The Amnesty Human Rights Award 2018 goes to the Nadeem Centre for its fight against torture in Egypt
The fight against police violence and state despotism was a central driver behind the protest movement in Egypt in 2011. Seven years later, and tens of thousands of political prisoners languish in overcrowded cells. Torture and forced disappearances are back on the agenda. New laws are hindering the work of human rights defenders and severely restricting freedom of assembly and expression.
The Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture has spent over 20 years documenting torture by Egyptian security forces and treating survivors. In February 2017 the authorities shut down the centre's clinic, but employees are not even considering stopping their work. For their fearless commitment, the organisation is honoured with the Human Rights Award 2018 of Amnesty International’s German section.
About the organisation
The Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture runs the only specialist clinic in Egypt that treats survivors of torture and violence. In addition to medical and psychological treatment, the centre documents cases of torture and works with other organisations to provide legal help to victims of violence. Besides torture victims, women who have been raped or who have suffered from domestic violence can also turn to the centre. The centre was founded in 1993.
Three of the centre’s founding members – the psychiatrists Dr. Aida Seif al-Dawla and Dr. Suzan Fayad as well as the physician Dr. Magda Adly – still hold senior positions at the centre. Aida Seif al-Dawla is currently the coordinator of the rehabilitation programme for torture survivors. Dr. Suzan Fayad was director of the centre from 1993 to 2007 and she is currently the clinic supervisor, among other duties. Dr. Magda Adly is currently the director of the centre and coordinator of the women’s programme. The current clinic director is the psychiatrist Mona Hamed.
The Nadeem Centre publishes annual reports documenting where and how people are being tortured at Egyptian police stations and prisons, and how many deaths are occurring as a result. The Egyptian security agencies deny the use of torture and have repeatedly attempted to put a stop to the Nadeem Centre’s work.
This has seen founding members Aida Seif al-Dawla and Suzan Fayad receiving travel bans, and the organisation’s accounts being frozen temporarily in November 2016.
On 9 February 2017, security forces stormed the centre, closing and sealing off its clinical spaces. The authorities justified their actions by saying that the centre did not register the clinic correctly. The Nadeem Centre appealed against the closure of the clinic later that same month, with the verdict due on 21 February 2018. Despite all the obstructions, the staff continues to treat torture survivors and record acts of violence.
Detention and torture in Egypt
Since the former military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power in 2013 tens of thousands have been detained, including many opposition figures, activists and journalists. 19 new prisons have been built to accommodate the many political prisoners, and authorities make arbitrary arrests at anti-government demonstrations. They continue to detain journalists, human rights defenders and protesters, and are increasingly limiting the freedom of human rights organisations to go about their work.
Hundreds of people have been kidnapped, and are being held by the Egyptian National Security Agency (NSA). In many cases they go for months without having any contact with their relatives or seeing a lawyer. Members of the NSA and other security forces torture and abuse inmates.
In recent years Egyptian human rights groups, including the Nadeem Centre, have collected countless reports of violent deaths in custody resulting from torture and other acts of ill-treatment or lack of medical care. ‘Confessions’ made by prisoners while under torture are used as evidence in court, whereas human rights violations committed by members of the security forces go largely unpunished.
Situation of civil society
On 29 May 2017 Egypt’s president signed a controversial NGO law. It forces non-governmental organisations to register within a year and only permits them to undertake government-approved activities. It also prohibits the foreign financing of independent activities. Critics speak of the end of an independent civil society. The registration deadline is May 2018.
Even before the law came into force, since 2011 investigative judges have been carrying out criminal investigations into the work and financing of NGOs. They have interrogated staff, frozen the funding of six organisations and seven activists, and imposed travel bans on twelve human rights defenders, including Aida Seif al-Dawla from the Nadeem Centre.
Amnesty International in Germany’s Human Rights Award
With its Human Rights Award, every two years Amnesty International in Germany honours individuals and groups who have championed human rights under the most difficult of conditions. Human rights defenders take great risks to prevent human rights abuses and bring those responsible to justice. Their commitment shows that actions by individuals can effect change.
The award recognises the commitment of these people, supports them and aims to raise awareness of their activities among the German public. The award is supported by the German human rights foundation Stiftung Menschenrechte – Förderstiftung Amnesty International that supports the work of Amnesty International. 2018 marks the ninth time the Human Rights Award will have been presented. Previous recipients include: Henri Tiphagne from India (2016), Alice Nkom from Cameroon (2014) and Abel Barrera from Mexico (2011).
Here you can find the press release.