Another country has calculated that Christmas time is a good time to launch a crackdown on human rights. Following China’s harsh sentencing of two writers on subversion charges, Egyptian security forces today rolled up to several prominent democracy and human rights NGOs in Cairo and shut them down, confiscated materials, and detained employees onsite for questioning.
Among the groups raided were the Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP), the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory, and the Cairo offices of American organizations involved in training political parties and supporting elections—Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute. The official Egyptian news agency, MENA, listed the number of NGOs raided at 17. The Guardian has a story drawing on a number of tweets from NDI staff trapped in their office.
Today’s raids are an escalation of the months-long campaign against civil society by the military-dominated government. Remarks by the justice minister suggest the scope of the crackdown could get much broader. He accused some 300 civil society group of using foreign funds to foment unrest.
Perhaps if the Egyptian government doesn’t like foreign money, it should stop taking it. U.S. aid to the Egyptian military is more than one billion a year. That’s not likely – so maybe the Obama administration should freeze military aid until the steps taken today are reversed and the election process, which includes activities of NGOs, is back on track. In fact, in order to spend FY2010 funds for economic and security assistance, the secretary of state must certify that the Egyptian government is supporting the transition to the democracy. At the moment, that is not possible.