Our Reply to the MOH allegations regarding closure of El Nadim

Thu, 25 Feb, 2016

On Wednesday the 24th of February 2016 the Ministry of Health (MOH) released a statement, which was published in Shorouk newspaper as well as in English on the Facebook page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which included false information regarding el Nadim Center, despite our visit to MOH and our correction of that information. In view of the ministry's insistence on those false claims, we find it is necessary, again, to correct them to the public.

I. El Nadim Center for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of victims of Violence is an Egyptian non-governmental organization established in 1993 (and not 2004) registered as a company in a registry report no. 2668/1993. This Center does not concern the MOH since it is the legal umbrella that includes all activities of the center.

II. One of those activities is the establishment of a clinic by the name "El Nadim for psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation" first licensed by the doctors' syndicate and then by the ministry of health, as the routing requires. Since the MOH does not include this specialty, the ministry decided to register the clinic as a "joint clinic of Psychiatry and Neurology", which was the closest we could get to our field, and informed us of this classification.

III. Since their foundation in 1993 neither the clinic nor the center have changed their names. What has expanded is the activities of the center and each time with an amendment of the contract of the company and the verification of that amendment in court.

IV. Our professional work in the field of health, related to the rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture is carried out through the clinic. All our publications, reports and training of physicians is carried out through the center and not the clinic. Both entities have a different location and address. Accordingly, we have not changed the activities of the clinic to those of the center as claimed by the MOH.

V. MOH claims that the clinic has committed two violations: "the first being changing its name from clinic to center despite a different license being required for each". This never happened, each continue working independently of each other. "the second being changing its activities from medical practice to human rights advocacy". Again this is not true, unless what the MOH means by human rights advocacy is what we were told the ministry that we issue reports that talk about "torture and police oppression by individual members of the police force against members of the terrorist organization". Again, this advocacy activity is carried out by the center and not the clinic and hence is none of the MOH's business.

VI. It NEVER happened that MOH has issued us a warning, nor informed us of breaches, nor given us an ultimatum to change anything. The visit by a police force from the Azbakeya District on Wednesday the 17th of February was the first thing we heard from any authority since 2004.

VII. It is true that a committee from MOH came to inspect the center in June 2004, i.e. 12 years ago. Actually, we can say they broke into the clinic and instead of inspecting what it is entitled to, such as the absence of an inpatient department, for which we are not licensed or an operating theater, for which we are not licensed, or the availability of basic medical equipment etc., the MOH lady broke into the administrative room, grabbed some patient files, which should enjoy confidentiality and privacy, and are only accessible to the patient, their therapist and the prosecution in case of a malpractice complaint against us. She also grabbed some papers from the fax machine. When Dr. Abdallah Mansour, who was present at the time, objected and demanded the papers back, she rolled them, put them under her blouse and told him he can come get them if he wants!!! Despite all that the clinic was not closed, not of course the center. We were summoned to the prosecution to respond to allegations by MOH and we filed a counter complaint with the same prosecution accusing MOH of violating the privacy of the clinic and frightening patients present at the time, whom the MOH lady had described in her report as "black men". At the end both files, that of MOH and ours, were closed.

Here ends our reply to the MOH statement issued yesterday.

Still we, in turn, have our own messages to convey to the ministry, to public opinion and all those concerned about El Nadim.

I. Professionally, the name of the ministry is Ministry of Health and not Ministry of Medicine. It was therefore expected that officials at MOH realize that prevention is better than cure and that the work of El Nadim Center complements the work of the clinic. Rehabilitation of victims of a social phenomenon is not complete without informing public opinion and authorities concerned of the danger of that phenomenon and its negative impact on society as a whole. They should also have known that psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence all over the world entails much more than writing a prescription.

II. We would have liked to see the MOH of keep to its mandate and responsibilities in the field of health rather than act as a front for the ministry of Interior or the ministry of social solidarity in their attempt to close us. We are quite aware of what is happening in Egypt: the restriction of freedoms for citizens in general, civil society organizations in particular, foremost human rights organizations. It is a shame for the MOH to play this role.

III. We know beyond doubt, because we were personally there when it was read out to us, that the decision to close El Nadim is a cabinet decision, and that the order to close El Nadim is based on "a report issued by the center published by El Masry El Youm that addressed torture and oppression by the police of members of the terrorist organization" and that the recommendation to the minister of health to execute the decision was dated 18/2/2016.

Last but not least, unless they have closed the clinic in its weekend holiday (Thursday and Friday) we shall go to the clinic on Saturday. If both the clinic and the center are closed, we shall continue to release our reports and we shall continue to help victims of violence and torture as long as we are doctors and as long as this state insists to use torture as a means of oppressing its citizens.

El Nadim doctors

25 February 2016