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Egyptian torture monitoring NGO vows to continue work, fight closure

Egypt's only independent torture monitor has filed a court case challenging its closure
Aida Seif el-Dawla, one of the founders of the Nadeem Centre, speaks on Sunday in Cairo (MEE)

CAIRO - The director of Egypt's only independent torture monitor has reaffirmed that her organisation will carry on its work unless police enforce the closure of the centre.

"The only way torture reports will stop is when they stop torturing," Aida Saif el-Dawla, one of the founders of the Cairo-based Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, said at a press conference on Sunday.

Last week, a spokesman for Egypt’s health ministry said the organisation, which documents allegations of torture, death and medical negligence inside police stations and prisons, was holding "activities other than the activity allowed in its permit” and would be closed down.

But el-Dawla, one of the founders of the Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, said on Sunday that the centre has challenged the closure, filing a case with Egypt’s Administrative Court of Urgent Matters, and vowed to continue working.

The government, she said, is attempting to shut down the 23-year-old centre because it exposes "the torture, defeat, death, absence of law that [the state] subjugates Egyptians to every day”.

“We will find torture victims wherever they are, and we will continue to rehabilitate them however we can,” she said.

Dawla has previously told Middle East Eye that the centre, which helps victims of torture rehabilitate and also supports victims of domestic violence, is the only one of its kind in the country and its clients would struggle to find help if it closed.

Amnesty International has said that moves to close down the centre "appear to mark an expansion of the ongoing crackdown on human rights activists in Egypt".

Last week, Said Boumedouha, the rights group's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, called on Egypt to "freeze the order to close the centre and provide it with a clear explanation of the reasons behind the order". 

The centre "must be given an opportunity to challenge the order before a court," he said.

It "provides a lifeline to hundreds of victims of torture and the families of people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance," he said. 

"This looks to us like a barefaced attempt to shut down an organisation which has been a bastion for human rights and a thorn in the side of the authorities for more than 20 years."

Five years after police brutality sparked the revolution that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, human rights groups are again denouncing deaths in police stations, arbitrary arrests and the disappearances of opponents of the government.

Since the army ousted Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, authorities have launched a brutal crackdown on his supporters that has seen hundreds killed and tens of thousands jailed.

Secular activists who took part in the 2011 revolt have also been imprisoned.

Additional reporting for this story was provided by a journalist in Cairo.