Egyptian NGOs condemn foreign orgs crackdown

A large number of Egypt's leading human rights and social development NGOs have issued a statement condemning the indictment of 44 NGO workers that has created a diplomatic crisis between the US and Egypt. This is the first concerted condemnation of the manufactured NGO crisis, and comes as the Egyptian media in recent days (despite SCAF head Tantawi's conciliatory statements towards the US after meeting with Pentagon officials) unleashed a campaign against the US and NGOs more generally (as being foreign pawns, etc.). I consider this a very positive development, and a courageous move for these NGOs that have a lot more to lose from a crackdown on civil society.

Here's the opening part of the statement:

February 15, 2012

Orchestrated campaign against human rights organizations: Facts absent; the public intentionally misled

The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the ongoing slandering and intimidation of civil society organizations, particularly human rights groups, and note that the referral of 43 Egyptian and foreign nationals to a criminal court is politically motivated. The affected institutions have been operating for several years without being asked to suspend their activities and without their offices being shut down. Moreover, in October the Egyptian government asked two of these organizations to monitor the parliamentary elections, although Article 2 of Decree 20/2011 regulating the role of civil society in monitoring elections - issued by the chair of the Supreme Elections Commission - specifically bars non-Egyptian NGOs from monitoring elections unless they present a permit from the Foreign Ministry authorizing them to do so in Egypt. Although this permit is limited to election monitoring, it nevertheless legitimizes the licensed organizations, insofar as a permit to engage in such a specific activity necessarily assumes the organization’s legal, legitimate presence in Egypt.

In a sudden disregard of these facts, the raiding the offices of these and other Egyptian organizations with armed forces and their referral to trial raise numerous questions. Indeed, it makes one question whether this development is in fact based on considerations for “the rule of law” and “judicial independence,” as senior government officials claim. 

Here's the full statement in PDF.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.