The Administrative Court’s first circuit adjourned Tuesday a session regarding the closure of foreign organisations’ headquarters to issue a verdict on the case on 19 May.
The lawsuit, raised by lawyer Shehata Mohamed Shehata, calls for the closure of the headquarters of Human Rights Watch (HRW), and all foreign organisations operating in Egypt without governmental authorisation.
“Other international organisations, like Freedom House and the National Democratic Institute, are involved in the case. It also calls for prohibiting the release of reports concerning Egyptian affairs,” said Shehata.
Regarding the verdict, Shehata expects it to be in favour of the closure of the organisations’ headquarters. He further added that although HRW does not currently have offices in Egypt, the verdict would still be a “moral” one that serves to “undermine the group’s presence in Egypt and its focus on Egyptian affairs”.
Shehata was also involved in cases calling for the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood.
HRW has in turn taken legal, retaliatory measures by demanding a compensation of EGP 100,000 due to the negative effects of this lawsuit on its reputation, according to Shehata.
The lawsuit mentions the HRW report released days before the first anniversary of the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins, describing it as distorted and biased, according to state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.
In early August 2014, Egyptian authorities denied entry to top HRW directors, who were heading to Cairo to present a report on the deadly dispersals of protests in Egypt the year before. This was the first time ever for HRW staff to be refused entry into Egypt, even during Mubarak’s regime.
The directors were scheduled to participate in the release of a 188-page report on the dispersals of six demonstrations in July and August 2013, including that of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya encampment, the largest one organised to show support for ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
The report, titled “All According to Plan: The Rabaa Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt” was released electronically on 12 August, blaming state institutions for the high number of deaths during the dispersal, and arguing that the incident was a “crime against humanity”.
“The group plays a blatantly political role, and this can be illustrated by the discrepancies in its representation of the situation in Egypt, compared to that in Gaza for instance,” commented Shehata. “It referred to what happened in Rabaa Al-Adaweya as war crimes and crimes against humanity, while referring to Israeli aggression in Gaza as ‘collective punishment’.”
Regarding the denial of entry, the Interior Ministry had said HRW was informed to postpone the visit to September instead of August, citing that it was “inappropriate” to hold the visit in August.
A statement by Egypt’s State Information Services (SIS) had accused HRW of violating Egyptian state sovereignty, saying that HRW’s investigations and collection of evidence were “a flagrant violation of international law” on the basis that the organisation “does not have the legal privilege” of working in Egypt. It added that the organisation previously withdrew its request to produce a work license in Egypt as a foreign NGO.
According to HRW, Egypt’s current human rights crisis is the most serious in the country’s modern history. The group maintains that a reversal of the human rights gains that followed the 2011 uprising has occurred ever since President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi took office in June 2014. It also contends that “there has been no accountability for the deaths of more than 1,000 protesters in a series of mostly peaceful demonstrations in July and August 2013”.