Egypt: Renewed Crackdown on Independent Groups Government Investigating Human Rights Workers
(London, June 15, 2015) — Egyptian authorities are increasing their pressure on independent organizations in Egypt that receive foreign funding or have criticized government policies, ten international human rights organizations said today. Independent groups have already been subjected to continuing harassment and ordered to comply with an onerous law on associations that dates to the rule of former president Hosni Mubarak.
On June 9, government investigators working at the behest of a judge overseeing a four-year-old case against international and Egyptian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) visited the main office of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) in Cairo and asked the staff to produce documents regarding the institute’s registration, founding contract, and statute, as well as the budgets, financial accounts, and funding contracts for the past four years.
The investigators had previously visited the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA) and looked into their activities, funding sources, and whether they are in compliance with the current law on associations. Four EDA staff members have been banned from traveling outside Egypt.
“The reinvigoration of a four-year-old case against independent Egyptian civil society groups is an extremely worrisome sign that the government thinks it can get away with silencing one of the last bastions of criticism,” said Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Egypt’s allies such as the United States and European Union should make it clear that this is unacceptable.”
The investigating judge has designated a group of Social Solidarity Ministry employees to a “committee of experts” to investigate whether Egyptian organizations are in compliance with the current repressive Law on Associations (Number 84 of 2002). During the June 9 visit, they refused requests from CIHRS employees to provide an official copy of their warrant, instead showing them an informal warrant without any government stamps. A CIHRS lawyer told the investigators that they could not search the office or access the files without providing an official warrant, and the investigators left.