Draft NGO Law Will Cripple Egyptian Civil Society
Freedom House is deeply concerned that draft legislation being considered by the Egyptian parliament will radically restrict the space for local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on issues of human rights and democracy. We call on the Egyptian government to demonstrate its commitment to democratic reform by replacing the current draft law with one that promotes freedom of association.
The upper house of Egypt’s parliament, the Shura Council, is set to consider legislation governing the work of local and international NGOs, which could be passed into law as early as April 5, 2013. The draft would, in effect, nationalize civil society organizations by defining their funds as public money; create a new interagency committee with the authority to approve or veto foreign funding for local NGOs; raise registration costs for NGOs to prohibitive levels; impose stifling oversight restrictions; and bring operations of “civil organizations” and law firms engaged in human rights and democracy work, under the same legal regime as other NGOs. The law would also prohibit foreign organizations that receive any government funding from operating in Egypt, driving most if not all foreign NGOs out of the country.
“This legislation blatantly contradicts the Egyptian government’s stated goal of moving the country toward democracy,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “It is critical that the international community emphatically condemn this legislation, as well as make clear linkages between continued political and financial support for Egypt and its actions to advance progress toward democracy.”
The draft legislation is considerably more restrictive than the current Law 84 which was passed by the Mubarak regime in 2002 and was designed to limit and control the operations of NGOs. There has been a further chilling effect on civil society since authorities conducted large-scale raids on a number of NGOs both local and foreign, including Freedom House, in December 2011 as well as threatened to investigate hundreds of others. The raids resulted in the criminal prosecution of 43 NGO workers with a verdict expected on June 4, 2013.
“Growing pressure on civil society since the raids and the passing of Law 84 have already left many groups working in fear and with very limited resources,” continued Kramer. “New restrictions will only further cripple what has been a thriving Egyptian civil society.”
Egypt is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Freedom House’s annual global survey of political rights and civil liberties, Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2012 and in Freedom on the Net 2012.
To learn more about Egypt, visit:
Freedom in the World 2013: Egypt
Freedom of the Press 2012: Egypt
Countries at the Crossroads 2012: Egypt
Freedom on the Net 2012: Egypt
Blog: New Civil Society Rules Advance in Egypt’s Parliamentary Interregnum
Press Release: Constitution Signals Step Away from Democracy in Egypt
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.
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