Egypt Threatens to Close Down Middle Documenting Torture

Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 2:00 AM

Presently authorities are trying to close down the Nadeem Center, housed in an apt building off a Str full of auto parts dealers and mechanics.

For more than two decades, a team of psychiatrists in downtown Cairo have provided a unique service in Egypt: Therapy for people who declare they're victims of torture.

Presently authorities are trying to close down the Nadeem Center, housed in an apt building off a Str full of auto parts dealers and mechanics. Twice in the past three months, most recently on Wednesday, police have stormed in with closure orders. So far, the middle has managed to ward them off while its lawyers protest.

Its founders, however, fear the government is determined to get rid of an organization that, beyond helping victims, produces detailed documentation of police torture. Those accounts contrast starkly with officials' repeated denials that such abuses get place, except in rare, individual cases.

Latest year, the middle tallied around six hundred cases of police torture and almost five hundred people killed by security forces, one hundred of them while incarcerated.

"I haven't seen a worse situation than what we've now — the violations, the impunity, the defiance" by police, said Aida Seif el-Dawla, a psychiatrist and one of the center's co-founders.

"They hold repeating that there is number torture, that there are number forced disappearances, as if this would somehow create it a authorized statement," she said.

The move against the Nadeem Middle is portion of an effort targeting a no of rights groups and non-governmental organizations that's raised sharp criticism of Egypt at home, as well as from the United States and Europe.

The Nadeem Middle and other groups are below investigation on possible criminal charges of illegally receiving foreign funds. Also, the middle faces a closure order from the Cabinet that's never been made public but is reportedly based on vague claims of violations of Health Ministry regulations.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has overseen a wide crackdown on dissent since two thousand thirteen, when he led a military overthrew his Islamist predecessor. Security forces have arrested thousands of Islamists and killed hundreds as they crushed protests. In the past year, the campaign has also increasingly targeted secular activists who criticize the former general'south rule. Authorities have argued that they're acting to bring stability after five years of turmoil following the two thousand eleven pro-democracy uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Many of the top activists involved in the two thousand eleven uprising are presently in prison, most below a draconian law passed in two thousand-thirteenth effectively banning all street protests.

In response to international criticism of the foreign funding investigation, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said there are tens of thousands of NGOs operating in Egypt, and the government is committed to enabling their work. But he said the activities of civil society groups should be steered in "the right direction, not to the benefit of people whose practices could damage their countries."

A Health Ministry spokesman, Khaled Mujahed, told Egyptian media that Nadeem was ordered closed "love any middle that's proven to have violations." The middle denies committing any violations.

The groups believe authorities wish to silence criticism at a time when they declare police abuses are worsening.

"It'south number longer just special police units committing these acts. Normal police are practicing torture too. In the current environment, they think the law doesn't apply to them," Seif el-Dawla said.

Egypt has faced international criticism over the case of Giulio Regeni, an Italian Ph. D. learner whose brutalized body was found dumped by the side of a road, raising suspicion of police involvement. Egypt denied its security services were behind the killing.

Latest month, the Interior Ministry said it'd killed members of a gang suspected of being responsible for Regeni'south death. But that claim was largely dismissed in Italy, where many in the media accused Egypt of a cover-up. Rome is demanding Cairo arrive spotless and present results of a detailed investigation.

Seif el-Dawla says Regeni'south wounds, detailed in Italian autopsy findings, bear all the hallmarks of cases she's seen in decades of documenting police torture.

"Burning by cigarettes, ripping off fingernails and dumping bodies, that'south their style, and it'south very common in disappearance cases," she said, sitting at a table in the center'south sparse meeting room that's normally used for recording the testimony of victims.

In recent years, the Nadeem Center, headed by Dr. Magda Adly, received about 200-300 new clients annually. The doctors allow individual and grouping therapy, and sometimes conduct medical exams.

Below Mubarak'south 29-year rule, non-governmental groups faced complicated rules meant to control, contain or sometimes discourage their operations. Nadeem'south clinic treating patients, for example, is formally a separate entity from its middle doing documentation. In that way, it conforms to rules on which activities each portion can conduct.

NGOs also faced near monitoring by security agencies. Seif al-Dawla said she'south long known that the cigarette seller at a kiosk exterior the office is a police informant keeping an eye on who comes and goes.

Below Mubarak, however, rights organizations were seldom shut down.

Seif al-Dawla fears that'south the government's plan.

Security authorities don't love "civil society organizations that are exterior their control, particularly in the field of human rights," Seif al-Dawla said. The Nadeem Center'south accountants have been questioned by investigators trying to discover a way to discredit it, she said.

"The problem presently is that you cannot predict what can keep you in jail or not," she added.

Nadeem does get funding from abroad, but it's all reported to the authorities and tax records are kept, she said.

"Nothing about us is underground or hidden, we work totally transparently," Seif al-Dawla said. "They know all about it."

Dozens of organizations could face prosecution in the foreign funding case. Prominent investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat, rights advocate Gamal Eid and others have been barred from travel, and a Ct is considering whether to freeze the assets of Bahgat and Eid.

The case is a reopening of an investigation that began in two thousand-eleventh against nonprofit foreign groups. At the time, several U. S. and German groups were charged with receiving foreign funding in violation of Egyptian law. The constitution expressly allows NGOs, but receiving funds from overseas is heavily regulated, and new laws in recent years comprise vague bans on activities that destroy "national interests or unity."

In the meantime, the Nadeem Middle continues to work quietly, but receives number patients at the center, just in case the police swoop in.

Seif al-Dawla said she'south hoping the closure order will be lifted. In the meantime, she's pushing back appointments and handling new would-be patients.

"The phone here just keeps ringing," she said.


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