CAIRO: After 20 years of supporting victims of torture and reporting cases of brutality, the three founders of the Nadeem Center have been told by the government that they must shut their doors.
“It is a political decision,” founder Dr. Aida Seif el-Dawla said, vowing that the center will continue to issue reports citing torture until “the state stops torture.”
The center was informed Feb. 17 that it should be closed over violating unspecified licenses; however, psychiatrist Suzan Fayad claimed in a Sunday conference that official papers atrribute the decision to the center’s regular reports that detail police violence.
In January, the El-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence spotted 137 deaths inside detention places and 328 others outside, all taking place during 2015.
Despite a surge in violence cases by police against citizens, the Interior Ministry has maintained its denial to accusations of “systematic torture,” and instead called them “individual mistakes.”
The threat to close El-Nadeem is the latest action in the government’s crackdown on NGOs, after a deadline was set in November 2014 to force all civil organizations to register with the government.
Dealing with survivors of torture, and even providing support to families of those who enforcedly disappeared, the Nadeem Center monthly receives as many as 250 new cases of abuses, including that practiced by security forces, according to Magda Adly, one of the founders.
In 1993, four doctors decided to establish the center as a clinic to receive torture victims after they witnessed “poor” medical service provided to cases with severe psychological shocks at hospitals at that time, Adly told The Cairo Post Monday.
“Whatever will happen, we will never stop reporting torture and will never abandon the victims,” Adly said, as she waits at the center’s headquarters along with Nadeem staff and supporters for imposed closure.
The move, many rights advocates say, is part of a “smear campaign” mounted by the government to restrict activities related to the protection of human rights in Egypt.
“We are neither the first nor the last ones to be subjected to security harassment,” Adly said, listing incidents of advocates who were arrested on arrival at airport and others who were banned from travel; Gamal Eid, the founder and director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information on Feb.4, was banned to board a flight bound to Athens.
For activist Haitham Hassaneen, the closure decision is like the regime is “explicitly announcing its intentions to continue the torture crime,” he told The Cairo Post during a Sunday conference in solidarity with El-Nadeem Center, which he described as the “backbone of torture victims and detainees in Egypt.”
Activist Mona Seif told The Cairo Post she grew up hearing about Nadeem reports, and that since 2011 uprising the center “is the first thing comes to her mind” when it comes to a detainee in need of psychological support after release.
Seif grew up in a family involved in the field of human rights, including her brother; the currently jailed prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fatah; she finds the threat to close El-Nadeem as “expected as the center hinders the police promotion of violations as isolated cases.”
“I am not surprised,” Journalist Khaled Dawood said, adding that he is expecting such a move from a “regime that imprisons human rights activists…and gets involved in torturing regular citizens.”
Dawood said that the government is sending a “warning message to all human rights organizations that they are not tolerated anymore,” he told The Cairo Post.
International human rights organizations called on the state to revoke the decision to shutdown El-Nadeem, considering the “closure would be a devastating blow to Egypt’s human rights movement as well as victims of abuse,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch.
The center has appealed the closure decision and “now the issue will be decided on by the judiciary,” Taher Abu el-Nasr, lawyer for Al-Nadeem Center, told The Cairo Post.