Regular policing is related to everyday crime. The problem here is that the way defendants are treated is illegal in some cases. I think in the future this type of treatment will change because we cannot say that someone is a criminal unless this has been proven in the investigation. The treatment must be humane. When defendants are sentenced to a jail term, for instance, the prisons must be under the control of the Ministry of Justice, not the Ministry of Interior, and at the same time they need to be open to human rights organizations, in the sense that they are ready for inspection at any moment. Apply acceptable standards at the human level. I imagine that the People’s Assembly will have a role in this process, as will the Ministry of Justice and civil society, which will have the right to inspect prisons and see how they are managed and how they deal with ordinary defendants.
What is behind the current security problems in Egypt, especially the sectarian problems? Is this a counter-revolution, or do the problems reflect fundamental issues in Egyptian society?
I’m not one of those who believe that what happened recently was due to the involvement of remnants of the National Democratic Party. This may have had an impact, but I do not think it is the main reason. The main reason is that this kind of friction between Muslims and Copts has been around since way before the revolution, and has maybe been going continuously for the past 50 years. It reflects a societal problem. This leads us to look for a way to manage society itself in a peaceful way that does not lead to clashes between different communities.
The Copts have rights that must be respected, and they must be treated as citizens, not as Copts. The constitution should state that citizenship is the foundation, not religion. I imagine that there are some problems that must be solved quickly, but until a new constitution is put in place, it must be stressed that citizenship, not religion, is the basis for dealing with a human being. Citizenship gives the same opportunities to Copts and Muslims, to everyone on Egyptian soil. There must be some kind of equality. There needs to be a mechanism for solving the problems that are occurring now, either through the state or through the people themselves somehow. Some problems must be resolved by the masses, not always by the government.
Now there are attempts of this kind, but a coherent framework still has not been built. We see problems periodically recurring, and they will keep recurring unless they are solved for once and for all. Copts must have equal rights in terms of government and employment opportunities. Regarding their chances in the overall political system, they should have their own parties, although I am not enthusiastic about setting up parties on a religious basis. I do not think that these parties should be based on a purely Coptic or a purely Islamic foundation. They need broad participation. This means that Muslims and Copts should respect religion in political issues, but at the same time religion should not be the basis for the political process in Egypt.
How will relations develop in the future between an elected government and the security sector? Is civilian oversight of the security sector, including the armed forces, possible in Egypt?
Civilian oversight of the security sector is an inevitable process. Security is distinct from other sectors in that it is armed. The other sectors may not be armed, but the security sector is, and therefore its actions should be governed by the people and the state in general. For this reason, there needs to be popular and official oversight through the government. Any departure from this is a departure from the Constitution, and may lead to completely unacceptable results. There was a committee in parliament overseeing the security sector, but this committee didn’t really do its job. It held one very brief meeting once a year and that was it. It also didn’t have enough experts to handle the security agencies and evaluate their performance. We could also say that the media was extremely sensitive about dealing with this subject, and therefore could not criticize the bad or reward the good. All of this suggests that there should be comprehensive oversight of these agencies in the future. This should be at the parliamentary level, with the People’s Assembly taking their job seriously. The People’s Assembly must have the right to talk to the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Interior, or whoever is responsible for the state’s intelligence agencies, whether they are concerned with foreign intelligence or domestic intelligence. This method should be supported and must continue in the same direction in the future.
I mentioned the role of the media and press, and culture and art must also have some role in overseeing such things. In the past you did see art playing this role. For instance, plays and movies could be subtly critical and people would understand, but it wouldn’t lead anywhere. People would smile and recognize the problem, but then nothing else would happen. I think that the roles of culture, information, and parliament are all crucial to controlling the security agencies and letting them know what people think about them, not just what the security agencies believe about themselves.