Court calls on Interior Ministry to pursue HRW for ‘illegal’ operation in Egypt

An Egyptian court called for the Interior Ministry to legally pursue the New York-based Human Rights Watch organization for not having state clearance to operate in Egypt, despite the international NGO not having an office or any full-time staff in the country.

The court raised similar issues concerning other international rights organizations on Tuesday, including the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Freedom House, which it claimed also don’t have official clearance for their operations. Both the NDI and Freedom House haven’t had a presence in Egypt since 2012, when they were included in a case against a number of international NGOs.

The case against HRW was filed in late 2016 by Shehata Mohamed Shehata, a pro-government lawyer who argued the prime minister and Social Solidarity Ministry should be held accountable for allowing such organizations to work unofficially in the country. However, a court ruled it should be the responsibility of the Interior Ministry to halt the work of foreign organizations in Egypt, as their work concerns the “well being and security of the nation.”

HRW operated in some capacity in Egypt, the court asserted, as the organization produced a report on the forced dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood camps at Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda squares in 2013. HRW claimed the state crackdown led to the deaths of 817 people, constituting a crime against humanity. The court ruled HRW “issued flawed reports to foreign states that tarnished Egypt’s reputation,” are “based on the testimonies of biased individuals” and “violate state sovereignty,” while “ignoring the martyrs of the nation from among the military and police,” despite HRW’s report also including the deaths of security forces during the bloody dispersals and subsequently in acts of terrorism nationwide.

The court also raised the issue of HRW’s funding, making assertions that the international organization receives support from those who are “united in the same convictions and goals.”

Security forces refused HRW’s executive director Kenneth Roth access through Cairo airport in August 2014. Since then, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has been critical of the organization’s coverage of incidents in Egypt, accusing HRW of “propagating lies and supporting terrorism and politically-motivated fabrications.”

In August 2015, Naguib Gobrael, from the pro-government Egyptian Union for Human Rights filed a lawsuit before the Court of Urgent Matters, calling on Egyptian authorities to expel HRW and ban it from operating in the country. In November 2015, the court ruled it did not have the jurisdiction to issue a verdict and referred the case to a higher-level court.

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