In a press conference sponsored by 36 Egyptian human rights organizations this morning at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the NGOs announced their condemnation of the fierce campaign waged by the government and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on civil society organizations and human rights groups.
Human rights organizations presented their statement at the press conference declaring their position towards these infringements, and voicing their demands to competent authorities, on top of which is the dismissal of the Minister of Solidarity Gouda Abdul-Khaliq and the Minister of International Cooperation Faiza Abul-Naga. The organizations further presented a complaint that they have raised to the relevant Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations and the African Commission for Human Rights in this regard.
The conference was attended by a large number of journalists, media professionals and artists concerned with the role of civil society in Egypt.
Mr. Bahey El-Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, presented the NGOs position towards the military council’s and the Egyptian government’s recent attacks against civil society, expressing resentment regarding the ways in which SCAF and the Cabinet have been dealing with these organizations recently. The statements highlighted the restrictions imposed on the activities of civil society organizations, and denounced accusations to NGOs of being foreign agents implementing foreign agendas. Such accusations are seen as a direct response to independent human rights organizations’ criticism of the human rights violations occurring in post-Mubarak’s Egypt.
Ahmed Ragheb, director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, declared that the number of military trials of civilians that were held since SCAF took office reached 12,000 for the past 6 months alone, noting that during the 30 years of Mubarak’s rule they were 10,000. He further stated that violations being committed now will dictate Egypt’s future and whether it would find its way towards a true transition to democracy or back to a situation worse than before.
Ahmed Fawzi, director of the Democracy Project at the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, demanded an official apology from the government regarding the defamation campaign waged against civil society organizations, while Hafez Abu Saada, director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, considered the position taken by SCAF and the Cabinet to be against the rule of law, stating that the such position is not new and was adopted by the government ever since the creation of human rights organizations in the eighties.
Khaled Ali, director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, stressed that the defamation campaign aims to silence civil society organizations in the leads up to SCAF’s seizing of power, stating his refusal to attempts made at monopolizing patriotism and defaming civil society actors who stood against Mubarak and the his policies of privatization of state institutions , as well as against military trials of civilians out of the belief that their primary mission is to protect the Egyptian people.
Negad El-Boraei, President of the United Group, referred to an alliance being built between the military council and fundamentalists to crush the calls made for a civil state.
Regarding steps taken by these organizations, Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said that the NGOs will not give up demanding legal accountability from the Cabinet and SCAF, with respect to the crimes committed against human rights.
In response to questions from the audience on the issue of funding, Hafez Abu Saada said that there are full bank statements detailing the transactions of a large number of organizations and revealing their accounts and funding.
Khaled Ali pointed out that the Ministry of Solidarity has no stance regarding the funding of such organizations, as the ministry does not take a decision on this matter before consulting with State Security authorities. He added that the problem for the government and the military council lies not in the funding, but rather the outcome of it, namely constant criticism of policies adopted and human rights violations committed by both the Cabinet and SCAF.