Workers from a non-governmental organization National Democratic Institute, or NDI, wait as Egyptian officials raid their office in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, 29 December, 2011. (Photo:AP)
In a press conference held at the premises of Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) on Thursday, 27 human rights organisations denounced the raids earlier in the day of the Cairo offices of 17 non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The raids were carried out on Thursday morning by officials from Egypt’s public prosecution office, with back-up from police and military personnel.
The Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP); the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory; and the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House were among the NGOs that the government raided.
Head of Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Ahmed Saif Al-Islam, said that Egyptian NGOs are now exposed to attacks unprecedented in their magnitude at the hands of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
Saif Al-Islam pointed out that restrictions on public freedoms had been felt since the closure of Cairo’s Al-Jazeera Network office in September, along with the renewal of emergency law in the same month. Under the auspices of emergency law, freedom of expression is severely curtailed, and journalists and TV interviewers risk facing questioning or even prosecution.
Nasser Amin, head of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, challenged state authorities by affirming that the center will continue with its work despite the closure.
‘Even if we are jailed, we will work from inside the jail,’ Amin declared.
Amin referred to his contributions to the Egyptian revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak, declaring that he is most proud of his career as a political activist.
Hafez Abu Saeda, head of EOHR, described the crackdown as “illegitimate” and expressed willingness to battle the raids through the courts.
At the press conference, Abu Saeda welcomed any of the 17 closed NGOs to use the EOHR premises to resume their work.
He affirmed his organisation’s intention to show solidarity with other social and political groups such as the Revolutionary Socialists and football Ultras who have also come under attack by the authorities.
Meanwhile, presidential hopeful and prominent political figure Mohamed ElBaradie stated on Thursday through his official Twitter account that human rights organisations represented "the guardians of nascent freedom." He added that "efforts to suffocate them will be a major setback and will surely backfire."
The participating rights organisations signed a statement at the end of the press confrence to condemn the “unprecedented campaign” against political activists and rights entities and slammed the SCAF’s "shameful humanitarian violations and failures in managing the transitional phase."
Signatories to the statement include: the Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support; One World Foundation; New Woman Foundation; Society for the Study of Human Development; Cairo Centre for the Study of Human Rights; the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights; the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Egyptian Center of the Right to Housing; the Hisham Mubarak Law Center; the Egyptian Society for the Dissemination and Development of Legal Awareness; the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.
One Nation Foundation for Development and Freedoms also signed on to the statement as well as: the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression; See Justice Center; Center for Egyptian Woman's Legal Assistance, El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence; the Center of Andalusia; the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory; and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.