December 29, 2011

December 29 – According to several news outlets, Egyptian authorities raided the offices of at least 17 human rights and democracy-building organizations today.  The Washington Post reports that human rights activists are calling the action “an unprecedented move against civil associations by the country’s military rulers and the caretaker government.”  Organizations targeted in the attack include the Arab Center for Independence of Justice and Legal Profession (ACJIP), the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory, and Washington, DC-based Freedom House, the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).  IRI and NDI are affiliated institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which serves as the World Movement secretariat.

The Guardian reports that “the raids follow a far-reaching investigation into the foreign funding of human rights and civil advocacy groups launched under the aegis of the country’s ruling generals earlier this year.”

In a press statement released today, Freedom House said that staff members “were held incommunicado; cell phones, laptops, funds and documents found during the raids were confiscated; and the office was closed.  The raid on Freedom House comes just three days after it formally submitted papers to register its offices in accordance with Egyptian law.”

Similarly, IRI has been working in cooperation with the Egyptian government.  IRI has issued a statement saying, “today’s raid is confusing given that IRI was officially invited by the Government of Egypt to witness the people’s assembly elections, and was in the process of deploying a high level international delegation to observe the third phase of elections on January 3 and 4, having successfully deployed witnesses for phases one and two.”

In a statement released after the raid, NDI’s president, Kenneth Wollack, said that “NDI has been operating in Egypt since 2005 in an open and transparent manner, working to assist the efforts of political parties and civic organizations seeking to take part in their country’s evolving political process.”

Ziad Abdel Tawab, deputy director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, offered the following explanation for the raids to the Washington Post:  “The military council right now is… trying to get rid of all its critics…  What’s happening right now is vengeance toward groups who’ve contributed somehow in the revolution.

The World Movement for Democracy strongly condemns these raids and calls on the Egyptian government to allow the operation of all peaceful nongovernmental and human rights organizations working for democracy in the country, and to return the property of the organizations subjected to today’s raids.

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