Egypt ‘inclined to close long-running case targeting NGOs’?

     

Prominent human rights defender and director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) Gamal Eid was formally questioned this week in what the rights group calls a politically motivated case designed to punish independent organizations, IFEX reports.

Human rights lawyer Negad al-Borai was also questioned in a long-running case targeting non-governmental organizations accused of receiving foreign funding with the intention of harming national security, Mada Masr adds:

A government source says the new developments come as the high-profile case may be drawing to a close, but that travel bans preventing some defendants in the case from leaving Egypt could remain in place and that some could face new charges related to the financing of civil society groups. At least 13 high-profile civil society figures have been subject to travel bans and asset freezes in the case for around five years. ……Tuesday‚Äôs interrogation sessions marked the first time Borai and Eid were summoned for questioning in the case, which began nearly a decade ago. Eid was questioned for three hours, according to a¬†statement by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), which criticized the case for a lack of evidence and conflicting information. …. In a Facebook¬†post on Tuesday, Eid said that ‚Äúthe goal of this case is to exact revenge against independent institutions, and there is no place for law in it.‚ÄĚ

The investigation, Case 173/2011, has been criticized by international human rights organizations and the United Nations as a crackdown on civil society, Mada Masr notes. Activists are suggesting the case should be taken up by Clement Voule, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, who recently criticized governments for abusing the law to silence dissent. 

The case against foreign-based pro-democracy groups, including the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, was resolved in 2020 after several years of legal proceedings. But local organizations, most of which have faced travel bans, still face prosecution. Investigations have been reopened, and a number of activists summoned for questioning.

According to Amr Magdi, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, Egypt’s NGO legislation bears all the hallmarks of Russia’s foreign agent law, notes analyst Masho Lomashvili.  Justified by officials as protecting national security and guarding against interference from foreign-funded charities, a 2017 law enabled the nation’s government to surveil and control nearly every aspect of human rights monitoring, advocacy and reporting by NGOs in the country, she writes for Coda Story. 

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).

A coordinated harassment and intimidation campaign against human rights defender Mohamed Soltan is “part of the Egyptian government‚Äôs broader repression of rights and freedoms in Egypt and aims to stigmatize human rights defenders, both nationally and abroad, and undermine the effectiveness of their work,” according to a letter signed by leading human rights and democracy groups* (above).

US Senator Chris Murphy has told the Biden administration that if it is serious about promoting human rights globally, then it must cut military aid to Egypt, Al-Monitor adds:

In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Murphy urged US President Joe Biden against issuing a national security waiver to deliver the full aid promised to Cairo against congressional demands. Congress has been imposing human rights conditions on $300m of the $1.3bn annual military aid to Egypt, but successive administrations have issued national security waivers to bypass the restrictions.

“This year, the United States must withhold the $300 million in accordance with the law passed by this Congress,” Murphy said.¬†“It will send a message to Egypt that we’re serious about reform – and maybe more importantly, it will send a message to the world that we are willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”

*Signatories:

Amnesty International USA

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Committee for Justice

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)

Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)

Egyptian Human Rights Forum

EuroMed Rights

FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Freedom House

The Freedom Initiative

Human Rights First

Human Rights Watch

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

James W. Foley Legacy Foundation

MENA Rights Group

OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Open Society Foundations

PEN America

Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

US Committee to End Political Repression in Egypt

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