Egypt: State Council’s report declared illegal the administrative closure order against El Nadeem Clinic

24/03/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
EGY 001 / 0216 / OBS 019.5

Harassment /
Restrictions to freedom of association
Egypt
March 23, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about recent developments on the administrative closure of El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence and Torture (“El Nadeem Center”) [1], based in Cairo.

According to the information received, on March 18, 2017, the State Council issued a report declaring illegal the February 17, 2016 administrative closure order against El Nadeem Clinic, following a complaint filed on February 20, 2016 by El Nadeem staff before the Administrative Court (see background information). The State Council commissioners argued that that El Nadeem had never been informed of any breaches to the license conditions, nor were they given a time to redress such alleged breaches.

It has to be noted that the conclusions of the report are not binding and has been forwarded to the Administrative Courtwho has the discretion to take it into account or not during the administrative proceedings. The first court session is scheduled on April 19, 2017.

Furthermore, at the time of writing this appeal, there were still no developments regarding the second complaint filed by El Nadeem staff with the Prosecution on February 9, 2017 on the illegal closure of two other flats occupied by El Nadeem Center, which were not included in the Ministry of Health (MoH) closing order of February 2016 (see background information).

The Observatory recalls that this year has seen an unprecedented harassment against El Nadeem Center, with three closure attempts in less than a year, an attempt to freeze the center’s assets, as well as a travel ban issued against its Director Ms. Aida Seif El-Dawla [2].

The harassment campaign against the anti-torture movement in Egypt comes at a time of rising government pressure on independent human rights groups in Egypt, in the context of a dramatic deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, marked namely by a grave crackdown on civil society and a notable increase in cases of torture, deaths in detention and enforced disappearances.

The Observatory urges the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally lift the closure order against El Nadeem Center as well as the travel ban against Ms. Aida Seif El-Dawla.

Background information:

On February 17, 2016 at about 4 p.m. two police officers from the Azbakeya District authority and one city employee ordered the employees of El Nadeem Center to leave the center’s premises. The three men delivered an “administrative closure order” signed by the Director of the Health Ministry’s Free Treatment Directorate and addressed to the head of the Azbakeya district authority, referring to a violation of Law 453/1954 [3]. The document ordered the closure of the center based on a decision signed on February 8, 2016, “for breaching license conditions” (providing no further information) stamped by the Cairo district on February 15. The implementation of the order was postponed until February 22, 2016.

At the beginning of February, the center was visited by an employee of the MoH, who came to inspect the center based on an order given by phone from the MoH himself. The Minister employee did not have any official papers nor an inspection warrant. The employee of the Ministry ordered a copy of the center’s license. No breaches of regulations were noted.

On February 21, 2016, Ms. Aida Seif al-Dawla, Director of El Nadeem Center and Dr. Suzan Fayad, Founder of El Nadeem Center accompanied by their lawyer Ms. Maha Yucef and the head of the Cairo’s doctor’s syndicate Dr. Sanaa Fuad, held meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Health to discuss about the “administrative closure order” issued against El Nadeem Center on February 17, 2016, for allegedly “breaching licence conditions”, without providing further information. On February 20, 2016, El Nadeem Center’s lawyer filed an urgent motion to the Administrative Court of First Instance to suspend the implementation of the closure order. Meanwhile, the implementation of the order was postponed until February 22 upon El Nadeem Center’s request pending meetings at the MoH.

During the meetings, El Nadeem Center’s representatives were informed that the MoH had ordered the closure of El Nadeem Center for violating its license, referring to the conduct of activities which did not fall within the mandate for which El Nadeem Center had been licensed. Such activities include the publication of torture reports, which according to the Ministry is not linked with rehabilitation and is not a medical activity, and especially, the publication in January 2016 of a review of “2015 in numbers” in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-youm, summarizing cases of deaths, torture and medical neglect in detention in 2015 as well as cases of extra judicial killings reported in the media. However, during the meetings, no professional or medical breaches were identified with regards to El Nadeem Center’s activities.

El Nadeem Center’s representatives requested a moratorium and the suspension of the closure order pending an agreement on ways to disengage their medical activities from their human rights advocacy activities. The request was rejected.

