TIMEP Strongly Condemns Continuation of Egyptian Government’s 2012-2013 NGO Trial

03/17/2016 . By TIMEP

Update: February 9, 2017

On Thursday, February 9, Egyptian authorities closed El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, a local nongovernmental organization defending the rights of victims of violence. The center’s work is particularly valuable regarding the issue of torture practices conducted by Egyptian police and security forces, as it regularly releases reports and data on mistreatment and killings taking place within Egypt’s prisons. El Nadeem also provides legal, medical, and psychological rehabilitation services for Egypt’s victims of torture.

The closure of institutional spaces and organizations like El Nadeem prevents Egypt from addressing the unlawful practices (such as torture) that plague the country. This allows human rights violations to continue while contributing to a context of impunity for those responsible. Moreover, silencing those actors and organizations who aim to hold the government accountable for acts of torture costs the Egyptian government a valuable channel for dissent. This can lead to unpredictable social mobilization, as witnessed last month in the North Sinai city of Arish following the interior ministry’s extrajudicial killing of ten terror suspects.

The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy calls upon Egyptian authorities to halt legal campaigns against and repression of civil society organizations, and to honor the government’s domestic and international obligations to respect freedom of expression, association, and movement.

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Update: January 11, 2017

On Wednesday, January 11, the North Cairo Criminal Court ruled to freeze the assets of prominent human rights defenders Mozn Hassan and Mohamed Zarea and their respective organizations, Nazra for Feminist Studies and the Arab Organization for Penal Reform. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) strongly condemns these decisions, and calls on authorities to immediately halt the prosecution of Case 173, which violates guarantees of due process and the rights to freedom of expression, association, and movement as protected by the Egyptian constitution. Moreover, the crackdown on NGOs costs Egypt valuable human development initiatives and institutional spaces for dissent at a time of crisis within security and economy.

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Update: December 14, 2016

On Wednesday, December 14, the North Cairo Court ruled to freeze the assets of prominent human rights defender Azza Soliman, and those of her law firm, the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance. The court adjourned its decision to freeze the assets of Mozn Hassan and her organization, Nazra for Feminist Studies, to January 11. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) strongly condemns the decision to freeze Soliman’s assets and continues to call on authorities to immediately halt the prosecution of Case 173, which violates due process guarantees within Egypt’s constitution and international legal obligations.  The case, along with the recently approved NGO Law are part of the government’s sustained crackdown on civil society organizations that provide valuable human development initiatives and institutional channels for dissent at a time of crisis within Egypt’s security and economy.

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UPDATE: December 7, 2016

On Wednesday, December 7, prominent human rights defender Azza Soliman was arrested from her home in Cairo as part of Case 173 (an ongoing series of investigations into Egyptian nongovernmental organizations), which was reopened in March 2016. Prior to her arrest, Soliman was already subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) calls on Egyptian authorities to halt the prosecution of Case 173 which violates due process guarantees within Egypt’s constitution and international legal obligations.  Soliman’s arrest comes on the heels of parliament’s approval of Egypt’s new NGO Law and at least 80 unconstitutional travel bans in attempts by the government to severely restrict and nearly eliminate the work of Egypt’s  civil associations. Egypt’s civil society organizations provide valuable human development initiatives and institutional channels for dissent at a time of crisis within its security and economy. The absence of Egyptian civil society thus holds the potential to exacerbate its already tenuous stability.

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UPDATE:  September 17, 2016

On Saturday, September 17, the Cairo Criminal Court ruled in favor of freezing the assets of a group of human rights defenders including Gamal Eid and Hossam Bahgat. The case had been adjourned five times prior to Sunday’s verdict (on March 24, April 20, May 23, July 17, and August 15). After the May hearing, the prosecution, acting on the judge’s recommendation, added as defendants two employees of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, including its founder, Bahey Eldin Hassan; Mostafa al-Hassan of the Mubarak Law Center; and Abdel Hafez Tayel of the Egyptian Center for Right to Education. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) condemns today’s verdict and renews its call for the Egyptian government to adhere to its international and domestic obligations to guarantee freedoms of expression, association, and movement. The repression of civil society and closure of institutional spaces inhibit Egypt’s ability to address human rights violations and avoid greater instability.

