United Nations human rights experts warned against the mounting crackdown on civil society in Egypt in a statement issued Monday, calling on the government to put an end to all forms of persecution of human rights defenders and to take effective measures to protect civil society.
Investigators in the ongoing criminal case against several nongovernmental organizations accused of illegally accepting foreign funds summoned Mozn Hassan, the head of Nazra for Feminist Studies, for interrogations in March, one day after a gag order was issued on investigations into the case. Human rights lawyer Negad al-Boraie was also summoned for questioning in March pursuant to charges of running an illegal organization.
A travel ban was issued against Hossam Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and Gamal Eid, founder of the Arab Network for Human Rights, last February due to their implication in the foreign funding case. The Cairo Criminal Court is currently looking into a judicial request to freeze their assets.
The statement was signed by Michel Forst, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, David Kaye, special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Maina Kiai, special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
“Egypt is failing to provide a safe and enabling environment for civil society in the country,” the statement warned.
“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 special rapporteurs continued.
The statement also criticized the recent efforts to close of Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, an anti-torture NGO.
“The recent attempt to forcibly close Al-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,” the experts argued.
The statement demanded that the Egyptian government amend the NGO law, which has been accused of severely restricting the work of civil society.
In 2014, the Ministry of Social Solidarity requested all Egyptian NGOs to register under a 2002 law that several observers considered too restrictive to allow organizations to fulfill their roles. The law allows the government to reject requests by the organizations to associate with foreign organizations, and gives the government the right to shut down the organizations and take other measures against them at will.