Egypt: Rights organization “ANHRI” suspends its activities due to police harassment

In the absence of the bare minimum of the rule of law and respect for human rights The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) decides to suspend its activities, ANHRI said in a statement published on its website on January 10, 2022.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said it “regrets to announce that starting today it will be suspending its operations and activities, given the increasing disregard for the rule of law in Egypt, growing violations against human rights which do not spare independent human rights organizations and defenders, and an increase in police harassment, whether under a legal or judicial pretext or through explicit persecution.”

ANHRI said its decision to suspend its activities comes after many strenuous attempts to continue to operate despite the difficult conditions which Egyptians are going through and the state of political instability that the government has employed to put restrictions on independent human rights organizations, as well as the expansion in the arrests and detention of human rights defenders, journalists and political activists, regardless of whether they are independent or affiliated to political parties.

“While all independent human rights organizations in Egypt face harassment, persecution and threats, the security forces’ targeting of ANHRI’s has been particularly severe and hostile, ranging from arresting members of its team, thefts, violent physical assaults, and illegal summons, all the way to attempts to recruit some staff members as informants on ANHRI, which is part of a growing list of violations and harassment,” the statement read. Adding, “Unfortunately, the Public Prosecution was not satisfied with not providing protection, but has contributed to the violations and restrictions against ANHRI and its team.”

ANHRI’s suspension of activities today comes after nearly 18 years of tireless and loyal work on behalf of the values of human rights and the rule of law and after fighting many battles from 2004 until now. These years represent an indelible part of history during which ANHRI defended freedom of expression and hundreds of journalists and opinion-holders in Egypt and the Arab world and preserved an important part of the history of the Egyptian and Arab human rights movement in its archive.

ANHRI led several initiatives to reform the police and the media, and supported bloggers and journalists by creating Katib blogging platform and Wasla newspaper, as well as Katib website, which was blocked 9 hours after its launch. These and many other ANHRI activities and achievements “ represent part of the struggle of the human rights community towards establishing a state of institutions, justice and the rule of law.

ANHRI’s executive director, Gamal Eid, said: “We are suspending our institutional work and activities today, but we continue to be lawyers who have a conscience, and as individual, independent human rights defenders will work side by side with the few remaining independent human rights organizations, independent human rights defenders and the entire movement calling for democracy.”

Eid added, “Despite our conviction that the new NGOs law is unjust, we began with registration consultations. Much to our astonishment, we faced an almost impossible difficulty as we remain accused in the civil society case, Case No. 173, for eleven years now, which prevents us from registering or dealing with official bodies. Then we received the message that we need to change ANHRI’s name and that working on freedom of expression and prison conditions is forbidden, even though these have been fundamental areas of ANHRI’s work since its inception! After this honorable history that we are proud of, we refuse to become an organization that works on unimportant issues, and we will not become a complicit organization or a GNGO (Governmental-Non-Governmental-Organization).”

In these circumstances, exacerbated by the emergence of a huge number of GNGO human rights organizations that polish the image of the government, create a false image of the human rights situation and take part in the violations and defamation against the few remaining independent human rights organizations, the small group of independent organizations that continue to try to work are a source of pride and appreciation.

They might succeed where ANHRI has failed, in terms of survival and continuity. We are filled with hope and confidence that one day this dark phase of Egypt’s history, which is flooded with violations and the absence of the law, will come to an end. Until this day comes, we, as individual lawyers, will support them and work along their side to defend human rights and freedom of expression and to build an Egypt free from prisoners of conscience, oppression and impunity.

Police harassment against ANHRI

Following are the most important instances of persecution and blatant violations that ANHRI and its team were subjected to which drove them to announce the suspension of their activities starting today, January 10, 2022

1. The seizure of ANHRI’s headquarters, documents and furniture, with the knowledge of individuals close to the security, and with help from Abdeen Police Department and the Abdeen Prosecution, and until today, ANHRI has not retrieved its furniture and documents since 2013.

2. The confiscation of Wasla newspaper, which was published by ANHRI since 2010, arresting the workers of the printing press and stopping its release. 2015.

3. The decision to ban ANHRI’s founder and director from traveling in February 2016, in connection with the civil society case, Case 173 of 2011, which is still in place to this day.

4. The decision to freeze the assets of ANHRI’s founder and director in 2016 in connection with the same case, which is still in place to this day.

5. Defamation campaigns against ANHRI’s director, his daughter (who is a minor) and his wife, from 2016 until today.

6. The shutting down of all of “Al-Karama” public libraries (six public libraries in poor neighborhoods) founded by ANHRI’s director, Gamal Eid, with the money of the Roland Burger Human Dignity Award he received from Germany, a police closure and without a judicial decision.

7. Investigating ANHRI’s deputy executive director, Rawda Ahmed, and her release on a bail of 20 thousand Egyptian pounds, pending Case 173 of 2011 against civil society. 2017.

8. Blocking ANHRI’s website, then blocking Katib website, which is affiliated to ANHRI, 9 hours after its launch. 2017

9. The National Security summoned two of ANHRI’s lawyers and pressured them to quit their job at ANHRI. 2017

10. The arrest of ANHRI’s IT & networks officer and torturing him, and he was forced to flee outside Egypt. 2018

11. Increasing the frequency of defamation, smear and incitement against ANHRI and its director, especially after meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in January 2019.

12. Stealing the car of ANHRI’s director, Gamal Eid, from under ANHRI’s headquarters, by an officer accompanied by other individuals. Although there is a video recording of the theft, the car has not been returned and the incident was shelved. September 2019

13. The brutal physical assault by armed officers carrying radios on ANHRI’s director, Gamal Eid, which resulted in breaking his ribs, and stealing items from him. October 2019

14. The arrest of ANHRI’s lawyer, Amr Imam, who has been imprisoned since October 2019 until now.

15. The Public Prosecution, despite having heard witnesses and having watched security cameras’ footage that recorded the physical assault incident, shelved the investigations and contributes to the impunity of the perpetrators. November 2019

16. Smashing the car of the deputy executive director, Rawda Ahmed, which was borrowed by ANHRI’s director and parked under his house, by armed officers carrying radios, and the prosecution has shelved the incident. November 2019

17. Repeated phone threats and despite giving the prosecution the phone number, the prosecution has shelved the incident. November 2019

18. Armed police officers in private cars assault ANHRI’s director and douse him with paint next to his home, and the prosecution contributes to their impunity after an unfair investigation. End of December 2019

19. Police summons for some of ANHRI’s employees in an attempt to pressure them to work as informants on ANHRI for the national security.

20. The arrest of one of ANHRI’s researchers from May 2020 until August 2021.

21. Lawsuits filed by lawyers close to the security against ANHRI and its director, accompanied by intense defamation campaigns in the media.

22. An unofficial message that it will not be possible for ANHRI to continue under the same name in case it decides to register according to the NGOs law, and that work in the areas of freedom of expression, press freedom or the conditions of prisons and prisoners of conscience, will not be tolerated. In addition to being accused in the civil society case that started 11 years ago, which makes it difficult to sign papers or deal with official bodies.

“Out of concern for the safety and freedom of the team, and due to our inability to deal with such brutal police violations, we decided to suspend our work as an organization, and continue as individual lawyers, to defend human rights and the right of Egyptians to a state of the rule of law,” ANHRI concluded.