31 May 2017

Egypt's Civil Society Legistlation, a Harsh Blow to NGOs in Egypt

press release

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expresses his deep concern regarding the fate of Egyptian civil society after the ratification of the NGO law and its entry into force on the 24th of May 2017. The Egyptian government ignored civil society requests and appeals to review the law and ammend it, and that leaves Egypt with a civil society law that is incompatible with international human rights treaties and conventions.

EOHR calls upon the Egyptian parliament to ammend this law in order to safeguard the independence of civil society, peaceful assembly and freedom of association so that the right of participation in public life and politics can be assured in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). EOHR believes that the law should reinforce the independence and freedom of civil society in accordance with Egypt's commitment to the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council, as these recommendations included:

1- The gurantee of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, as well as the right to freely participate in public life in accordance with the ICCPR

2- The review of the NGO registration mechanisms and regulations, to make sure that they are transparent, expedient, and in accordance with international human rigths standards.

3- Act in accordance with the standards provided by the 1998 UN declaration on human rights defenders that stipulates serious cooperation with Human Rights organizations.

Those are the reservations EOHR has underlined on this very controversial law:

1) Article 3 of the law forces civil society organizations to draft their charters based on a model executive charter proposed by the draft, which is unconstitutional as the members have the right to freely create their own charter in accordance with Egyptian law.

2) The same article stipulated that the NGO has to have permenant headquarters, which is open to legal interpretation which might obstruct the founders ability to relocate if they wish to due to any circumstances.

3) Article 4 stipulates that founders of any given NGO have to be without any criminal records that have not been lifted by court order, which makes the establishment of an NGO subject to the criminal records of its founders.

4) Article 8 imposes a 10,000 LE registration fee on NGOs, which is an exagerated figure that cannot be afforded by certain socio-economic groups in society

5) Article 9 states that the entity seeking to be formed has to submit a reciept confirming the notification of the executive authorities with the exact date and time, and if the NGO fails to do so the authorities have the right to reject their application.

6) Article 9 stipulates that the executive authorities should examine the file of the proposal of establishment for up to 30 working days to make sure that the NGO will not pursue any illegal activities, and if the authorities deny the request, applicants have a right to appeal the decision in court, which places extra unnecessary burden on applicants.

7) Article 14 states that the NGOs should conduct activities in the fields of develpoment, and social welfare in accordance with the State's plans and economic needs and priorities. It also says that the state may not ban an NGO's acitivities unless they violate the conditions of establishment, and the goals of the given NGO like engaging in political, partisan or union acitivites. This means that the law limits the activities of civil society to certain fields and sectors.

8) Article 19 has an unconstitutional dimension as it stipulates that an NGO may cooperate or join in action that does not contradict its goals with another local or foriegn NGO after prior approval from the authorities.

9) Article 21 restricts an NGOs ability to open offices other than its headquarters, and subjects it to prior approval by authorities.

10) Article 23 prohibits NGOs from seeking or recieving donations without requesting approval from the government which may take up to 30 working days.

11) The law says that a national agency will be established by the Egyptian President to regulate the affairs of international NGOs functioning in Egypt, and the agency will include representatives from the ministries of interior, defense, justice, foriegn affairs, international cooperation, as well representatives of the intellegence agency, the central bank, the money laundering unit, and the Administrative control agency.This presents a clear intervention of the State in the affairs of civil society.

12) Articles 87 and 88 stipulate imprisonment penalties that can reach up to 5 years in case of violation of this law, which is an exagerated penalty that will push people away from participating in civil society related activities.

Dr. Hafez Abu Seada the president of EOHR said that this law collides with Egypt's constituion and international human rights obligations, adding that Egypt pledged to improve the condition of civil society during the November 2014 of the Human Rights Council.

Abu Seada also said that this violates the right to freedom of association and called upon Egypt's government to inact new laws that enhance the relationship between the government and civil society especially after the savage attacks on civil society organizations in Egypt as of late.


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