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Egypt orders top human rights organization closed

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Egyptian police patrol streets to head off potential protests the Giza district of Cairo, Jan. 25, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Egyptian authorities have ordered the closure of a prominent human rights organization that documents cases of rights abuses and complaints of torture by police in the North African country.

Aida Seif el-Dawla, a founder of the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, said two policemen turned up at the center Wednesday with an order from the Health Ministry to close it.

“The decision did not give any reasons. We managed to persuade them to postpone the closure until we went to the Health Ministry next Monday to understand the reasons,” she said.

Dawla described the order as part of the incumbent administration’s tough crackdown on political dissent in Egypt.

“Unless they arrest us all, we will continue in our work as long as we remain out of prison,” she said. “It would be stupid if they shut down the center because we provide a service that no one else provides to the underprivileged.”

Amnesty International denounced the closure order, saying the center offers a lifeline to hundreds of torture victims as well as the families of the people subjected to enforced disappearances.

“This looks to us like a barefaced attempt to shut down an organization which has been a bastion for human rights and a thorn in the side of the authorities for more than 20 years,” Said Boumedouha, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said.

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood defendants stand behind bars during their trial, along with ousted President Mohamed Morsi (unseen), in Cairo, June 16, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

He also called on the Egyptian government to “freeze the order to close the center and provide it with a clear explanation of the reasons behind the order.”

“The center must be given an opportunity to challenge the order before a court,” Boumedouha said.

The Egyptian government has been cracking down on opposition since then-President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in a military coup led by former military chief and current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013.

Sisi has been accused of leading the suppression of Morsi’s supporters; hundreds of them have been killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces over the past couple of years.

Rights groups say the army’s crackdown on the supporters of Morsi has led to the deaths of over 1,400 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

The UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly expressed concern about the Egyptian security forces’ heavy-handed crackdown and the killing of anti-government protesters.

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