The undersigned organizations welcome the Cassation Court’s decision today April 5th to order a retrial in Case no. 173/2011, known as the Foreign Funding Case, as a positive step in a politicized case that was legally flawed from its outset. The court’s ruling was made on an appeal filed by staff from international civil society organizations who, along with others, were given suspended prison terms on June 4, 2013. The appeal’s acceptance means that the case will be tried in another circuit of the Cairo Criminal Court. The retrial applies to all staff of the international organizations except those sentenced in absentia, who can demand that the proceedings be brought before the Criminal Court in accordance with the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act of 2017.
Case 173/2011, which targeted international and local rights alike, has been utterly beset by violations of due process and fundamental rights. From the outset, the case rested on fabricated security allegations cited in a report issued by the fact-finding committee created by the Cabinet in July 2011 and operating under the supervision of the Justice Ministry. After the investigative bodies failed to prove any of the charges, state-aligned media outlets launched smear campaigns against these organizations, accusing them of collaboration, espionage, and high treason. Rights organizations and defenders have been subjected to reprisals, defamation, blatant incitement to violence, and even incitement to murder.
Case 173/2011 fell so far below the minimum standards of fairness and due process that one of the investigative judges felt compelled to recuse himself from the case. In a December 2016 interview, the judge said that he decided to close his investigation into the rights defenders after “the falsity of the charges against them became apparent to me….” He affirmed that “the charges against the symbols of the January revolution were wholly unfounded and were the invention of some biased people who believed they could appease the government with their words.”
The latter part of Case 173/2011 targeting Egyptian rights groups has been overseen by the investigative Judge Hisham Abdel Megid, who is hostile to the January 25th revolution and its goals. Egyptian human rights defenders recently filed an appeal against the Cairo Appellate Court’s renewal of Abdel Megid’s appointment. Judge Abdel-Megid was originally assigned to the case in December 2014, rendering his continued assignment to the case over three years later in clear contravention of Article 66 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which limits an investigative judge’s appointment term to no more than six months with the option of only one additional 6-month renewal in special circumstances.
Accordingly, Judge Abdel-Megid has lacked a proper legal mandate for at least the last two years, and during his unlawful tenure, he has issued dozens of legally invalid travel bans, summons for questioning, and asset freezes. The Appellate Court’s persistence in extending– long after its legal expiry – the appointment of a judge so brazenly hostile to the very human rights defenders he is investigating, indicates that the outcome the case has already been pre-determined. The retributive case has had severe implications for the human rights defenders targeted. At least 29 rights advocates have been banned from travel, and the assets of ten human rights defenders and at least seven rights organizations, among them CIHRS and its director, have been frozen.
The undersigned organizations hope that the Cassation Court’s acceptance of the appeal today will mark a first step towards the support of a free climate conducive to the work of both Egyptian and foreign civil society organizations and defenders. Such a climate must be devoid of the persecution, coercion and intimidation that has imperiled civil society and escalated dramatically over the last four years under the administration of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The court’s ruling today represents a step away from the state’s retributive campaign against human rights defenders and a step towards justice and the rule of law. Justice and the rule of law must reign if Egypt is to have any hope of creating a democratic, stable, and secure society free of the political extremism and terrorism that is inflamed by the absence thereof.
- The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
- The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
- Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination (EARD)
- Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies (AITAS)
- Egyptian Front for Human Rights
- Association for the Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
- Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms (ACRF)
- Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
- Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)