Egypt's health ministry attempted to close down leading anti-torture NGO the El-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence on Tuesday, but was thwarted when staff refused to leave.
Personnel from the health ministry arrived at the centre's Cairo headquarters and instructed staff the centre was to close, but staff refused to leave when the bureaucrats could not produce the official order to close down the venue.
"The centre is still open," Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, a lawyer who works with the centre and arrived at the scene after the officials had left, told Ahram Online.
“Dr. Magda [Adly] and I told the forces we will not leave," wrote psychiatrist Aida Seif El-Dawla, who is the director of the centre, on her Facebook page.
"So Dr. Ashraf Sami Ibrahim from the freelance medical care department [of the health ministry] called the interior ministry and they left, as the [Nadeem centre] doctors prevented them from executing the order."
Egyptian authorities had previously tried to shut down the NGO in February; the health ministry issued an order for its closure, but the centre's lawyers managed to postpone the execution until they had reached the ministry for clarification.
The health ministry responded a week later saying that the NGO had changed its name from a “clinic” to a “centre,” and would therefore require a different licence, and had changed the centre's activities from “medical” to “human rights-related.”
The centre provides services including psychological support to victims of torture and other kinds of violence, and periodically issues reports on torture.
El-Nadeem rejected the health ministry’s arguments, saying it was an NGO which “has nothing to do with the health ministry.”
Founded in 1993, El-Nadeem's representatives also said the centre had not changed its name as the clinic is one of the activities of the larger centre. They also denied claims that their activities had changed.
"It was the centre and not the clinic that issued reports related to torture by police officers against members of terrorist groups,” El-Nadeem said in a Feburary statement.
“The clinic was established with a licence from the Doctors' Syndicate, before receiving another licence from the health minster, which permits the establishment of a medical facility," the statement read.
The justice ministry in March re-opened a case alleging that dozens of NGOs, some working in the field of human rights, had received illegal funding from foreign governments and institutions, a case that originally dates back to 2011.
A judicial committee is conducting investigations and a gag order was imposed on the media in relation to the case.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said in March that he is "deeply concerned" about the deterioration of the situation of human rights in Egypt, in the wake of the decision to reopen the investigations, comments which were rejected by the Egyptian foreign ministry.