CAIRO: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) does not have an office, nor does it have any staff based in Egypt, the organization told The Cairo Post Thursday via e-mail, responding to media reports claiming the organization and Amnesty International have no permits to work in Egypt.
Neither the Human Rights Watch nor Amnesty International have permits to work in Egypt, Hani Mahana, an advisor to the Ministry of Social Solidarity under the former government, told The Cairo Post Tuesday, confirming media reports.
Ministry officials told MENA as much on Tuesday, noting that 70 NGOs have work permits in Egypt and work freely in many fields.
The HRW clarified that it had opened in 2007 an office in Egypt under the registration requirements of Egyptian Civil Society Law, but the organization closed it and withdrew the registration application due to the “deteriorating political, security and human rights situation in Egypt, in particular the arrests of prominent civil society activists and journalists.”
“For more than six years, during the Mubarak, Morsi and SCAF administrations, the Egyptian authorities regularly communicated with Human Rights Watch about the status of its application, asking for updates and clarifications, and informing us that a review of our application was in process,” the organization added.
The organization confirmed that its “research and advocacy has never been conditional on having an administrative presence in a country, whether in Egypt or anywhere else.”
HRW senior officials including Executive Director Ken Roth were denied entry into Egypt on Aug. 10, two days before issuing its report on the dispersal of pro-Muslim Brotherhood Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins. However, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior said in a statement that HRW “was informed” that its delegation’s visit was postponed to September and that its staff did not have the prerequisite visas for their work in Egypt.
The 188-page Human Rights Watch report described the dispersal as a “crime against humanity,” saying at least 1,000 people were killed.
The Organization noted in its mail to The Cairo Post that its researchers and advocates held numerous press conferences in Egypt and until the denial of entry of its staff into Egypt, they had “never faced any restrictions on their activities.”
Amnesty International commented that it does not have an office or any staff permanently based in Egypt.
“We operate from London with frequent visits to Egypt. We systematically inform the authorities in advance about each visit, both through the ministry of foreign affairs and the embassy of Egypt in London,” the organization told The Cairo Post via e-mail Tuesday evening.
On Aug. 14, Amnesty International issued a report called calling the Rabaa dispersal a “massacre,” adding, “Egypt’s criminal justice system has been swift to arrest, try and sentence alleged former President Mohamed Morsi supporters after grossly unfair mass trials. Two hundred and thirty two have already been condemned to death and courts have recommended death sentences for over a thousand.”
Morsi, a member of the Brotherhood, was toppled by the army on July 3, 2013 after mass protests called for the end of the Brotherhood regime. On December 25, 2013, the interim government designated the Brotherhood a terrorist group a day after bombings targeted the Security Directorate of Dakahlia, leaving 15 dead and more than 130 injured.
According to the Civil Society Law, the ministry shall be notified of the organization’s activities and its aims of working in Egypt and will then issue work permits.
On December 30, 2011, during the administration of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, security forces stormed five NGOs in Cairo: the Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP); the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory (BAHRO); and the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI); the International Republican Institute and Freedom House. The authority accused them of violating the founding terms of the organizing law.
Amnesty International issued on Feb. 21, 2013 a statement condemning the Egyptian authorities for imposing a new law that “prohibits national NGOs’ contact with foreign organizations without prior permission from security bodies.”
“NGOs in Egypt already face staggering restrictions, but this instruction is a new low,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui in the statement.