As NGO trial wraps up, fears for civil society’s future.
Via The Egypt Independent, by Justin Shilad:
… Becker saw the writing on the wall during the transitional period last year, pointing to the widespread use of military detention and justice and the SCAF’s violent response to the Maspero and Mohamed Mahmoud Street protests.
“An estimated 12,000 people got put [before] military trials,” he says. “Many different voices took to the streets in protests and were met with tear gas and bullets.” He shakes his head. “Not a good omen for civil society”…
… [Sherif] Mansour also points to a dithering and security-centric US foreign policy. Though the US steered more funding toward civil society groups since the start of the revolution, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waived the requirement making aid conditional on respecting democratic and human rights norms because aid to the Egyptian military was seen as crucial to US national security. This move came amid the objections of some State Department staff who cited in vain the SCAF’s dubious human rights record.
“There was one point when the US was actually going to consider conditionality in the NGO case, but they didn’t have the guts,” he says. “So they resorted to the same strategy: Stick to the safe ground…”
“During Mubarak’s era, there were always accusations that we were working for foreigners, but under the SCAF NGOs were being brought to court,” says Mohamed Zaree, project manager at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies…
… Everyone interviewed agreed that Egypt’s inchoate democracy may be in jeopardy if the defendants are found guilty. Moreover, civil society is already feeling the squeeze even as Egypt settles in under an ostensibly democratically elected government.
“When legitimate international groups are subject to an armed raid, a travel ban and felony charges for teaching democracy, it makes this country a bad investment for foreign funding to finance civil society operations,” says Becker.
“You have civil society … walking on eggshells in this country right now. Despite the change in government, you still have NGOs that are being harassed,” he adds, citing examples from earlier this year in which organizations working on seemingly innocuous causes, such as helping orphans, had funds blocked by the government.
Zaree agrees that the trial is making donors reluctant to fund civil society activities, and further asserts that the new NGO law being considered by Morsy’s government could seal the lid over civil society, claiming that provisions in the draft bill circulating within the Cabinet allow the government to control the funding, internal management and board composition of NGOs…