HRW: Egyptian authorities must stop harassment of civil society

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Human Rights Watch has criticised the summoning of five human rights defenders by the Egyptian authorities over the past month on a decade-long criminal investigation, case 173 of 2011, and the arbitrary interrogation of human rights defenders and organisations on charges of receiving foreign funds. HRW contended that the case has stoked fear among Egypt’s civil society as the authorities interrogated dozens of organisations and imposed a travel ban on 30 activists and placed a financial ban on 12 organisations and people.

Among the summoned was Mozan Hassan, manager of Nazra Feminist Centre, Hossam Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Gamal Eid, manager of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, and Negad Al-Boraei, manager of the United Group for Law. “Egyptian authorities should close case 173 once and for all, and stop harassing independent rights organisations for doing their work,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The repeated summons, on top of travel bans and asset freezes, is clearly a tactic to stifle civic space in Egypt.” According to HRW, the case depends mainly on the National Security’s claims against the human rights defenders and their organisations, that they smear the Egyptian state.

The National Security claimed that Gamal Eid and ANHRI played a role in igniting the January 25 revolution and that they received funding from HRW and the Committee to Protect Journalists. And while CPJ denied that claim, HRW pointed out that it does not present funding and it is a monitoring and recording organisation. HRW contended that the Egyptian authorities are looking for a reason to warrant their crackdown against civil society.