[JURIST] The Egyptian government agreed on Friday to cease its crackdowns on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that advocate for democracy in Egypt, according to the US Department of State (DOS) [official website]. Egyptian officials assured the US [BBC report] that it would return all property and assets seized in the raids to the NGOs. Despite Egypt’s assurances, however, the US said that the raids on NGOs did not positively reflect the Egyptian government’s commitment to democracy. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland expressed her concern [press briefing] over Egypt’s approach toward the NGOs:
We believe that these NGOs are there to support the democratic process. Some of these are institutions that are supported by the United States Government, that work around the world in the interests of helping citizens realize their goals of democratic processes taking root in their country … So we are very concerned, because [raids are] not appropriate in the current environment.
The raids resulted from concerns by the Egyptian government over how the pro-democracy NGOs were funded. Egypt’s military proclaimed that it would not tolerate foreign interference [Reuters report] in the nation’s affairs. The US hinted that the raids may induce increased scrutiny over the $1.3 billion in military aid that the US sends to Egypt annually.
Egyptian crackdowns against protesters have drawn significant criticism recently. On Thursday, Egyptian prosecutors and police raided the offices of 17 pro-democracy groups. Two weeks ago, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] Navi Pillay [official profile] condemned [JURIST report] a brutal suppression of protesters that led to 11 deaths and over 500 injuries. In late November, Pillay called for an independent probe [JURIST report] into violent skirmishes between protesters and government forces. Earlier in November, Amnesty International (AI) [official website] issued a report [JURIST report] chastising the Egyptian government for using unwarranted violence in discouraging political dissent. Shortly before AI released its report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] and a group of UN human rights experts urged [JURIST report] the Egyptian government to protect human rights and civil liberties following a bloody clash between police forces and approximately 50,000 protesters in Tahrir Square in Egypt.