The director of the Arab Network for Human Rights has told The New Arab’s Arabic language service that his organisation has suspended its activities due to an unprecedented increase in the pace of repression in Egypt.
Last week ANHRI, one of Egypt’s most famous human rights organisations, said it was suspending its operations and activities after 18 years citing the complete absence of the rule of law and respect for human rights.
The group recorded violations against citizens, journalists and political prisoners and had drawn the ire of the security services in what has now become one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
ANHRI was founded by Gamal Eid, a human rights activist and lawyer, who has been interrogated by security services and in 2016 had his assets frozen and was banned from travelling.
In 2019 Eid said he was beaten up by Egyptian security forces who threw red paint on him and threatened him with guns in an effort to force him into stopping his human rights activism.
During the interview with Alaraby, Eid said that despite what has happened, ANRI will not turn into a complicit institution.
Before they suspended their activities, Egyptian security forces threatened his staff, Eid said, promising to arrest them if they did not become informants.
Authorities have such disdain for the rule of law they act as though it doesn’t exist, he continued, whilst human rights violations are increasing as are police prosecutions.
In 2019 the Egyptian government approved a new law for NGOs which restricts them severely, including prohibiting them from announcing results of research without government approval.
Organisations had to re-register under this law, yet ANHRI was not allowed to register.
Eid’s organisation received an official notification from authorities who said that their name should be changed and that their work on freedom of expression and conditions inside prison would be prohibited.
“How, after this long human rights history that we are proud of, can we transform into an institution that works on unimportant issues?” he asked in the interview.
“The decision to stop was hard on us. Despite the absolute desperation we made various vigorous attempts to continue against all the painful conditions that we are experiencing among the masses of Egyptians and the political instability the government employed to restrict independent human rights institutions, and in the end, there was no escape from surrender.”
Eid added that ANHRI will resume work if the government shows signs it is truly respecting the rule of law and that civil society stops being treated as a tool for polishing the regime.
“We are hopeful and confident that this bleak period, which is full of violations and the absence of law, will come to an end,” he added.