Egypt: Government must immediately close Case 173 and end assault on human rights organisations and defenders

The undersigned human rights organizations denounce the Egyptian government’s failure to close Case no. 173 of 2011, commonly known as the “NGO Foreign Funding Case”, which has now been ongoing for over a decade despite the sporadic issuance of decisions to suspend investigations or lift the travel ban on some human rights defenders in the case, the latest being Azza Soliman. The organizations consider that these decisions, some of which came in the context of negotiations between the Egyptian and American governments over military aid, the organizations assert that Case 173 has not actually been closed in practice, as the Egyptian government has neither halted its investigation of organizations included in the case nor has it ceased its harassment of human rights defenders charged under the case. Egyptian human rights defenders, in general, remain acutely vulnerable to abuse and prosecution as the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continues its overarching assault on human rights organizations and independent civil society.

Several organizations remain under investigation in Case 173 of 2011 against the backdrop of baseless charges that carry a potential sentence of life imprisonment. In addition, decisions to seize the assets and prevent the travel of some human rights defenders charged in the case remain in effect, even though investigations were closed against a number of these defenders. Of the 32 human rights defenders banned from traveling under the case, until now only four have been able to travel despite the decision to close investigations against most of them. In the interests of perpetuating its retaliatory campaign indefinitely against the Case 173 defendants, the Egyptian authorities intend to push some of these human rights defenders into new criminal cases, some of an explicitly political nature and others alleging tax evasion, with an overall intent to paralyze the ability of the remaining independent organizations in Egypt to document human rights crimes and violations committed in the country.

The Sisi government deploys an array of abusive practices aimed at harassing and intimidating human rights defenders. These include the illegal summoning of NGO staff to National Security headquarters, and systematic smear and defamation campaigns in the media against organizations and their staff, accusing them of treason and inciting violence against them, including murder.  As a result, human rights defenders have been attacked in the streets and their lives threatened, as happened with Gamal Eid. Other defenders face imprisonment over specious charges such as spreading false news and statements, charges that were previously faced by colleagues in the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms , and are currently faced by advocates Ibrahim Metwally and Haytham Mohamadeen.

Among the many cases of state abuse and prosecution is the enforced disappearance of  Ibrahim Ezz El-Din,  who was tortured during the several weeks he was disappeared before being jailed. The director of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, was sentenced to four years in prison and placed on the terrorism lists. Human rights advocate Bahey eldin Hassan, the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, was sentenced in absentia to 18 years in prison in retaliation for his human rights work. Women’s rights activist Amal Fathy, who is married to the director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, was recently sentenced to one year in prison after being jailed on fabricated charges.

In view of the aforesaid, the signatory organizations call on the Egyptian government to guarantee the independence and freedom of action of human rights organizations, which requires the immediate closure of Case no. 173 of 2011 and all pursuant decisions that have deprived a number of rights defenders of their fundamental civil rights. We call on the Egyptian authorities to cease the ‘recycling’ of new cases with different numbers with the intent to abuse human rights defenders, and to stop the campaigns of vengeance and intimidation against them. We demand the immediate release of detainees held unjustly or on politically-motivated charges, and call for the overturning of the unjust verdicts based on falsified charges against Mohamed El-Baqer, Amal Fathy. and Bahey eldin Hassan.

Signatory organizations:

  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
  • Committee for Justice
  • The Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  • The Freedom Initiative