Egypt Freezes Activists’ Assets
By REUTERS | Sep. 17, 2016 | 0:47
An Egyptian court froze the assets of five prominent human rights activists and three nongovernmental organizations in Cairo on Saturday.
Egypt Court freezes assets of human rights workers and NGO’s
17 September 2016
From the section Middle East
Image copyright AP
Image caption Hossam Bahgat founded the leading Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
A court in Egypt has ordered a freeze on the assets of five prominent human rights activists and three non-governmental organisations.
All are accused of receiving foreign cash in a case stretching back to 2011.
If convicted, they could face up to 25 years in prison. A prominent rights campaigner, Hossam Bahgat, is among those whose assets have been frozen.
The UK-based human rights group Amnesty International called the ruling a "shameless ploy" to silence activism.
The other four activists named in the court ruling include Gamal Eid, Bahey el-Din Hassan, Mustafa el-Hassan and Abdel-Hafiz Tayel.
The five face charges of illegally receiving foreign funds and using them to harm national security.
The NGOs that have had their assets frozen are the groups three of them were leading.
’The law took the day off’
"We can live under threat, but we will not collude with a police state that despises human rights," Mr Eid wrote on his Facebook account after the ruling, referring to the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
He said the decision sent a message to civil society campaigners to toe the line or else.
The initial case into foreign funding of NGOs was launched amid a crackdown against civil society groups after the uprising in early 2011 that left the military in charge.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police special forces patrolled the streets of Cairo on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising earlier this year
Security services said rights activists were plotting against the country.
The attack on rights groups intensified after the military overthrew Mohammed Morsi, an elected Islamist president, in 2013.
Authorities have jailed thousands of people, mainly Islamists but also leading secular and liberal activists behind the 2011 uprising.
As well as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the European Union have condemned the ruling.
Egypt: Court confirms asset freeze against 5 human rights defenders and 3 NGOs
Human Rights Defenders
EGY 004 / 0615 / OBS 049.7
Sentencing /Judicial harassment /Restrictions to freedom of association /Egypt
September 19, 2016
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing against five leading human rights defenders and three non-governmental organisations in the framework of the ongoing judicial harassment and the restrictions to freedom of association faced by at least 37 Egyptian human rights defenders and organisations, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), two member organisations of FIDH, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC), Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Egyptian Centre for the Right to Education (CRE), as well as the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP) and the Land Center for Human Rights (LCHR), two member organisations of OMCT.
According to the information received, on September 17, 2016, the Cairo Criminal Court ordered the freezing of the assets of Messrs. Gamal Eid, Director of ANHRI, Hossam Bahgat, founder of EIPR, Abdel Hafiz Tayel, Executive Director of CRE, Moustafa El Hassan, Director of HMLC, and Bahey Eldin Hassan, Director of the CIHRS, as well as those of three human rights NGOs, the CRE, the CIHRS and the HMLC .
This decision by the Cairo Criminal Court was handed out within the framework of criminal case No. 173/2011, known as “the civil society case” (see background information) .
The Observatory firmly condemns the above-mentioned Court decision, which is the latest evidence of an increasing pattern of judicial harassment launched by the authorities in 2011 targeting civil society organisations and human rights defenders in Egypt .
The Observatory urges the Egyptian authorities to immediately cease all acts of harassment against human rights organisations in Egypt, and to comply with its Constitution (in particular Article 78 and Article 93 which respectively recognise freedom of association and Egypt’s compliance with international human rights conventions ratified by Egypt) as well as its international legal obligations (in particular Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)) and its international commitment to respect freedom of association in the framework of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) .
Since 2011, the Egyptian Government has launched a judicial harassment campaign against civil society organisations on the pretext that they received unauthorised foreign funding under criminal case No. 173/2011, known as the “civil society case”.
The 2011 Government Fact-Finding Committee report, which formed the basis of the first trial in 2012, listed 37 NGOs who could be targeted under this “civil society case”. That list included ACIJLP, CIHRS, LCHR, the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA), HMLC, ANHRI, EIPR, El Nadim Center for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), the Arab Penal Reform Organization, the Egyptian Center for the Right to Education, El-Haq, the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (ACPE), Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Appropriate Communications Technologies (ACT), among others.
