Sunday,17 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1332, (16 - 22 February 2017)
Sunday,17 February, 2019
Issue 1332, (16 - 22 February 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Rights centre closed

Al-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence vows to continue its work despite a governmental closure order

#Al-Nadeem Centre’s headquarters was shut down by the police last week # Fayyad # Seif Al-Dawla
# # #

On 8 February security forces, accompanied by employees from the Health Ministry, closed the headquarters of Al-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, sealing the centre’s downtown Cairo offices. The doorman of the building which housed the centre’s clinic and offices was arrested but later released. No Al-Nadeem staff were present during the closure which took place during the centre’s weekend.

Following the closure Al-Nadeem’s lawyers contested the sealing of the centre.

“The ministerial decree ordering the closure relates only to the clinic. Security forces exceeded the law when they sealed the three apartments belonging to the centre,” Suzanne Fayyad, one of Al-Nadeem’s founders said. The sealing took place in the absence of the centre’s staff who should have been notified. “Files of patients, including their addresses and telephone numbers, were in the offices. How could we be sure they are still safe? It is an ethical responsibility,” she added.

Founded in 1993, Al-Nadeem offers psychological support to victims of torture and violence. The centre also issues periodic reports detailing cases of torture in prisons and other detention facilities.

Two weeks before the closure Al-Nadeem issued its annual report under the title “Harvest of Oppression”. The report listed 123 deaths in detention, 535 cases of torture, 472 cases of medical negligence in prisons and 980 cases of enforced disappearance in 2016.

Fifteen legal rights groups issued a statement condemning the police raid at the centre and its subsequent closure. The statement warned that “the arbitrary closure will not be the last of the hostile measures taken against workers in the field of civil society and human rights.”

NGO workers have been referred to trial, had their assets frozen and banned from travel in what activists say is a concerted clampdown on civil society.

“Sealing the centre without giving reasons and in the absence of a prosecution order is an escalation of the ongoing campaign targeting women’s rights organisations,” said a statement issued by 22 feminist activists in solidarity with Al-Nadeem’s staff.

A number of political figures have also expressed support for Al-Nadeem.

“An active civil society helps build a real democratic system. The enemies of civil society are the enemies of democracy,” posted MP Haitham Al-Hariri on his Facebook account.

Medhat Al-Zahed, acting chairman of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, said the sealing of the centre was part and parcel of ongoing policies which confuse combating terrorism with undermining democracy. “Those who target centres that opposed violence are making violence the basis of their policies,” he said.

There have been earlier attempts to shut down Al-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence. In February 2016, the Ministry of Health ordered the closure of the centre’s clinic on the grounds that it had violated its terms of licence. The centre contested the closure order and filed a lawsuit before the Administrative Court calling for a halt to the ministerial decree.

“What happened is part of the ferocious campaign targeting opponents of the regime,” said Al-Nadeem’s co-founder Aida Seif Al-Dawla following last year’s attempt by the Ministry of Health to close the centre.

The lawsuit still awaits a court ruling.

“For nearly a year the government has failed to present a single document justifying the closure decree or specifying the violations to licence terms that they claim,” says Taher Abul-Nasr, the centre’s legal advisor.

Security forces attempted to seal the clinic in April 2016 and in November Al-Nadeem’s bank accounts were frozen on the grounds it had failed to comply with NGO Law 84/2002.

In a statement issued on Friday Al-Nadeem staff pledged that they would find a way to continue to offer their services. “We will continue to reveal torture as along as such crimes continue,” the statement said.

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