The Egyptian authorities must immediately retract an order to freeze the bank account of the renowned El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, said Amnesty International today.
The organization, a clinic which provides hundreds of torture victims with vital services including counselling and legal assistance, learned today that its financial assets were frozen according to an order by the Central Bank of Egypt.
“The El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence is a lifeline for hundreds of victims of torture and for families of people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance. The Egyptian authorities’ decision to arbitrarily freeze its bank account is a cruel blow to human rights in the country,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“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.”
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 violencePhilip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa
The Central Bank’s letter, which the Center has yet to receive a copy of, stated that the bank account freeze will be imposed until the organization conforms with a repressive Mubarak era NGO law (84/2002).
The El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence has operated as a registered clinic with the Ministry of Health and does not need to be registered under the law on associations.
Amnesty International believes that the authorities are using the bank account freeze to force the Center to shut down, in retaliation for its work helping victims of torture and other ill-treatment and family members of those subjected to enforced disappearances.
This is not the first time the Egyptian authorities have attempted to stop the El Nadeem Center from carrying out its work. In February 2016 the authorities issued an arbitrarily administrative decree to close the organization without giving any reason. The decree is currently being challenged before administrative courts.
The bank account freeze imposed on the El Nadeem Center comes just months after a court froze the personal and organizational bank accounts of a group of leading and award-winning human rights defenders and campaigners, stifling their vital work.
Obstructing care for victims of torture is inexcusablePhilip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa
“Obstructing care for victims of torture is inexcusable. Instead of lashing out at El Nadeem Center, the Egyptian authorities should be implementing safeguards to prevent torture in custody and end enforced disappearances,” said Philip Luther.
The El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence was not informed about the decision in advance, as is required under Egyptian law, undermining their ability to correct errors or to prepare their legal defence. The bank had been in regular contact with the organization over the past 10 days and requested documents to update its bank account which the organization had provided.
The organization must be given an opportunity to challenge the order before a court, and pending the trial, it must have full access to its bank accounts.