It’s Time to Speak Out for Human Rights in Egypt | The Center for Victims of Torture

It’s Time to Speak Out for Human Rights in Egypt

Emily Hutchinson
Thursday, April 7, 2016

Emily Hutchinson is program manager for CVT’s New Tactics program.

As an aspiring lawyer just about to enter law school when the Arab Spring began in Egypt, I was inspired by the activists in Tahrir Square and around the country to pursue a career in human rights law. As a law student, I followed their courageous efforts closely. As a CVT employee, I have been privileged to support their work. All of this makes the most recent developments in Egypt all the more heartbreaking.

In recent weeks, Egyptian authorities stepped up their crackdown on human rights organizations and human rights defenders in Egypt, among them the El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence and Torture. According to information released recently by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, travel bans, asset freezes, and interrogations of organizations’ staff are on the rise, making it all the more difficult for these organizations to carry on work that is so critically important. These actions are just one example of the way in which the Egyptian authorities treat those who demand respect for human rights and the rule of law as a threat instead of a key component of a vibrant civil society.

In 2014 and 2015, CVT’s New Tactics in Human Rights program conducted trainings in Egypt for a wide range of human rights defenders committed to making positive change in their communities. During that time, New Tactics observed firsthand the decline in civil society space and the negative impact of the authorities’ efforts to intimidate these brave individuals and stifle their work. Eventually, even assisting activists in their efforts to advocate for a cleaner Nile River was deemed too threatening by the authorities, who forced the workshop in which this was discussed to terminate. As a result of safety and security concerns for Egyptian activists, New Tactics no longer carries out in-person activities in Egypt.

Given New Tactics’ experience in Egypt, I am sadly not at all surprised by what has happened there recently. The Egyptian authorities are attempting to bully human rights defenders and their organizations into falling silent. In this blog post, I am not naming any of the organizations that New Tactics has been so privileged to work with most recently in Egypt, and this is intentional. Doing so could put those groups at risk. However, the Center for Victims of Torture refuses to be muzzled completely. We are taking steps to speak out and express our concerns to policy makers in the United States, including this letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

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