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UPDATE: July 27, 2016

On Thursday, July 21, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)—an independent human rights organization—issued a press release stating that it is under criminal investigation in connection with the reopening of the 2012-13 NGO trial. EIPR’s financial officer was summoned for interrogation on July 17; another former manager had been questioned on July 3. Also on July 17, the case reviewing the asset freezes facing a number of prominent human rights defenders, including Bahgat of EIPR and Eid of ANHRI, was adjourned for the fourth time. Multiple other organizations are being investigated for their civil society work, among them Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.TIMEP condemns the investigation of EIPR and continues to call on the Egyptian government to halt the harassment of civil society organizations via asset freezes, travel bans, and attempted closures, and to respect the role of civic space in the country.

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The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) strongly condemns the Egyptian government’s decision to reopen the 2012–13 case against foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations. Over the past several weeks, Egyptian authorities have taken blatant measures to demonstrate that they are continuing the case against about 37 domestic non-governmental organizations by summoning workers at nongovernmental organizations for interrogation, and increasing their harassment of these organizations and their staff, including the issuing of travel bans without cause and the attempted closure of organizations.

On Thursday, the Cairo Criminal Court announced it would hear the case regarding the freezing of assets of four persons and their families in relation to the 2012–13 NGO case, including the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Hossam Bahgat, and the director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Gamal Eid. Earlier this week two members of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) received a summons to appear for questioning as part of the case. Two weeks ago, human rights defender and lawyer Negad el-Borai was charged with establishing an unlicensed entity, conducting human rights activities without a license, and spreading false information after writing and submitting a draft torture bill to the presidency. Last month, al-Nadeem, a torture rehabilitation clinic and non-governmental organization, was served with an administrative closure order on the basis of a previously resolved procedural technicality; the order was likely the result of al-Nadeem’s recent reports highlighting hundreds of torture incidents perpetrated by security forces last year. Throughout this time, travel bans have also been issued for many defenders without cause and without notice, including to Mr. Bahgat and Mr. Eid.

It is clear to us that these recent attacks on human rights defenders and non-governmental organization, are a continuation of the 2012–13 NGO case, with a renewed focus on domestic organizations.

“This renewed crackdown is reminiscent of the experience I underwent during the foreign-funded NGO trial in 2012 and 2013, where I was ultimately sentenced in absentia to five years in prison,” said TIMEP Executive Director, Nancy Okail. “That case, much like the one at hand, contributed to a broader culture of the criminalization of human rights defenders’ activity, the stigmatization of foreign funding, and the stifling of civil society.”

Recent measures taken by authorities toward human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations constitute violations of binding domestic and international legal obligations to guarantee the freedoms of expression, association, and movement, as well as to prohibit and prevent torture. Beyond the violation of domestic and international obligations is the effect that these repressive activities have on Egypt’s stability.

It shocks me to see my Egyptian colleagues undergoing exactly the same repressive tactics that I experienced at a time when Egypt is in desperate need of an active civil society. Egypt’s allies and partners must unequivocally condemn these actions, both to ensure the country’s commitment to its own domestic and international obligations and for the sake of regional security and stability,” added Okail.

The closure of institutional spaces and the constraints upon civil society prevent Egypt from addressing the practices that plague it and allow human rights violations to continue unfettered. As evidenced by recent demonstrations throughout the country, preserving a culture of impunity for such violations while simultaneously silencing those who oppose it will only push Egypt toward greater instability.

TIMEP calls upon Egypt’s international partners to publicly denounce restrictions and legal campaigns against civil society organizations and to treat the protection of Egyptian civil society and the rule of law as vital to Egypt’s stability and security.

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The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action