Central Bank freezes Al-Nadeem’s bank account

Employees at the Crédit Agricole Bank have notified the Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence that its bank account has been frozen in accordance with a directive issued by the Central Bank of Egypt.

The account will remain frozen until Al-Nadeem adjusts its legal status to align with Law 84/2002, which imposes restrictive regulations on nongovernmental organizations, the center asserted in a statement released on Thursday.

Al-Nadeem Director Aida Seif al-Dawla confirmed to Mada Masr that an official at Crédit Agricole verbally informed the center of the decision and stated that the accounts of other unspecified NGOs have also been frozen.

The center will submit a request to Egypt’s Central Bank to request official notification of the decision in order to take the necessary subsequent legal steps. “We do not know what legal action we should take, but we need to first have an official document stating that our bank account has been frozen,” Dawla said.

The Social Solidarity Ministry issued an ultimatum to over 40,000 Egyptian NGOs in 2014, mandating that they register under the Mubarak-era NGO law or face closure. The organizations decried the 2002 law for interfering in their independence, and, to avoid its strictures, several registered as law firms or non-profit companies instead of organizations that would have fallen under its jurisdiction. Instead of striking the law from Egypt’s legal statues, the government proposed new legislation that would have allowed authorities to shut down any Egyptian independent group, pending a court order, or refuse to license new groups on the vague premise that they may harm “national unity.”

The ultimatum was heavily criticized by civil society organizations when it was issued, but the Social Solidarity Ministry never took any formal action. Instead, an Egyptian court reopened an investigation in March 2016 into the alleged illegal foreign funding of human rights organizations. In the months following, a number of human rights workers were called in for interrogation and informed or discovered that their assets had been frozen and that they had been banned from international travel.

The Health Ministry attempted to forcibly shutter Al-Nadeem in April, after having delivered a closure order in February. The ministry legitimated its decision by arguing that the center had violated Egyptian law by shifting its focus from acting as a medical facility to taking on human rights issues and advocacy work.

Al-Nadeem responded to these accusations by clarifying that the wider organization does not fall under the supervision of the Health Ministry. The center operates a clinic for psychiatric evaluation, which is licensed by the Doctors Syndicate, while the wider organization conducts other activities, such as the provision of training and the issuance of reports.

The government’s attempts to close the center have drawn local and international criticism. Amnesty International positioned the state’s actions within the framework of the larger crackdown on Egypt’s human rights organizations.

“The El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence provides a lifeline to hundreds of victims of torture and the families of people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa program. “This looks to us like a barefaced attempt to shut down an organization which has been a bastion for human rights and a thorn in the side of the authorities for more than 20 years.”