Cairo: 24 May, 2016
We, the undersigned NGOs, express our vehement condemnation of the escalated measures carried out against independent human rights organizations. In a further move, the investigative judge of case no.173/2016, known in media as the “foreign funding case”, has summoned Rawda Ahmed, ANHRI’s lawyer, to an investigation session to be convened at 11 AM of next Thursday, 26 May 2016. Meanwhile, yesterday the 23rd of May, the Criminal Court considered the request submitted by the investigative judge in the same case to freeze the assets of five of independent human rights institutions’ directors and founders.
Lawyer Rawda Ahmed has received a phone call demanding her to be present at the office of the investigative judge in case 173/2011. When some of her fellow lawyers went there to verify the call, they were formally informed with the date scheduled for the investigation.
This summons is regarded as the first official investigation summons issued against one of ANHRI’s lawyers. It was preceded by other summons sent to workers at different independent human rights organizations- including Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Nazra for Feminist Studies, and Andalus Institute for Tolerance & Anti-violence Studies (AITAS)- to give their testimonies in the same case. This is in addition to the summons of a lawyer from the United Group-Lawyers and Legal Consultants office.
In the same context, the Criminal Court considered yesterday the decision of freezing the assets of five NGOs’ founders and directors; Hossam Bahgat, Gamal Eid along with his daughter (a minor) and wife, Bahey Eldin Hassan- director and founder of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)- together with his wife, daughters and two of his employees, Abdul Hafeez Taiel, director and founder of the Egyptian Center for the Right to Education, and Mustafa Al-Hasan, director of the Hisham Mubarak Center for Law, who were all included in the same case “foreign funding”. The case was then adjourned to the hearing of 17 July 2016.
The state bodies insist on dealing with human rights organizations and the violations they are uncovering with the same view usually expressed by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry while commenting on the human rights crimes committed by the government every day. This view is disproportionate to the seriousness of the situation, as it is represented in the refusal to admit the problem and the provision of flimsy insufficient justifications using flashy terms, such as Egypt’s sovereignty, internal affairs, non-interference in the judicial body, and other ironic and reality disengagement- arguments.
Such a view that shows disparagement and disregard for the citizens’ rights and freedoms is not only adopted by the state agencies, but also is defended by the head of the state himself. In a press conference convened weeks ago with the French President, Egypt’s president deemed his citizens to be in less rank than their counterparts in European countries rejecting to apply the European criteria of human rights to Egypt. Moreover, in a subsequent speech, the president refused to consider the file of freedom as a matter of priority in Egypt confining human rights to only the right to health, work and education. Nonetheless, the ‘foreign funding’ case has been recently joined by one of the centers that defend the right to education, in addition to the ongoing crackdown on the independent unions that are mainly concerned with workers’ rights providing professional, health and economic assurances to them.
In this regard, the undersigned organizations emphasize that the continued usage of case 173/2016 to avenge the Egyptian civil society leads to the forfeiture of the Egyptian human rights movement and the eradication of the Egyptian civil society organizations. They also remind us that threating human rights defenders with death, imprisonment, travel ban, or assets freeze will not lead to the reform of society, the elimination of terrorism, or the achievement of a real economic and social development. Rather, it will waste the latest and the remaining voice of victims, particularly in the aftermath of the deficiencies that marred the justice system as well as the security bodies’ crimes that are not subject to any law or accountability.
General background on case no. 173, aka “Foreign Funding” case, imminent risk of prosecution and closure:
- The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
- Hisham Mubarak Center for Law
- ‘El Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
- Association for Free Thought and Expression (AFTE)
- The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR)
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- National Group for Human Rights