General: Egypt: GCHR expresses solidarity with Nazra and strongly condemns judicial harassment against NGOs

23.03.16

Yesterday, 22 March 2016, Nazra for Feminist Studies announced the official summons and charges against its founder and director, Mozn Hassan, by the Egyptian authorities. Nazra’s director and three staff members went through three sessions of interrogations at the Court premises in New Cairo.

On 20 March 2016, the organisation declared that it was officially called for interrogation by the Egyptian authorities as a result of its human rights activities. Nazra received official summons over the course of last week to undergo an interrogation session on 16 March 2016, which was later postponed to 22 March 2016. 

The staff members were questioned on various issues concerning Nazra and the nature of its work, during which Hassan was referred to as a “defendant.” She was then orally summoned by the investigation judge, who declared the interrogation session to be held on 29 March 2016, while the lawyers are to request discovery of documents of the case on 27 March.

“While women’s rights, civil society and hardships faced by women human rights defenders are being discussed at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN in New York, there is a crackdown on feminist organizations, women human rights defenders and civil society in Egypt,” noted Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). GCHR has worked with Nazra on various actions and the two NGOs belong to the Women’s Human Rights Defenders Network MENA Coalition.

The Egyptian authorities have recently imposed travel bans and mobility restrictions on human rights defenders, ordered the closure of some NGOs, and reopened its investigation of a number of human rights groups and NGOs and interrogated their staff. 

Nazra says the investigation follows a pattern of targeting NGOs, beginning in 2011, which “further escalated recently to close the public space by conducting a crackdown on independent civil society organisations,” says Nazra’s statement.

The government actions are linked to Case No. 173/2011 from 2011, known in the media as the "NGO Foreign Funding" case. It was brought against local and international NGOs in Egypt for “illegally” receiving funding from abroad. “That case, which included raiding of 16 NGOs in Cairo in December 2011, resulted in the conviction and sentencing of 43 foreign and Egyptian NGO employees to prison terms in 2013. Five international organisations were also forced to close. The 2011 case implicated a number of Egyptian groups as well,” says the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL).

Nazra aims to build an Egyptian feminist movement, believing that feminism and gender are political and social issues affecting freedom and development in all societies. Nazra aims to mainstream these values in both public and private spheres. It was registered legally as a NGO in December 2007, and all its activities are legal and publicised. The organisation also obtained Economic and Social Special Consultative Status with the United Nations on January 2014.

GCHR expresses solidarity with Nazra and strongly condemns the judicial harassment of NGOs, including other partner NGOs which have been affected such as the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and El Nadeem Centre for Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence.

GCHR calls on the government in Egypt to:

  1. Immediately revoke these arbitrary measures and drop all charges against Nazra and its staff members;
  2. Ensure that NGOs allowed to carry out its important work in a safe environment;
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights organisations in Egypt are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

GCHR respectfully reminds the government of Egypt of the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (b): “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 to form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups” and to Article 12 (2): “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.”