In a serious and worrisome development, South Cairo Court ruled for the freezing of the assets of five human rights defenders and three rights organizations. This was widely considered a negative indicator, the connotation of which cannot be denied in the context of case number 173 for the year 2011 that was filed against a number of civil society organizations that continues to appear and echo at times and then fades at other times in the past five years.
The Southern Cairo Criminal Court had reviewed in a hearing held on Saturday 17 September for the case number 108 for the year 2016 that was being reviewed by court for the past five months. It concerns the request made by the investigative authority in case number 173 for the year 2011 about the freezing of the assets of the assets of a number of founders and managers of human rights organizations and their families and banning then from travel. Additionally the case was also filed for the freezing of the assets of these organizations and a number of the workers in them. The court agreed to the request of the investigating judges to freeze the cash funds and assets of Hussam Bahgat and Gamal Eid as well as the cash funds of Bahi El Din Hassan, Mustafa Al Hassan, Abdel Hafiz Tayel and their organizations. It rejected however the request for freezing the assets of their families and the employees and workers of said organizations.
It is worth mentioning that the North Cairo Criminal Court had ruled two months previously for the freezing of the assets of the activist Ahmed Samih and the rights organization that he runs (Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies). The investigating judge decided to ban the travel of 12 human rights defenders including managers and activists in civil society organizations.
Regardless of the course of the trial “that are under a non-disclosure order” and regardless of the complaint of the defense of the NGOs and their activists that implies that this course includes a disruption of the right of defense, it is important for us to assert the following:
These articles that have been made more severe lately under the pretense of facing terrorism are full of terms of elastic meaning that lack the accuracy expected from a legal text and could carry several interpretations and allow for their usage in various ways. The latest amendment of article 98 of the penalties law faced much objection when it was first issued. Many forces and authorities showed reservations and apprehension from the application of this article against people who are not terrorists. This criticism was actually directed while stressing the sole purpose of the legislator in confronting terrorism.
We see in all cases that defending human right cannot be considered a task that harms national interest or stability or peace or public order. This is because the legality of the action or its illegality should have as its reference the legitimate aims that all society seeks. Could the legitimate aims of our society be the secrecy of human rights violations and the protection of their perpetrators so that the denouncement of these violations or demanding a fair investigation of them be criminalized and “harmful to national interests and public order”.
It may be absurd to return to the old and fading excuse in considering any exposure of violations or criticism of mistake to be an insult to “our country’s reputation. The violation itself is the insult and offenses against Egyptian citizens whose rights are violated and offences to a society that aims and aspires to becoming a democratic society that respects all its citizens and respects diversity and different opinions and denounces violence ho matter who commits it.
Finally we assert that the stability, development and security of our society cannot be achieved by closing doors or silencing but by the opening up of the public sphere and widening the circles participating in societal dialogue that fulfils all the conditions, foremost among which is right to organize and people’s right to organize their democratic independent organizations and opening the road and removing obstacles in front of the growth of society with all its components including unions, associations, organizations and various authorities
The Center for Trade Union and Worker Services