Noting Egypt’s “tremendous strides” of the past year, 18 former foreign ministers from Europe, Eurasia, Asia, the Middle East, Oceania and the United States have called on Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s military government, to stop the prosecution of nongovernmental organizations.
“We would ask that you immediately end the onerous restrictions on civil society, cease the prosecution of NGOs, free citizens imprisoned for exercising freedom of speech and move expeditiously on the path to civilian rule,” according to a letter signed by all of the former foreign ministers. Heading the list of signatories was former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, chairman of NDI.
Copies of the letter also were sent to Prime Minister Kamal Al-Ganzoury and Mohamed Saad El-Katatni, speaker of the newly-elected People’s Assembly.
Court proceedings against NGO workers began in Cairo on Feb. 26 and then were adjourned until April 26. Staff members from NDI, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, the International Center for Journalists and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation are among those on trial.
The offices of those organizations and others were raided by Egyptian authorities on Dec. 29. Those groups and, “groups like them, are present in countries around the world to support democratic processes, promote human rights, advocate for freedom of the press and free association, and to assist in the development of governing institutions,” the letter said. “We know directly or by reputation many of these groups. We believe that the work of non-governmental, inter-governmental and international organizations are an indispensable component of a thriving community of democracies.”
Recounting the past year’s developments in Egypt, the foreign ministers said, “Following a largely peaceful transfer of power to a temporary military government, a referendum was held on constitutional change, new political parties formed, an election held and a parliament seated which is reflective of the will of the people. We would urge that you not allow these positive strides to be overshadowed by completely unnecessary actions against civil society.”
The former ministers noted that freedom of association and speech are fundamental to any democratic system. “This is one of the most important lessons that each one of us learned while serving our countries as foreign ministers,” the letter said. “Non-governmental organizations must be able to carry out their mandates openly and freely. Harsh and undue restrictions on civil society profoundly undermine the progress that has been made in your country.”
- Read the letter»
- Statement by NDI President Kenneth Wollack before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on "Egypt at a Crossroads"»
- Charges in Egypt to filed against 15 NDI employees»
- Facts on NDI's presence and programs in Egypt»
Published Feb. 27, 2012. Updated Feb. 28, 2012.