Joint Urgent Appeal
The undersigned organizations are deeply concerned about reports of attacks against NGOs in Egypt. Egyptian security forces, in uniform and in civilian clothes, as well as public prosecutors, are reported to have stormed the offices of six NGOs this Thursday 29 December 2011: the Arab Center for Independence of Justice and Legal Professions (ACIJP) the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory, Future Centre for Judicial Studies, the Cairo and Assuit offices of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republic Institute (IRI), and Freedom House. Egyptian public TV and radio stations announced later on the same day that security forces have raided the offices of 17 organizations, mostly human rights organizations. However, none of the news sources have identified these organizations or the reasons behind storming their offices.
The staff members of the six national and international organizations were investigated by public prosecutors inside their offices. Police forces searched through their papers, laptops and computers. Staff members of the six organizations were warned against using their cell phones, laptops, and computers, and were prevented from contact with the outside world. Additionally, authorities restricted access to the entire buildings where they are located, preventing people from entering or exiting. ACIJP offices have been closed and sealed by red wax by police forces.
Ahmed Ali Al Salakawi, researcher in the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory, was arrested following the storming of the office. No further information is available with regards to the reasons of his arrest.
These attacks are taking place in the context of the larger campaign lead by the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Egyptian government starting in June 2011 against civil society organizations, and more specifically human rights groups, in Egypt. The NDI, IRI, and Freedom House have previously been investigated by the ministry of justice on charges of receiving foreign funding, while the Arab Center for the Independence of Justice and Legal Professions has not yet been investigated. Investigation of the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory was due to start next Sunday, January 1, 2012. In this context, it is important to note that on December 21, and following the attack on the Cabinet sit-in on December 16, where the military used excessive violence to disperse protesters resulting in the killing of 18 protesters and the detention and torture of hundreds, the Minister of Justice declared that there is a link between the events and the civil society NGOs allegedly receiving foreign funds. The Minister implied that the “third party” responsible for the attacks on protesters during the events of Maspero, Mohamed Mahmoud Street, and the Cabinet Sit-In, are the human rights NGOs currently facing a smear campaign and being labeled as foreign agents.
We strongly condemn the ongoing crackdown on NGOs in Egypt and view it as a way in which these organizations might face trumped-up charges linked with criminal offenses, in an attempt to provide a scapegoat to provide impunity for the SCAF and Egyptian authorities and to silence voices critical of ongoing human rights violations. These attacks constitute a severe violation of the right to Freedom of Association, as provided in Article 22 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and fall within the general policies of the government of Egypt and the SCAF to undermine public freedoms in the Country. During the past 10 months of military rule, the SCAF has been accused of conducting activities hostile to human rights and fundamental freedoms: the SCAF has been accused of using life ammunition against peaceful protestors, torturing political detainees, and referring more than 12000 civilians to military trials. We call on the SCAF and the Egyptian government to immediately halt its attacks on the above-mentioned NGOs and to refrain from attacking additional NGOs in Egypt.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
Asian Legal Resource Centre