witnesses on August 16th to a very bloody series of demonstrations where Tarek was trying to do emergency medical care simply because he was there and people needed a doctor."
The pair were on their way to Gaza, but found themselves stuck in Cairo when the border was closed. They were staying at a hotel Ramses Square and decided to check out what was happening when they heard there were demonstrations nearby. According to the statement made by the pair, Loubani began helping the injured, at one point performing CPR, while Greyson filmed the scenes. They say they witnessed the deaths of at least 50 people. As they attempted to leave the scene they found themselves cordoned off from the hotel and decided to ask for help at a checkpoint.
“That's when we were arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a 'Syrian terrorist', slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries...” according to Mohamed, Tarek's brother. The detention of these two notable Canadians has sparked protests in various cities in Canada, demanding the government take action. The Canadian foreign minister claims that they are in close contact with Egyptian officials and are very disappointed to hear that there detention has been extended once more, but this time for another 45 days, as of September 29th.
Unfortunately, this is not a unique case, and releasing these two will not solve the ongoing problems facing Egypt's justice system. Security forces have a tendency to believe that all foreigners that are found in heated areas are spies or foreign mercenaries. This rarely ever turns out to be the case but, in the mind of an officer, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Almost every day we find a story of somebody being arrested for no good reason. One day, a French man was beaten to death in a prison after breaking curfew. Another day, a man gets arrested for naming his donkey Sisi. On one particulary strange day, they arrest a stork for being a spy. Yes, you heard correctly. A stork who was found not guilty but was eaten anyways. Stupid arrests are trending here and there is no way that Egyptian jails are designed to handle the influx of prisoners. As a result, there is no way that any of them are being treated humanely.
It is downright shameful that the only time the world shines a spotlight on the issue is when foreigners are involved. Thousands of Egyptians have been arrested without charge since June 30th and face even worse abuse then foreigners that are imprisoned. As a Canadian, I would love nothing more than to have these two wrongfully imprisoned Canadians released, but as an Egyptian I feel that the problem is a lot bigger than these two and that an overhaul on arresting and trial procedures, as well as prison abuses are long overdue.