Egypt: On 09 February 2017, El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence and Torture in Cairo was closed. Egyptian authorities sealed off the doors and police arrested the doorman and questioned him.
El Nadeem Center operates as a medical centre, which has provided treatment, rehabilitation and support to victims of torture for over 24 years. It has been instrumental in the establishment of similar centres in the Middle East and North Africa. Authorities provided no official reasons for the closure. It is believed that the authorities targeted the center on the day when they were aware that it was not in operation and there would be no staff present as they had failed on two previous occasions to close the centre.
This closure comes in the context of an increasingly hostile for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights defenders operating in Egypt. The funds of many NGOs have been frozen, their staff targeted have been targeted while others have been arbitrarily shut down. Feminist organizations face particular hardships as a result of their work in the promotion of women’s rights. The director and staff of Nazra for Feminist Studies were subject to interrogation last year. The government actions are linked to Case No.173 of the year 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 and included raiding of 16 NGOs in December 2011, and the conviction and sentencing of 43 foreign and Egyptian NGO employees. Five international organizations were also forced to close. For further information see Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) appeal here.
In reaction to the closure, El Nadeem Center put an ad with names and numbers of four of its staff, Dr. Magda Adly, Dr. Aida Seif Al-Dawla, Dr. Suzan Fayad, Dr. Mona Hamed, and Dr. Raghad Sliet asking victims of violence and torture to call them directly to obtain a consultation and the necessary treatment until the opening of the building again.
Also, prominent human rights defender, co-founding member, and director of El-Nadeem Center, Dr. Magda Adly has written an article entitled “Blocking the Defenders: Egypt’s Closure of El Nadeem” in which she said, “With its 24-year history, the story of the El Nadeem Center will not end with such a juvenile move. Its doctors will continue to provide rehabilitation services even if it means treating the victims at home. The work team will continue to track violations by the police and security organizations against civilians, all while following the legal route. In fact, we expect the number of volunteers looking to defend the victims of torture to increase significantly.”
GCHR expresses solidarity with El Nadeem Center and strongly condemns the continued judicial harassment of NGOs in Egypt.
GCHR calls on the government in Egypt to:
Immediately open El Nadeem Center and allow it to operate free of all restrictions;
Ensure that NGOs are allowed to carry out its important work in a safe environment;
Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights organizations 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, recognizes 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.”