Egypt: Civil Society “Foreign Funding” Case Remains Unclosed

On 22 August 2023, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) issued a statement announcing the dismissal of criminal cases against 75 of the organizations investigated in the infamous civil society “Foreign Funding” Case 173 of 2011, with ten other organizations remaining under investigation. The MoJ’s recent statement, however, does not indicate any change to the status of the case since 2021, when the Egyptian government made the same announcement on closing the investigation against the same 75 predominantly developmental and charity organizations. Currently, more than 20 human rights defenders, belonging to the organizations most critical of the human rights record in Egypt, remain under punitive measures imposed through the case, including asset freezes and travel bans. The undersigned organizations demand that Egyptian authorities comprehensively close Case 173 and cease their targeting of independent civil society organizations and human rights defenders.

Case 173 emanated from a 2011 decision by the Egyptian Cabinet delegating the MoJ to initiate an investigation on the foreign funding of civil society organizations. In June 2013, 43 international NGO workers, including American citizens, were convicted to prison terms ranging from one to five years, and were later acquitted in a retrial in 2018 after pressure from the United States. In 2016, Case 173 was expanded to include Egyptian civil society organizations, and subsequently more than 30 Egyptian human rights defenders were banned from traveling and subjected to asset freezes. After seven years, despite the government’s closure of the case against some Egyptian organizations, the majority of those banned from traveling in 2016 remain on the ban list, including some of those for whom investigations have been closed. Additionally, the assets of some of those who are no longer on the travel ban list remain frozen Their situation remains unaffected by the recent statement of the MoJ, which seeks to ease international criticism of Egypt’s human rights record.

Closing Case 173 is a matter of political will, as exemplified by the acquittal of 43 international organizations’ staff in a retrial in 2018. If the Egyptian authorities genuinely intend to end restrictions imposed on independent civil society, they should immediately and comprehensively close Case 173, bring Egypt’s law on civic associations to conformity with international standards, and stop targeting human rights defenders through other draconian legislation. Egyptian authorities should also release imprisoned human rights defenders, including Ibrahim Metwally and members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms.

Signatories:

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  2. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
  3. Committee for Justice (CFJ)
  4. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  5. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
  6. Egyptian Front for Human Rights 
  7. Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)
  8. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  9. EuroMed Rights
  10. Femena
  11. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  12. HUMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
  13. MENA Rights Group
  14. Nadeem Center
  15. Sinai Foundation for Human Rights
  16. The Freedom Initiative
  17. PEN America
  18. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
  19. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
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