This statement was originally published on cihrs.org on 13 May 2017.
The undersigned organizations condemn the ongoing crackdown on independent civil society and rights organizations in Egypt. New summons have been issued over the past few weeks to human rights defenders and former staff of rights organizations. On May 13-15 2017, several lawyers from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center will be interrogated, followed by Mohamed Zaree, CIHRS Egypt programme manager. The interrogations come in connection with Case no. 173/2011, known as the "Foreign Funding Case" against NGOs.
Interrogations, ongoing for over two years have intensified in the recent months; indicating an intent by the investigative judges to intimidate and retaliate against rights organizations and their staff. The questioning of former staff members has also been used to extort information to bolster the security apparatus's false allegations. For the fifth time in a month on May 13, lawyers from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center will be questioned in connection with the case. The director of the center, lawyer Mustafa al-Hassan, was questioned on April 13 on charges of receiving funds to harm national interest, destroying the basic pillars of the state (the army, police, and judiciary), establishing an entity operating as a civic association without registering, and income tax evasion.The Hisham Mubarak Law Center is registered as a law firm, not as a civic association and offers pro bono legal assistance to vulnerable Egyptian citizens.
On May 15, rights activist Mohamed Zaree will be questioned in connection with the same case. In the past few weeks, two former CIHRS staff members were also interrogated by the judge on baseless charges, in an attempt to extort information from them about the work of CIHRS. This information is liable to be used against their former and current colleagues, adding their names to the list of defendants.This is the first interrogation of Zaree, who has been banned from travel since 2016 (without an investigation or summons), pursuant to the request of the investigative judges in the same case. Zaree has been short-listed for the Martin Ennals Award, an annual award given to prominent human rights defenders around the globe; he now faces imprisonment for defending human rights in his own country.
The organizations assert that the aim behind these summons is to dissuade Egyptians from dealing with independent civil society organizations. Despite this ongoing intimidation, the organizations affirm that they will continue to fulfil their obligation towards all Egyptian citizens victimized by human rights abuses, regardless of their political, religious or ethnic affiliation, at any price. They also stressed the need for the state to immediately cease its prosecution of human rights defenders. The campaign against human rights organizations is indicative of the collapse of the justice system in Egypt, marred by security agencies' unprecedented misappropriation of their investigations for political objectives. Abuses include the nomination of investigative judges following illegal procedures, innumerable due process violations at all stages, and deprivation of defendants' rights; for example, not allowing the defendants to view the case files - files primarily based on unscrupulous investigations by the security agencies.
The majority of the asset seizure and travel ban decisions issued against the accused in this case were based on security agency investigations alone - without any further impartial investigation. The majority of summons were issued informally via telephone, with those summoned threatened with arrest if they failed to appear before the court. They were also forbidden from viewing the orders appointing the investigative judges, which is a fundamental prerequisite of any impartial investigation.The intensified campaign against civil society can only be understood as an attempt by the regime to conceal its continued failure to address renewed security challenges, including the bloodshed resulting from escalating terrorist attacks targeting Egyptian citizens.
The Egyptian government should concentrate its efforts on counteracting the threats facing the country rather than harnessing state resources to repress civil society.
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies
The Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
Land Center for Human Rights
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
Foundation of the Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance
Arab Penal Reform Organization
Masryoon Against Religious Discrimination
Center for Egyptian Women Legal Aid (CEWLA)
Addala Center for Rights and Freedoms
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
Nazra for Feminist Studies
Forum of independent Egyptian HR NGOs
Land Center For Human Rights