Egyptian authorities shut down renowned torture rehabilitation centre
Al-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and Violence in Cairo offers psychological rehabilitation to victims of abuses including sexual assault.
"About 15 policemen in official uniform with a group of civilians sealed three apartments in the building belonging to al-Nadeem," co-founder Aida Seif EllDawla told AFP by phone.
"We didn't violate any rules and the government has not provided any reasons for its closure decision," said Seif EllDawla, adding that the centre had filed a lawsuit against the order.
She posted pictures on Facebook of sealing wax plastered across the door handles on the offices and commented: "We will continue".
A policeman said the centre had been closed for violating the terms of its licence, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Authorities have tried to shut down al-Nadeem Centre on two separate occasions amid accusations by human rights groups that the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is stifling civil society groups.
Amnesty International described the closing of the centre as a "shocking attack" on Egypt's civil society.
"The move exposes the chilling extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go to in their relentless and unprecedented persecution of human rights activists in recent years," said Najia Bounaim, Deputy Director for campaigns at Amnesty International's Tunis regional office.
"The Egyptian authorities have made it increasingly clear that anyone who stands up for human rights in Egypt today is perceived as a threat."
Mona al-Tahawy, an Egyptian-American author and government critic, said the centre's closure was part of a targeted campaign to silence civil society groups who have incurred the ire of authorities.
"When you correlate all these things, the people who are attacked – whether through hacking or through arrest – the pattern is obvious: the regime is trying to silence any voice that opposes it and any voice that documents its crimes and wants the world to know those crimes," she said.
Rights campaigners accuse the authorities of human rights violations, including forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions.
However, the government denies that torture is systemic, saying there have only been isolated cases.
Seif EllDawla was banned from travel to Tunisia on 23 November, along with several other rights activists and lawyers who are not allowed to leave the country.
Egyptian and foreign NGOs operating in the country are governed by a strict law which allows the government to supervise their activities and finances.
In November, authorities froze al-Nadeem's assets for a week before the organisation submitted a document "proving" the centre is not subject to the law, al-Nadeem said.
The organisation was registered with the health ministry and the doctors' union as a "medical clinic," al-Nadeem co-founder Suzanne Fayad said.
Egypt's parliament approved in November a new law to regulate the activities of non-governmental organisations, in a move that triggered fears of an intensified crackdown on civil society.