In the latest development in the appeal submitted by Al-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims against the government-enforced closure of their premises in February 2017, the Administrative Court ruled on Wednesday to adjourn the case to December 26, according to a statement issued by the center.
During the Wednesday court session, lawyers affiliated with the State Lawsuits Authority submitted a Health Ministry decision to revoke Al-Nadeem Center’s license, dated February 8, 2016, which the lawyers claimed justified the 2017 closure decision. In turn, upon the request of Al-Nadeem’s lawyer Taher Abu Nasr, the court ruled to adjourn the case to allow the center to prepare a legal response.
Al-Nadeem Center’s statement distinguishes between the ministry’s decision to revoke the center’s license and its decision to close the center indefinitely. The former, which was submitted by state lawyers before the court for the first time on Wednesday, was allegedly issued on the same day as the latter, a situation described by the center as “practically impossible.”
The organization’s statement explained that the Health Ministry may rule to close down a medical facility, without issuing prior notice to its owners, in the event of serious professional malpractice. In the case of minor breaches in medical conduct, however, the ministry typically precedes its withdrawal of a facility’s license with a warning, whereby it would offer the institution the opportunity to correct these breaches, prior to revoking its operating license. This procedure was not followed with Al-Nadeem Center and there is no mention of professional malpractice in either of the ministry’s decisions, according to the center’s statement.
The statement also denied that center staff have committed any instances of professional malpractice, noting, “if we had committed even one professional mistake, the ministry would have announced and highlighted it ever since the their first attempt to close down the clinic in February 2016.”
“Our only crime is that we are against torture and violence, we demand that those who practice it be held accountable and we try to help victims to overcome their trauma,” the statement said.
On February 9, 2017, police forces sealed the center’s doors with red wax, implementing an administrative decision to close the center, issued by the Health Ministry’s Department for Private Medical Treatment.
Aida Seif al-Dawla, one of Al-Nadeem’s co-founders, previously described the Health Ministry’s actions toward the center as “an organized attack by the security apparatus against rights and freedoms in Egypt.” Moreover, during a February 2016 press conference, the co-founder described the closure decision as a “political” one, which is unrelated to issues of licensing or malpractice.
After the first attempt to close the center, its founders filed an urgent lawsuit before the Administrative Court on February 20, 2016, in order to challenge the decision. The case was repeatedly adjourned, pending the completion of a legal report prepared by the State Council Commissioner Authority (SCCA).
Issued in March 2017, the SCCA report recommended that the decision to close the center be revoked, indicating that the case documents do not include prior notice issued to the center’s staff, informing them of breaches in medical conduct that must be amended within a specific time frame. Coupled with the lack of an official ministry inspection prior to the center’s closure, the SCCA concluded that the ministry’s decision was illegal.
The center’s co-founders have faced various punitive measures on behalf of state authorities since this case began in 2016. Seif al-Dawla and Suzan Fayad were both issued travel bans during the past two years. More recently, in June of this year, the investigating judge in Case 173/2011, known as the NGO foreign funding case, summoned Fayad and fellow Al-Nadeem Center co-founder Magda Adly for questioning.
Since its establishment in 1993, Al-Nadeem Center has been working to rehabilitate victims of torture and violence and to provide them with both short and long-term psychological support. The center also regularly publishes bulletins on torture incidents in prisons and security headquarters.