On February 20, 2016, El Nadeem Center challenged the closure order before the Administrative Court. The complaint included an urgent request to delay implementation of the closure order until the Court has heard the appeal, but that urgent request was not accepted.

In the afternoon of April 5, 2016, the Egyptian MoH sent a delegation to El Nadeem Center to implement the “administrative closure order” and close the Center. El Nadeem directors refused to comply and leave the premises, as the MoH representatives did not present the original document of the closure order, as required by law.

The MoH representatives decided to leave the premises but called the Interior Ministry to request the intervention of police forces to enforce the order.

On April 6, 2016, El Nadeem Center sent another telegram to the Director in charge of non-governmental treatment institutions and licences at the MoH stating that the closing team did not have an official order with them, that the center was not inspected for any violations and that they had not been informed of any violations to correct. The memorandum requested, again, to suspend the closing order and to form a medical inspection committee to inspect the clinic for any professional breaches.

At the same time, El Nadeem Center’s staff was informed via the media that the Azbakeya district Governorate had filed a complaint against them at the Azbakeya police station for not allowing the closing team to execute the closing order.

On November 10, 2016, El Nadeem Center was informed that their assets had been frozen, for four days following a directive of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE). Several other NGOs have been allegedly subjected to the same administrative measure. The reason given by the bank for the four day asset freeze was that they had to comply with bank regulations and we had to submit a document confirming that we were not registered with the ministry of social solidarity.

It has to be recalled that El Nadeem Center was not part of case 173/2011 (the “foreign funding case” against civil society), within which framework on September 17, 2016, several human rights defenders and NGOs were subjected to an asset freeze [4].

More recently, on February 9, 2017, at around 11 a.m., fifteen police officers in civilian clothes closed and sealed with tape and red wax the doors of the three flats occupied by El Nadeem. At the time, the premises were vacant as the center is closed on Thursdays and Fridays.

The janitor, who was the only person present on the premises when the police’s operation began, tried to oppose the closure and was threatened of arrest by the police. Alerted by phone about the operation, Ms. Aida Seif El-Dawla, Director and one of the founders of El Nadeem Center, immediately arrived on the premises. She was denied any explanations on the situation, and also threatened of arrest if she kept asking questions. The janitor, accompanied by El Nadeem Centre’s lawyer Mr. Taher Abulnasr,was brought to the Azbakeya police station.

The Observatory fears that the police officers were implementing the “administrative closing order” issued on February 17, 2016 by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to shut down the center for allegedly “breaching license conditions”. It has to be recalled that on that occasion the closing order only mentioned El Nadeem Center clinic, which occupies only one of the three flats that were sealed this morning [5].

El Nadeem Centre’s lawyers, Mr. Taher Abulnasr and Ms. Maha Yucef went to the Azbakeya police station to file a complaint against the illegal closure of the two company flats, which are not included in the MoH closing order of February 2016, but have been prevented from doing so and had to file a complaint with the prosecution instead

The Observatory recallsthat in February 2016 El Nadeem Center filed a complaint before the administrative court to challenge the February 17, 2016 administrative closing order. Since then, the judicial process has been ongoing and the final court decision was expected to be made public in February 2017. Therefore, the police did not wait for the court ruling regarding the closure of the clinic, and in addition closed two additional flats, outside the mandate of the MoH.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally lift the closure order against El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, and unseal its premises to allow its staff to carry out their legitimate human rights activities;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally lift the travel ban against Ms. Aida Seif al-Dawla;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment against El Nadeem Center, as well as against all human rights organisations and defenders in Egypt;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b) and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Egypt.

Addresses:

· President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Fax: +202 2391 1441, Email: p.spokesman@op.gov.eg, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
· Prime Minister, Mr. Sherif Ismail. Fax: + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email: primemin@idsc.gov.eg
· Minister of the Interior, Mr. Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar, E-mail: HumanRightsSector@moi.gov.eg, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
· Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rahim, Fax: +202 2795 8103
· Minister of Social Solidarity, Ghada Waly, Fax: +202 3337 5390
· Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabeel Sadek, Fax: +202 2577 4716
· Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council For Human Rights, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: nchr@nchr.org.eg
· H.E. Ms. Wafaa Bassim, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Email: mission.egypt@ties.itu.int, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15
· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email: embassy.egypt@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, March 23, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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