The first set of investigations targeted international and foreign NGOs. On June 4, 2013, the North Cairo Criminal Court sentenced 43 Egyptian and foreign staff members of five foreign civil society organisations to imprisonment ranging from one (suspended) to five years of prison for “managing unlicensed branches” of their organisations, “conducting research, political training, surveys, and workshops without licenses”, “training political parties and groups” and “illegally receiving foreign funding”. Though none of the defendants were forced to serve their sentences either because they were abroad or in the case of the junior staff had their sentences suspended, the court ordered the confiscation of their funds and the closure of Egypt-based branches of Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), and Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
The second part of the case targets Egyptian civil society organisations that have received foreign or international funding. In July 2014, the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) issued an ultimatum for Egyptian human rights organisations to register by late 2014 under Law 84/2002 or face closure .
In September 2014, President Al-Sisi signed into law amendments to Article 78 of the Penal Code. These amendments include the provision that receiving foreign funding for the purpose of “harming national security” is punishable by life imprisonment.
In late 2014, the Investigating Judge in charge of the case appointed a technical committee from the MoSS  to determine whether Egyptian organisations under review operate as civic associations without being registered as such under Law 84/2002, and to examine documents related to their sources of funding. The committee first examined the EDA. It is noteworthy to note that despite the EDA’s registration in compliance with the ultimatum , they are still being investigated. In January 2015, the judge issued travel bans against Messrs. Hossam al-Din Ali, Chairman of the EDA, Ahmed Ghoneim, Deputy, as well as Ms. Israa Abdel Fattah and Bassem Samir, who previously worked in the same organisation.
On June 9, 2015, the Investigating Judge mandated the technical committee to visit the Cairo office of the CIHRS in order to examine whether the CIHRS engages in activities of civic associations under the provisions of Law 84/2002. The committee requested the staff present in the office to provide documentation relating to the administration of the NGO, such as its registration, founding contract and statute, as well as the budgets, financial accounts, and funding contracts for the past four years. One additional demand the staff were instructed to comply with was to provide documentation that proved that the CIHRS was not conducting NGO work.
In July 2015, the HMLC was also subjected to the same review.
In December 2015, the ANHRI received a phone call from the technical committee, which asked to conduct an inspection, but due to the absence of Mr. Gamal Eid, the visit was postponed and eventually did not take place.
In December 2015, the Egyptian Center for the Right to Education was summoned by the Investigating Judge for questioning.
On February 4, 2016, Mr. Gamal Eid was informed of a travel ban as he was attempting to travel outside Egypt. Mr. Hossam Bahgat was informed of a similar ban on February 23, 2016; Mr. Mohamed Zaree, CIHRS Egypt Director, on May 27, 2016; Ms. Hoda Abdel Wahab, ACIJLP Executive Director, and Mr. Nasser Amin, ACIJLP President, on June 20, 2016 and July 14, 2016 respectively; and Ms. Mozn Hassan, Founder and Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, on June 27, 2016.
On March 13 and 14, 2016, two staff members of CIHRS and three staff members of Nazra for Feminist Studies were notified by telephone of a summons to appear on March 16 before the Investigating Judge in Cairo within the framework of criminal case No. 173/2011. However, the two staff members of CIHRS refused to appear, as they had not been properly notified in person in accordance with the law in force. Two former staff members of the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies and one accountant from the United Group were also summoned within the same context.
On March 17, Messrs. Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid were informed that the Investigative Judge had ordered the freezing of their assets and that their case would be reviewed by the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom on March 24, 2016. The case was subsequently adjourned to April 20, 2016, upon request from the Public Prosecutor.
On April 19, Mr. Bahey eldin Hassan, two staff members of CIHRS, as well as Mr. Moustafa El Hassan, HMLC Director, were informed at 9pm through a phone call from the Egyptian police that they were summoned to appear before the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom on April 20, along with Messrs. Bahgat and Eid.
On April 20, the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom added seven defendants from three additional NGOs to the “asset freeze order” initially targeting Messrs. Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid. The additional defendants are Mr. Bahey eldin Hassan, Mr. Moustafa El Hassan, Mr. Abdel Hafiz Tayel, two staff members of CIHRS, as well as of Mr. Bahey eldin Hassan’s wife and daughter and Mr. Gamal Eid’s wife and daughter ..
The hearing by the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom regarding the asset freeze order was postponed several times by the prosecutors to review the evidence and formally summon the new defendants. On May 23, 2016, it was again adjourned to July 17, 2016, and then to August 15.
On August 15, 2016, the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom decided to postpone to September 17 the ruling on the asset-freeze order targeting 11 human rights defenders and family members. The defendants included seven human rights defenders: Mr. Hossam Bahgat, founder of EIPR, Mr. Gamal Eid, Director of ANHRI, Mr. Moustafa El Hassan, Director of HMLC, Mr. Abdel Hafiz Tayel, Executive Director of CRE, Mr. Bahey Eldin Hassan, Director of CIHRS, two other CIHRS employees, as well as Mr. Bahey Eldin Hassan and Mr. Gamal Eid’s respective wives and daughters.
Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:
i. Overturn the decision issued by the Cairo Criminal Court on September 17, 2016, within the framework of a judicial process in appeal which shall conform with fair trial standards and other international human rights norms;
ii. Immediately put an end to investigations and criminal cases targeting NGOs as well as human rights defenders and their relatives;
iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment against all human rights organisations and defenders in Egypt, including travel bans;
iv. Revise the Law on Associations to comply with international human rights standards and the UPR commitments made by Egypt, while ensuring that independent civil society organisations are meaningfully consulted in the drafting process;
v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(a), 6(a), and 12.2;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Egypt.
· President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Fax: +202 23901998
· Prime Minister of Egypt, Mr. Sherif Ismail, Fax: + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email: primemin idsc.gov.eg
· Minister of the Interior of Egypt, Mr. Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, E-mail: moi1 idsc.gov.eg, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
· Minister of Justice of Egypt, Mr. Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rehim, E-mail: mojeb idsc.gov.eg, Fax: +202 2795 8103
· Public Prosecutor, Fax: +202 2577 4716
· President of the National Council For Human Rights, Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: nchr nchr.org.eg
· H.E. Ms. Wafaa Bassim, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.egypt ties.itu.int, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15
· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email: embassy.egypt skynet.be
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.
 The Court however refused to freeze the assets of some relatives of the accused.
 For more information on that case, see also EIPR, “Further background on Case No. 173 – the case against human rights NGOs ”, available at: http://eipr.org/en/pressrelease/2016/09/15/2661.
 The investigation started in September 2011, and the raid on NGOs took place in December 2011. As the investigation has been ongoing for nearly five years, the scope of the case remains unknown. For more information, please see: http://www.cihrs.org/?p=720&lang=en
 At the occasion of the UPR of Egypt in November 2014, the Egyptian authorities accepted at least five recommendations on the protection of human rights defenders, including a commitment to reforming the current NGO law with a wide consultation of NGOs, and a commitment to guarantee the right to freedom of association in accordance with international standards.
 The ultimatum was made public in July 2014, and in September 2014, the deadline was pushed back to November 10, 2014.
 The committee is composed of Ministry of Social Solidarity officials but they report to the Investigating Judge.
 The EDA has been registered under the Associations Law No. 84/2002 since September 2014.
 Mr. Bahgat attended the April-20 hearing, while the other defendants were represented by their lawyers. No formal charges were confirmed on that occasion
Egypt: Asset freeze is a shameless ploy to silence human rights activism
17 September 2016, 14:03 UTC
The Zeinhom Criminal Court’s decision today to freeze the personal and organizational bank accounts of a group of leading and award-winning human rights lawyers and campaigners over politically motivated accusations that they are using foreign funds for illegal purposes is a reprehensible blow to Egypt’s human rights movement, Amnesty International said today.
These individuals may subsequently face prosecution and prison terms of up to life, equivalent to 25 years in Egypt.
“The Egyptian authorities are using this case as a way to crush the country’s human rights movement. Meanwhile, the government’s brutal crackdown on dissent shows no sign of stopping, with enforced disappearances and torture becoming a matter of state policy. Egypt needs these critical voices more than ever,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“We are calling for this unjust ruling to be quashed with immediate effect, and for the Egyptian authorities to cease their harassment of these human rights defenders and members of their families. This is a blatant misuse of the criminal justice system to prevent people speaking out about the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the country.”
This is a blatant misuse of the criminal justice system to prevent people speaking out about the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the country
Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International
The court has frozen the assets of: Hossam Bahgat, an investigative journalist and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR); Gamal Eid, founder of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI); Bahey el-Din Hassan, founder and director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS); Mostafa al-Hassan, director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC); and Abdel Hafez Tayel, director of the Egyptian Center for the Right to Education (ECRE).
The court also froze the organizational assets of CIHRS, HLMC and ECRE. The status of EIPR and ANHRI’s assets remains unclear; while the judge did not mention them in court, they could still be linked to the individuals whose assets were frozen today. The court did not uphold asset freezes against family members of the defenders named in the case.
The case against the group was brought by judges overseeing an inquiry into human rights groups on charges that include the transfer of funds to allegedly illegal entities and using those funds for illegal purposes, such as the vaguely worded purposes of “pursuing acts harmful to national interests”, “destabilizing general peace” or “harming security and public order”. The evidence brought against them by security agencies is their human rights work.
In recent months, the Egyptian authorities have ramped-up restrictions on human rights activists and their organizations through travel bans, asset freezes and closure orders.
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK