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Middle East

Egypt orders shutdown of torture rehabilitation clinic

Egypt has ordered to freeze the bank account of the El-Nadeem Rehabilitation Center in Cairo, a clinic that provides legal assistance to torture victims. What are the consequences for human rights in the country?

The El-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence received a letter from Egypt's Central Bank on Thursday, announcing the freezing of its account in accordance with a law passed under former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. The current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, has allegedly used torture to squash dissent in the country. The shutting of the clinic, according to human rights groups, is an attempt to cover up the abuse.

Logo El Nadeem Klinik in Ägypten

The logo of the El-Nadeem Center

"This is yet more evidence of the Egyptian authorities' chilling contempt of perceived critics. By freezing El-Nadeem's financial assets the authorities are preventing the center from carrying out their crucial work to provide care to survivors of horrific violence and violating victims' right to health and to reparation," said Phillip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

The organization announced the freeze on Twitter.

"Friends, we have received a decision from the Central Bank of Egypt today that our bank account will be frozen in accordance with law number 84 from 1992," it wrote.

The organization claims that the Mubarak-era law shutting down the center is not applicable, as it is registered as a public clinic by the Egyptian Ministry of Health and not a private association. 

Although the main accusation is that the center is being closed for political reasons due to its counseling of torture victims, the center also helps those who are suffering from domestic violence.

 

"They've frozen the bank account of the El-Nadeem Center. Many women have sought refuge there due to being exposed to domestic violence. Where will they go now?" tweeted Sondos Shabayek. 

The organization, which was founded in 1993, archives cases of violence and kidnapping on its social media accounts. 

"Two cases of murder, five cases of death in places of detention and 52 cases of torture and mistreatment. This is the torture archive in the media from September 2016," it tweeted.

The closure of the clinic is one of the many recent developments concerning to human rights observers in regards to the Egyptian military, which backs the current president, el-Sissi. 

Murder of Giulio Regeni

Italien vermisster Student Giulio Regeni in Ägypten (picture alliance/ROPI)

Giulio Regeni was found murdered in February

In addition to cases of abuse among Egyptian citizens, the tortured body of Italian Cambridge University student Giulio Regeni was found alongside a highway running between Cairo and Alexandria earlier this year. He was in Egypt researching trade unions. Controversy surrounded his death, as many believe that his left-wing political research made him a target for the el-Sissi government. Italian media and diplomats have accused Egyptian security services of being behind his death, but Cairo has denied the allegations.

Regeni's murder incited outrage in the global community. In April 2016, the Italian officials recalled their ambassador to Cairo, due to a lack of cooperation in the murder investigation.

Crackdown on NGOs

The closure of the El-Nadeem Center is one of the many NGOs that have been shut down in recent years by the el-Sissi government. The crackdown on civil society began shortly after the ouster of Mubarak in the country's 2011 revolution.

Ägypten Polizei Polizeiwagen Sicherheitskräfte (Imago/ZUMA Press)

The Egyptian military and security forces are the country's most dominant political players

The Egyptian government maintains the power to shut down NGOs that don't have official registration or for accepting unauthorized foreign funding. In 2014, the new president El-Sissi even passed an amendment that could allow for life-imprisonment for human rights activists.

In another Amnesty report from earlier this year titled "Egypt's crackdown on NGOs," the deputy director of the organization's Middle East and Africa program, Said Boumedouha, said, "Egypt's civil society is being treated like an enemy of the state, rather than a partner for reform and progress."        

Reform in Egypt in regards to NGOs has proven difficult due to the country's military, which maintains considerable influence on public institutions.