On 9 February, the El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence (El Nadeem) was raided by police and shut down. The closure of El Nadeem, an organization that offers crucial support to survivors of torture and violence, follows a year of harassment by the authorities of human rights defenders (HRDs) and organisations. In February 2016, security forces entered El Nadeem’s Cairo premises and presented staff with an order to close operations, without an explanation. The centre filed a judicial appeal against the decision before an Egyptian court the same month. However, police carried out the latest raid without waiting for the outcome of the appeal. In November 2016, the Central Bank of Egypt also issued an order to freeze the organization’s bank account.
Over the past year, judges have been overseeing a criminal investigation into the activities and funding of Egyptian human rights organizations, known as Case 173 of 2011. HRDs may face up to 25 years in prison and a fine of LE500,000 (US$ 27,528), if convicted of the charge of receiving foreign funding to damage Egypt’s “national interests”, “peace”, “unity” or “security” under Article 78 of the Penal Code. The authorities have used a range of tactics to disrupt the activities of HRDs, including arbitrary arrests, interrogations, arbitrary travel bans and asset freezes. Since early 2016, at least 22 NGO workers, including directors, have been summoned for interrogation; 18 human rights activists and defenders have been barred from travelling; and asset freezes have been imposed against 7 NGOs and 10 individuals.
On 29 November 2016, Parliament approved a new draft law, replacing the existing associations law, which would severely restrict the work of NGOs. The bill is pending ratification by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. If signed into law, it would force NGOs to seek official approval to conduct field research, publish their findings and seek funding.