Ten international rights groups have denounced a “renewed crackdown” by the authorities in Egypt on independent civil society groups that receive foreign funding or are critical of the government.
The authorities targeted all forms of opposition after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, leaving hundreds of his supporters dead and thousands jailed.
The crackdown also widened to target secular and leftist activists who spearheaded the 2011 revolt that deposed veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Dozens of activists have been jailed over a law that bans all but police-sanctioned protests.
Late Monday, 10 international organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International jointly accused the authorities of “increasing their pressure on independent organisations… that receive foreign funding or have criticised government policies”.
Independent groups have already been subjected to continuing harassment and ordered to comply with an “onerous law” on associations.
The law dates to the Mubarak-era and monitors NGO activities and especially their financing, which requires government approval if coming from abroad.
“Today, Egypt’s human rights organisations are making a desperate last stand for their independence. The international community must not let the authorities silence peaceful dissent,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director.
Government “investigators” visited the main Cairo offices of two independent NGOs — the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA) and the Cairo Institute for Studies of Human Rights (CIHRS).
The officials sought documents on their registration, statutes, budgets, accounts and funding for the past four years.
A CIHRS lawyer told the investigators they could not search the office or access the files without an official warrant, and the investigators left.
CIHRS refused to cooperate as the officials had no warrant, said the statement that added that four EDA employees have been banned from leaving the country.
The latest investigations follow sweeps in 2011 targeting the premises of 17 Egyptian and foreign NGOs, which sparked an international outcry.
In 2013, 43 foreign NGO employees, both Egyptian and foreign, were sentenced to prison terms for illegal work and funding. Most of the foreigners were able to leave the country, however.