Egypt: Asset freezes against Mozn Hassan, Nazra for Feminist Studies, Mohamed Zarea, Atef Hafez and the Arab Penal Reform Organization
URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
EGY 004 / 0616 / OBS 049.9
Judicial harassment /
January 11, 2017
The Observatory for the Protection of Human
Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
and FIDH, received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the
following situation in Egypt.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued
judicial harassment and the restrictions to freedom of association faced by
several Egyptian human rights organisations, as well as their staff and
members, in the framework of the so-called case No. 173/2011, also know as the
“NGO foreign funding case” (see background information).
According to the information received, on
December 11, 2017, the North Cairo Elementary Court decided to
freeze the assets of Ms. Mozn Hassan,
Founder and Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies (Nazra), Mr. Mohamed
Zarea, Director of the Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO), Mr. Atef
Hafez, legal researcher at APRO, as well as those held by the two
afore-mentioned organisations, within the framework of Criminal case No.
173/2011, known as the “NGO Foreign Funding” case.
The Observatory recalls that Nazra has been
targeted under the foreign funding case since March 22, 2016 when three of its
staff members were summoned to court for interrogation, while Ms. Hassan was
summoned to appear on March 29, 2016. On that day, the investigative judge
decided to reschedule her interrogation at a later unspecified date. On June
27, 2016, Ms. Hassan was banned from travelling without receiving any further
It has to be recalled that in September, Ms. Mozn Hassan and Nazra received the
“Right Livelihood” Award 2016, a prize known as the Alternative Nobel Prize,
for their activities in defence of women’s human rights.
The Observatory strongly condemns this new
act of harassment against the above-mentioned defenders, which only aims at
sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities, and urges the Egyptian
authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to all forms of
harassment against them and more in general against all human rights defenders
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 “foreign funding case against NGOs”.
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 “foreign funding case against NGOs”. 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 case targets Egyptian civil
society organisations that have received foreign or international funding. It
started with the ultimatum made by the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) for Egyptian human rights
organisations to register by late 2014 under Law 84/2002 or face closure. One
month later, a new wave of harassment targeting human rights NGOs began.
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.
In June 2015, Mr. Negad El Borai, the Director of United Group, was interrogated by
the Investigating Judge about its sources of funding and legal status. In March 2016, the United
Group was summonsed for the fourth time. On May 17, 2016, he was summonsed for
the fifth hearing session, but at the very last
minute it was postponed to an undetermined date.
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.
On June 16, 2015, the CIHRS was presented
with a summons letter to appear on June 17, before the Investigating Judge
within the framework of the case No. 173/2011. However, the CIHRS refused to
accept the summons letter as it failed to comply with the legal requirements in
force and subsequently submitted its arguments in writing to the representative
of the Investigating Judge. Since then, CIHRS and its members had not received
any further summons, until those of March 13 and 14, 2016 (see below).
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 ANHRI’s Director, 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, founder
of EIPR, was informed of a similar ban on February 23, 2016.
On March 13 and 14, 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
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 March 22, 2016, Ms. Mozn
Hassan was formally accused of receiving foreign funds without
authorisation, and throughout the month of March 2016, a number of NGO staff
members were summoned to appear before the Investigating Judge.
On April 19, Mr. Bahey eldin Hassan, CIHRS Director, 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, Executive
Director of the Egyptian Center for the Right to Education, 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. It
was adjourned to May 23, 2016, July 17, 2016, August 15, 2016 and September 17,
On May 27, Mr. Mohamed Zaree, CIHRS Egypt
Director, was informed by the authorities at Cairo International Airport that a
travel ban had been imposed on him based on an order by an investigative judge.
We believe this travel ban was ordered within the framework of the “foreign
funding case against NGOs.
On June 27, 2016 Ms. Mozn Hassan was
informed by authorities at the Cairo International Airport that a travel ban
had been imposed on her, under the framework of the “NGO Foreign Funding Case”.
Ms. Mozn Hassan had attempted to travel to participate in the Executive
Committee meeting of the Women Human Right Defenders (WHRD) Regional Coalition
for the Middle East and North Africa, taking place during the period of June 27tto
July 1, 2016.
17, 2016, the Cairo Criminal Court in Zeinhom 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. The Court however refused to freeze the assets of some
relatives of the accused also targeted by the asset freeze request.
On December 12,
2016, during a court hearing regarding the freezing of assets belonging to
human rights lawyer Ms. Azza Soliman, confirmed in an hearing
on December 14, the investigative judge requested the
North Cairo Court to freeze the assets of Ms. Mozn Hassan, Founder and
Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, Mr. Mohamed Zarea, head of Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO), as
well as the assets of the two organisations. The court adjourned the session
until January 11, 2017.
Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:
Immediately and unconditionally lift the assets freezes against the defenders
and organisations mentioned in this appeal, as well as against all the other
human rights defenders and organisations in Egypt, within the case No.
Put an end to all forms of harassment – including at the judicial level
- against all human rights defenders in Egypt as they only aim to sanction
their legitimate human rights activities.
Guarantee in all circumstances the freedom of movement and association
of human rights defenders, by immediately and unconditionally lifting all
travel bans and assets freeze imposed against them, as they aim only at
sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;
Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights
Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9,
1998, especially Articles 1 and 12.2; and
More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights
and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by
· President of the Arab Republic of Egypt,
H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Fax: +202 2391 1441
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
· Prime Minister, Mr. Sherif Ismail. Fax: +
202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email: email@example.com
· Minister of the Interior, Mr. Magdi
Abdel-Ghaffar, E-mail: HumanRightsSector@moi.gov.eg, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rahim, Fax: +202 2795 8103
Minister of Social Solidarity, Ghada Waly, Fax: +202 3337
· Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabeel
Sadek, Fax: +202 2577 4716
· Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the
National Council For Human Rights, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Wafaa Bassim, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations
in Geneva, Email: email@example.com, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15
Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email:
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your
Geneva-Paris, January 11, 2017
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken
quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of
Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World
Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme
is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human
rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights
Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
See Observatory Urgent appeal EGY 004 /
0616 / OBS 049.5 issued on June 28, 2016.
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
The EDA has been registered
under the Associations Law No. 84/2002 since September 2014.
United Group is a law firm established 50 years ago, and headed by Mr. Negad El
Borai, one of Egypt’s most influential human rights defenders and lawyers.
Observatory Urgent Appeal EGY 002 /
0516 / OBS 042, issued on May 17, 2016.
Bahgat attended the April-20 hearing, while the other defendants were
represented by their lawyers. No formal charges were confirmed on that
See Observatory Urgent appeal EGY 004_/
1116 / OBS 101.2 issued on December 15, 2016. Ms. Azza Soliman is a
human rights lawyer and founder of the Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Aid
(CEWLA), an NGO that provides free legal, social, and psychological services to
women and marginalized groups, and advocates for improved protections of their
rights, and member of the Executive Committee of the WHRD MENA Coalition.
See the Observatory Urgent Appeal EGY 004 / 1116 / OBS 101.2, issued on
December 15, 2016.