A Serious Development that is Cause for Worry.. The Cairo Criminal Court Rules for the Freezing of the Funds of Five Human Rights Workers and Three Organizations

Press Releases
Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 13:47

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:

  • The accusations that the activists accused in this case are facing are limited to – as is known or assumed – committing acts that are incriminated by article 78 of the penalties code that states –according to its latest amendment in 2014- that anyone who got funds from outside the country for the purpose of “committing actions that harm the national security or public order” and article 98 (1/c) that gives a sentence of six months to anyone who has “established or managed an organization or establishment of any kind that has an international nature or is a branch of an international organization without permission” and article 98 (d) that states that a sentence of five years is to be handed out to anyone who “received or accepted, even though a mediator in anyway, funds or benefits of any kind from persons or authorities outside of the republic or inside of it, when this is for the purpose of committing one of the crimes specified in articles 98 (A, A+, B, C) and article 174 of the same law in addition to 67 (a/2) of the law for societies and civil society organizations number 84 for the year 2002 that sentences anyone who takes holds works for and unregistered organization or does activities for it without it being registered to up to six months in prison.

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.

  • Insistence on considering unregistered civil society organizations illegitimate entities, despite that they take on other legal forms is in reality abuse that has no justification except discomfort with these organizations and their activities for the following reasons:
    • Many of the activities practiced by the associations can by practiced by other people or authorities. For example the research, studies and training as well as the legal consultations and services are all activities that are could be conducted by research centers, companies and associations
    • The condition of registering NGOs according to the NGOs law number 84 for the year 2002 actually means the condition of getting prior permission from the administrative authorities (the government) before conducting its activities which is a violation of basic human rights conventions (the two international conventions) and the Egyptian constitution that clearly articulates the right of forming associations by notification alone.
    • The legitimacy, again, is that law number 84 for the year 2002 lacks legitimacy because it contradicts the constitution that we have all agreed to as a social contract. Moreover any law that is issued to organize the work of associations that demands getting a license loses its legitimacy at its conception. This is not affected by the fact that the constitutional court has not deemed it unconstitutional, since this fact is clear and intentional. This is because the constitutional court reveals and decides the lack of constitutionality of a law since it is issued or since the issuance of the constitution
    • Any of the organizations of a legal nature – that wishes to register according to the associations law number 84 for the year 2002, with few exceptions under special conditions- were not able to acquire the license for the administrative authorities and had to restore to courts. These courts usually rule for their right to register which asserts that we are faced with intentional prevention and the restriction of the right reaches the level of prevention and not just organizing its practice.
  • The continued opening of case number 173 for the year 2011 makes it a sword over the necks of civil society organizations and its activists among human rights defenders against whom verdicts are issued to freeze their funds or are surprised to find that they have been banned from traveling as precautionary measures on the backdrop of such cases until they are closed. In light of the ban on publishing news about the case and the fact that none of the lawyers of any of the organizations were able to see the complete file, the course of the case seems mysterious and threatening.

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

Monday

21/9/2016

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