GENEVA (11 April 2016) – Three United Nations human rights experts today raised alarm at the continuing crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Egypt. They warned that many NGOs have been closed down, and human rights defenders have been interrogated by the security forces, subjected to travel bans and had their assets frozen in retaliation for their legitimate and peaceful human rights work.
“Egypt is failing to provide a safe and enabling environment for civil society in the country,” the UN experts on human rights defenders, freedom of expression, and freedoms of assembly and association said. “The Government must immediately put an end to all forms of persecution and take effective measures to protect civil society.”
The rights experts reiterated their call on the Egyptian authorities to amend Law 84/2002 on Non-Governmental Organizations without delay, which remains in force despite widespread criticism.
“The recent attempt to forcibly close the Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence demonstrates how Egypt’s NGO Law is being used to obstruct the reporting on human rights issues, such as torture,” explained the experts.
The Center was issued with a closing order on 17 February 2016 for publishing reports on torture, which is deemed a ‘medical activity’ for which it is not licensed. The organisation resisted an attempt to forcibly close it on 5 April 2016 and may now be subject to legal proceedings.
“We are also seriously alarmed by the interrogation of several human rights defenders and the risk that they may face in detention or prosecution for their work, as well as the improper use of travel bans and asset freezing,” the independent experts stressed.
Members of human rights organisations, including the Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the United Group – Attorneys at Law and Legal Advisors, have all been subject to interrogation. Many of them were threatened with arrest warrants and prosecutions if they did not comply. Others face charges of ‘receiving foreign funds for illegal purposes’ and ‘working without registration’, punishable by fines and life imprisonment.
The UN experts also drew attention to the travel bans issued against several human rights defenders, including members of the Arab Network for Human Rights and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “Such bans must be lifted straight away,” they emphasised.
(*) Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and Mr. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity