Egypt : Harassment and restrictions to freedom of association against several Egyptian human rights organization

11/06/2015
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The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the harassment and restrictions to freedom of association faced by several Egyptian human rights organization, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), a member organisation of FIDH.

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

EGY 003 / 0615 / OBS 049
Harassment /
Restrictions to freedom of association
Egypt
June 11, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of theInternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

Description of the situation :

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the harassment and restrictions to freedom of association faced by several Egyptian human rights organization, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), a member organisation of FIDH.

According to information received, on June 9, 2015, the investigating judge appointed to investigate human rights NGOs mandated a “Committee of Experts” to visit the Cairo office of the CIHRS within the framework of case No. 173/2011 (known as “the foreign funding case against NGOs”) in order to examine whether the CIHRS engages in activities of civic associations under the provisions of Law 84/2002. The committee requested the staff present in the office to provide documentation relating to the administration of the NGO, such as its registration, founding contract and statute, as well as the budgets, financial accounts, and funding contracts for the past four years. One additional demand the staff were instructed to comply with, was to provide documentation that proved that the CIHRS was not conducting NGO work. The latter demand clearly demonstrates that the Egyptian authorities are moving forward with the ultimatum made towards civil society organisations to register as associations under the repressive Law No. 84 or face legal consequences [1]. The Observatory recalls that the current law places severe restrictions on the independence of civil society organisations and the activities they can carry out.

According to the information received, the CIHRS is the second organisation to be targeted by the investigating judge but other organisations such as the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and theEgyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights would also be currently under a similar investigation. The Committee of Experts [2] was established by the investigating judge in April 2015 to inspect the files of the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA) and has the duty to determine whether an organization complies with its mandate as a civic association and to check its sources of funding. It is worthy to note that despite the EDA’s registration in compliance with the ultimatum [3], they are still being investigated and there are currently travel bans imposed on 4 of their staff and founders.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the escalation of the legal harassment faced by human rights non-governmental organisations in Egypt. The Observatory believes that the specific targeting of the CIHRS amounts to an act of reprisal against the CIHRS General Director who was heard on May 28 by the European Parliament Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) during a session about the general human rights situation in Egypt.

The Observatory recalls that at the occasion of the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt in November 2014, the Egyptian authorities accepted at least five recommendations on the protection of human rights defenders, including a commitment to reforming the current NGO law with a widespread consultation of NGOs, and a commitment to guarantee the right to freedom of association in accordance with international standards.

The Observatory urges the Egyptian authorities to guarantee the implementation of the accepted recommendations, and reminds them of their pledges made to the international community in which they “affirmed that civil society is an essential partner to the government in strengthening human rights” [4].

The Observatory urges the Egyptian authorities to immediately cease all acts of harassment against human rights organisations, and to comply with its constitutional obligations (in particular Article 78 and Article 93 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution which respectively recognise freedom of association and Egypt’s compliance with international human rights conventions ratified by Egypt) as well as its international legal obligations (in particular Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)).

Background information :

On June 4, 2013, the North Cairo Criminal Court sentenced 43 Egyptian and foreign staff members of five foreign civil society organisations to imprisonment ranging from one to five years for “managing unlicensed branches” of their organisations, “conducting research, political training, surveys, and workshops without licenses”, “training political parties and groups” and “illegally receiving foreign funding” [5]. The court also ordered the confiscation of funds and the closure of Egypt-based branches of Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), and Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The “foreign funding” case was divided into two cases : one against international civil society organisations and the second against Egyptian civil society organizations.

In September 2014, President Al-Sisi signed into law amendments to Article 78 of the Penal Code. These amendments include the provision that receiving foreign funding for the purpose of “harming national security” is punishable by life imprisonment [6].

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to :

i.Withdraw the ultimatum and stop immediately investigations and criminal cases targeting human rights NGOs ;

ii.Revise the law on associations to comply with international human rights standards, while ensuring that independent civil society organisations are meaningfully consulted in the drafting process ;

iii.Put an end to all forms of harassment 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 Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
- its Article 5(a) : “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels (a) To meet or assemble peacefully”
- its Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” ;
- its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” ;

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, Abedine Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Fax : +202 23901998
· Prime Minister, Mr. Ibrahim Mehleb, Magles El Shaab Street, Kasr El Aini Street, Cairo, Egypt. Fax : + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email : primemin@idsc.gov.eg
· Minister of the Interior, General Mohamed Ibrahim Moustafa, Ministry of the Interior, El-Sheikh Rihan Street, Bab al-Louk, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail : moi1@idsc.gov.eg, Fax : +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
· Minister of Justice, Mr. Ahmed Al-Zanad, Ministry of Justice, Magles El Saeb Street, Wezaret Al Adl, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail : mojeb@idsc.gov.eg, Fax : +202 2795 8103
· Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Hisham Barakat Dar al-Qadha al-Ali, Ramses Street, Cairo, Egypt, 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, 49 avenue Blanc, 1202 Genève, Switzerland, Email : mission.egypt@ties.itu.int, Fax : +41 22 738 44 15
· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, 19 avenue de l’Uruguay, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, 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.

***
Paris-Geneva, June 11, 2015

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

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