12 March 2012

Campaigns and Advocacy

Authorities urged to close case against foreign NGOs, hold ministers accountable


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(CIHRS/IFEX) - 11 March 2012 - The undersigned human rights organizations condemn attempts by the government to manipulate the judiciary by filing spurious, politically motivated charges against unregistered foreign non-governmental organizations. In doing so the government has tarnished the reputation of the judiciary, and besmirched civil society, especially human rights groups, with its actions.

We applaud the Supreme Judicial Council for instigating an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the case, and recommend that the findings of the investigation be made public.

The undersigned organizations believe all stages of the case should be investigated, starting with the handpicking of the investigating judges and leaks of ostensibly confidential case-file information - whether misleading, correct, or decontextualized - to the media to discredit and smear the defendants and human rights groups, including reporting that the defendants were suspected of serious crimes including conspiracy to destabilize the country. As well as the exploitation of nationalist sentiments to justify a punitive attack on human rights organizations for their role in exposing the government's human rights violations.

The campaign reached its peak when the investigating judges took the unprecedented action of convening a press conference to announce inflammatory, extravagant allegations of espionage and threats to the country's unity. Egyptians would later discovered these allegations were not part of the official charges in the case, as had been announced at the conference. The actual charges were no more than administrative violations that do not necessitate travel bans or detention. The result was that the non-Egyptian defendants were turned into pawns in a game of extortion and political provocation.

The undersigned organizations also believe that parliament must use the oversight authority to inquire into the Governments attempt to manipulate the judiciary by coercing its participation in an issue that should have been resolved through political or administrative means; assuming in advance the outcome of the investigation and trial by making outlandish allegations against the defendants and human rights organizations; and attempting to influence both judges connected to the case from the beginning, and those involved later, to sway their decisions.

Taking into the consideration the developments in the case, the undersigned organizations demand the following:

The case should be closed, seeing that it is fundamentally nothing more than a political campaign against human rights groups based on alleged administrative violations, which should have been resolved far from the judiciary and the government-led media campaigns.

The authorities should have either register the accused organizations or officially inform them that their applications for registration have been rejected. If the case continues, it is likely that only the Egyptian defendants will be punished.

If the case continues, the trial should be adjourned until the Supreme Judicial Council completes its investigations surrounding the alleged intervention into the judiciary and announces its results, The investigations, which cast serious doubt on the motives and integrity of the case and the propriety of the measures taken against the defendants and their affiliated organizations.

The parliament should quickly take steps to adopt the new judiciary law submitted by the president of the Supreme Judicial Council. This is vital to block various types of executive pressures and undue influence in the justice system.

The Egyptian parliament must investigate the Government's performance in this case, the political motivations for tampering with judicial independence, and its attempts to influence the public perception of a case under investigation, especially the Minister of International Cooperation and the former and current Ministers of Justice.

The campaigns of defamation and misinformation against human rights groups by parts of the Government and the security apparatus must end immediately. Moreover, all attempts to harass these organizations using litigation, based on the repressive civil society law (Law 84/2002) must cease.

We believe that overcoming such conflicts and the harassment of human rights organizations and civil society institutions requires the Government and the Parliament to objectively consider the bill submitted by human rights groups to liberalize civic action and guarantee the autonomy of non-government organizations, within a framework that operates in accordance with existing international standards, as is their responsibility under international human rights conventions. This framework will provide the basic rules needed to guarantee the standards of transparency and accountability for any violations by organizations operating under the law.

NON-IFEX MEMBERS:



Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Bar
Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
New Woman Foundation
United Group

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