Clinton blasts Egypt for pressuring civil society

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern about the state of democracy and human rights in Egypt while speaking at a Saturday conference in Krakow, Poland entitled “Civil Society: Supporting Democracies in the 21st Century.”

“The Middle East and North Africa are home to a diverse collection of civil society groups,” Clinton declared. “But too many governments in the region still resort to intimidation, questionable legal practices, restrictions on NGO registration and efforts to silence bloggers.”

“I hope we will see progress on this issue, especially in Egypt,” she added.

Clinton went on to say that Egypt’s “vibrant civil society has often been subjected to government pressure” in the form of “canceled conferences, harassing phone calls, frequent reminders that the government can close organizations down, even detention and long-term imprisonment and exile.”

On US efforts to encourage civil society worldwide, Clinton said that Washington would work with regional organizations–such as the Arab League, the European Union and the African League–to “defend the freedom of association.” According to the US secretary of state, “freedom of association is the only freedom defined in the United Nations declaration of human rights that does not enjoy specific attention from the UN human rights machinery. That must change.”

Bahi el-Din Hassan, Director of the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies, described Clinton’s remarks as a “message to the Egyptian regime that it has completely crossed the line.” Hassan went on to point out that he had participated in a conference on Friday, convened by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, in which severe criticisms were leveled at Egypt’s “deteriorating political situation” and the “daily restrictions that authorities place on civil society organizations.”

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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