Egypt, March 2016: A five-year investigation into the funding and registration of independent human rights groups in Egypt has gathered pace in recent months, with fears that it could soon result in criminal charges. Human rights workers have been summoned for questioning, banned from travel, and have experienced attempts to freeze their personal funds and family assets.
The investigation began in July 2011 into the funding of local and foreign groups and has already led to convictions and the closure of the Egyptian offices of five international NGOs in 2013. Under Egyptian law, human rights defenders could be charged for working without official registration or accepting foreign funding without governmental authorisation. An amendment to the penal code, passed in 2014, calls for a sentence up to life imprisonment for the latter charge.
The latest wave of allegations has led 14 international organisations, including SRT grantees Euromed Rights, FIDH, IFEX, International Service for Human Rights, and the World Organisation Against Torture, to express concern over the situation. They said the Egyptian authorities should halt their persecution of these groups and drop the investigation, which could threaten human rights defenders with up to 25 years in prison. They also want authorities to lift the gagging order prohibiting media outlets from publishing anything on the case other than statements issued by the presiding judges until the investigations are complete.
Michel Tubiana, President of EuroMed Rights, said, “Instead of shutting down the last vestiges of civil society, Egypt should welcome scrutiny of its human rights record and take on board the constructive criticisms of local NGOs. The authorities should engage in an open and genuine dialogue with its rights movement.”
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