August 31, 2023
Case 173 emanated from a 2011 decision by the Egyptian Cabinet delegating the MoJ to initiate an investigation on the foreign funding of civil society organizations. In June 2013, 43 international NGO workers, including American citizens, were convicted to prison terms ranging from one to five years, and were later acquitted in a retrial in 2018 after pressure from the United States. In 2016, Case 173 was expanded to include Egyptian civil society organizations, and subsequently more than 30 Egyptian human rights defenders were banned from traveling and subjected to asset freezes. After seven years, despite the government’s closure of the case against some Egyptian organizations, the majority of those banned from traveling in 2016 remain on the ban list, including some of those for whom investigations have been closed. Additionally, the assets of some of those who are no longer on the travel ban list remain frozen Their situation remains unaffected by the recent statement of the MoJ, which seeks to ease international criticism of Egypt’s human rights record.
Closing Case 173 is a matter of political will, as exemplified by the acquittal of 43 international organizations’ staff in a retrial in 2018. If the Egyptian authorities genuinely intend to end restrictions imposed on independent civil society, they should immediately and comprehensively close Case 173, bring Egypt’s law on civic associations to conformity with international standards, and stop targeting human rights defenders through other draconian legislation. Egyptian authorities should also release imprisoned human rights defenders, including Ibrahim Metwally and members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Committee for Justice (CFJ), Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), Egyptian Front for Human Rights, Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), EuroMed Rights, Femena, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, HUMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, MENA Rights Group, Nadeem Center, Sinai Foundation for Human Rights, The Freedom Initiative, PEN America, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED),, World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders