Human rights organizations have condemned the Egyptian government for its heavy-handed crackdown on rights advocates working in the North African country.
A total of 14 international organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, on Wednesday denounced stepped-up questioning of rights workers by Egyptian authorities recently.
As part of the crackdown, rights activities have been barred from travel amid government attempts to freeze their assets, the organizations said in a joint statement read by Amnesty’s Said Boumedouha.
Cairo says the government is looking into the funding and registration of local and international NGOs operating in Egypt as part of an investigation launched in July 2011.
The probe has led to several convictions and the closure of the offices of five international non-governmental organizations.
“Egypt’s civil society is being treated like an enemy of the state, rather than a partner for reform and progress,” Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, said.
The rights organizations called on authorities to end the persecution and abandon the investigation.
“The Egyptian authorities have moved beyond scaremongering and are now rapidly taking concrete steps to shut down the last critical voices in the country’s human rights community,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Rights organizations have frequently denounced the Egyptian authorities for carrying out illegal detentions, forced disappearances of activists and torture of detainees.
UN concerned about repression of NGOs
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein also voiced concern over the closure of civil society organizations in Egypt as well as persecution of rights activists.
Urging an end to the worrying trend, Zeid pointed to the “valuable role” of NGOs in documenting violations, and said they will see their activities “completely crippled” if the clampdown goes on.
“This will stifle the voices of those who advocate for victims,” the UN human rights chief warned.
The Egyptian government has been cracking down on opposition since former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in a military coup led by ex-military chief and current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013.
Sisi has been accused of leading the suppression of Morsi’s supporters; hundreds of them have been killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces over the past couple of years.
Numerous NGOs have been dissolved under Egypt’s 2002 Law on Associations while others have been shut over alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed as a terrorist organization in late 2013. Morsi hailed from the Brotherhood.