Authorities ban rights defender Aida Seif al-Dawla from traveling

Egyptian authorities issued a travel ban against Aida Seif al-Dawla, one of the founders of Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, on Wednesday morning, according to a statement published on the center’s website.

Authorities told Seif al-Dawla that, as she is currently involved in an unspecified court case, she would be unable to travel, however they declined to add any further details.

Seif al-Dawla told Mada Masr that she had not received any prior notice of the ban from the public prosecutor, but an officer at the airport suggested her lawyer gave the wrong address. She was instructed to inquire about her case with the public prosecutor’s office or the investigating judge.

“This is a step within a larger context, where there is crackdown on NGOs,” Seif al-Dawla said.

The rights defender was heading to Tunis to attend a conference on the rehabilitation of victims of violence in North Africa.

Earlier this month Al-Nadeem reported that their bank account was frozen following a directive from the Central Bank of Egypt, although the freeze was lifted a few days later.

The center was also closed temporarily during a dispute with the Health Ministry over the legality of their operations in February, and again in April. The ministry claimed the center shifted its focus from being purely a medical facility to taking on human rights issues and advocacy, in violation of the law.

The center responded that, while it runs a clinic for psychiatric evaluation, licensed by the Doctors Syndicate, the organization does not fall under the Health Ministry’s purview.

This November, several other human rights defenders were issued with travel bans without prior notice, including Azza Soliman, head of the Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance, who was banned from traveling on Saturday. Four days prior to this Ahmed Ragheb, lawyer and founder of the National Community for Human Rights and Law, was informed at the airport that he was not permitted to travel.

The latest travel bans come in line with similar measures taken against human rights defenders in Egypt, including a travel ban against Mozn Hassan, head of Nazra for feminist studies, Hossam Bahgat, former head of the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights, Gamal Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights and Mohamed Zarea, head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

Samah Samir, a lawyer for the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, told Mada Masr last year that the Criminal Procedure Code defines two specific cases in which a citizen can be denied their constitutional right to freedom of movement: when a court issues a final decision banning the citizen from travel, or if the prosecutor general issues a travel ban to prevent a citizen under investigation from leaving the country until investigations are complete, as in the case of Seif al-Dawla.

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