EGYPT: Stop the Crackdown on Civil Society!
Brussels/Copenhagen/Paris/Tunis, 16 March 2016
EuroMed Rights condemns the latest attempts to silence civil society in Egypt. We urge the European Union (EU) and its member states to raise this issue with their Egyptian counterparts to express that this is a red line that should not be crossed. Several employees of human rights NGOs, including two staff members of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies’ (CIHRS) and three from Nazra for Feminist Studies, received a summons to appear on March 16th before the investigating judge in case number 173 of 2011 (the foreign funding case), in Cairo.
Egypt is experiencing a general context of severe repression against all protest movements and independent civil society organisations are particularly affected. Thus, at least twenty human rights defenders have been recently banned from travelling outside the country. Then the El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence received a closure order and finally human rights lawyer Negad el-Borai was questioned by a judge on a series of serious charges related to the drafting of an anti-torture bill in 2015. The foreign funding inquiry is a blatant example of this constant harassment and has already led to the closure of five international organisations in Egypt in the past years.
In general, human rights defenders are constantly harassed and prosecuted for peacefully exercising their activities in Egypt. The law on associations of 2002, which is currently in force, enables the government to close down such associations at will, to confiscate their property, to reject individuals appointed to their Boards of Directors and block their funding from foreign sources. In September 2014, President Sisi amended the Criminal Code in order to increase the penalty for receiving foreign funds with the intention of “undermining the national interest”. Faced with the international outcry against the measures adopted, the government reversed its decision to immediately close down all organisations conducting activities relating to civil society without being registered in late 2014, and returned to the use of less visible techniques of intimidation and harassment of individuals and their organisations.
We urge the EU and its member states to:
- Keep the crackdown on NGOs as a constant agenda item of bilateral discussions with their Egyptian counterparts;
- Publicly denounce the constant harassment of Egyptian civil society organisations, including at the UN Human Rights Council, where Egypt made most of its public pledges.