The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) announced on Tuesday that it is moving regional and international programmes out of Egypt “in light of the ongoing threats to human rights organisations”.
The NGO said in a statement that it is moving its regional programme to Tunisia and that it hopes it “will not need to move its Egypt programme abroad as well”. The Egypt programme includes projects for teaching and spreading a culture of human rights and media projects. The group said the programme moves have been “due to the ongoing hostility toward independent human rights groups”.
CIHRS, the recipient of the French Republic Award for Human Rights in December 2007, was founded in 1993 and is registered under Egyptian law.
It said: “Of all the Arab and non-Arab countries where the CIHRS is registered, Egypt is the only one where human rights organisations face such pressures and threats.”
The NGO said its decision comes after the “declaration of war on civil society”, referencing the recent measures taken by the Ministry of Social Solidarity. The measures required NGOs to register under law 84/2002, an associations law from the era of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
Many civil society organisations have been aiming to abolish the law, which the CIHRS described as “draconian”.
NGOs were given a deadline to register with the Egyptian authorities, which expired on 10 November, after an extension.
CIHRS also cited “mounting security pressure aimed at shutting out every independent, critical voice from the public sphere, individuals and institutions, Islamist or secular”. It added that there was a “deterioration of human rights in the country to a level unprecedented in Egypt’s modern history”.
CIHRS said it is these same pressures that are also behind decision by majors NGOs and international groups to suspend activities in Egypt.
Human Rights Watch shut down its Cairo office in February over “concerns about the deteriorating security and political environment in the country”. The Carter Centre followed suit in October, urging the Egyptian government to “end the crackdown on dissidents, journalists, and opposition groups…including the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters”.
CIHRS intends to establish more offices abroad to manage its regional and international programmes.
It has an office in Switzerland where it follows activities with United Nations human rights bodies. The NGO enjoys consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and observer status with the African Commission on Peoples’ and Human Rights.