Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (Cairo)

10 July 2014

Egypt: The Federation for Human Rights and Transitional Justice Demands for a More Democratic Law On NGOs and Liberalization of the Civil Work

press release

The Federation for Human Rights and Transitional Justice read the NGOs draft law proposed by the Ministry of Social Solidarity[1], and it finds the draft is totally far from the committment to the international standards which ensure the freedom and independence of the civil work and protect it from any form of arbitrary interventions and administrative commandments. This represents a blatant violation of the Constitution and Egypt international obligations that, if approved, will result in the criminalization of the work of these organizations and will subject them to the control of the administrative authorities.

The Federation affirms that the draft law still adopts the approach of the laws restricting the work of the civil society organizations from 1956 till law number 84 of the year 2002; the draft adopts rules restricting the work of the civil society organizations in their establishment, incorporation, activities and funding. This happens although the Ministry of Social Solidarity formed in 2013 a Commission composed by 18 NGOs and the FNGO (Federation of NGOs), the regional federation and the women's Federation, with which it prepared a draft law preferable to all the draft laws on NGOs previously proposed by the government; the draft law addressed the Higher Commission for civil work formed through article 2 of the Ministerial Decree 164 of the year 2013. However, this law aims at promoting and stipulating the establishment of NGOs; supporting their participation in making, implementing and following-up plans for sustainable development; activating volunteering; promoting democracy and good governance in the framework of human rights documents, data of the knowledge-based society and information technology. It also guarantees the freedom to establish NGOs and their independence without any direct or indirect obstruction by the pulic authorities.

On the other hand, the 2013 draft law on NGOs acted on:

1. Facilitating the procedures of NGOs establishment and incorporation, once they deposit all the documents at the responsible administrative authority, without waiting for the approval of the administrative authority (deposit system).

2. Giving the organizations the freedom to implement their activities in different social fields, allowing multiple activities.

3. Protecting the organization and regulating its relation to the administrative authority on the basis of the equality between the parties, whether at the establishment of the activity or its implementation and completion.

4. Giving the administrative justice the competence to judge all the disputes which rise between the organization and the administrative authority.

5. Achieving transparency by obliging organizations to publish their budget on newspapers or electronic media, if it reached 20 thousand EGPs.

6. Empowering the Ministry of Social Solidarity to authorize NGOs to perform activities, as per the rules established by the law and the international conventions relevant to human rights, and through a coordinating committee composed of three ministries.

7. Obliging the Minister of Social Solidarity - in order to apply the law faster - to issue the executive regulations of the law within six months as of its coming into force.

8. Abolishing custodial sentences for the irregularities related to the provisions of the draft law and reducing it from a sentence to a fine.

9. Granting organizations the right to receive funds for their activities through the notification of the Ministry of Solidarity, in compliance with the standards of transparency and accountability.

In order to achieve those goals, it is possible to address some of the legal texts included in the draft law.

In this regard, the Federation confirms its reservations as to the 2014 draft law on NGOs, highlighting some of its observations, as follows:

1- Article 6 on the imposition of commandments and administrative control on the establishment of the organizations. The legal status is in fact proven since the date on which the founding group representative notifies the responsible adminstrative authority the establishment of the organization and the adminstrative authority registers the statute of the organization. Indeed the draft law gave the adminstrative authority the right to object the statute of the organization and what is related to the founders.

2- Paragraph 5 of article 11, which imposed limits to field research and opinion polls in projects related to the civil work field, charged the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics with the approval on this issue.

3- With respect to the coordinating committee, formed by the prime minister, the draft law conferred it the right to grant or deny the authorization to foreign organizations to work in Egypt, as well as the authorization for the local organizations to receive funds from abroad, and it is a committee formed to be neutral; thus, the bureaucratic performance will be addressed to about 40000 NGOs in achieving external funds and in their self-determination.

4- Article 80 expanded the imprisonment sentence, threatening to stop the civil work activities.

Reading the draft law proposed by the Ministry of Solidarity, shows that it is inconsistent with the Egyptian Constitution and the human rights international standards, and that it adopts a format restricting civil work and obstructing the civil society activity. Therefore the Federation demands for:

1. Stopping the draft law proposed by the Ministry of Solidarity and returning to the 2013 law prepared by the committee with the decision of the previous Minister of Solidarity, Dr. Ahmed Al-Borai.

2. Waiting to pass the law till the formation of next parliament.

[1] It must be recalled that the Federation for Human Rights and Transitional Justice is a Federation registered with number 681 on 02/03/2014, composed by 14 human rights organizations, including: the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Asdiqa' Al-Shorta wasshaab Association, Sama Al-Kheir Association, Sanad Misr Foundation, 25 January Center for Human Rights, AlQistas Association for Legal and Constitutional Rights, AlDamir Association for Human Rights, AlOmam Association for Human Rights, One World Foundation for Development and Human Rights, the Egyptian Foundation for Training and Human Rights, Ata al-khair foundation, AlMontaza Foundation for Cultural Development, AlGamaaya Al-'Amma for Human Rights, Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners.

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