Egypt Escalates Crackdown on Civil Society
The Egyptian government’s announcement that it intends to review and potentially cancel the licenses of 8 foreign NGOs, including the Carter Center, is another escalation of its crackdown on civil society and raises a red flag regarding its intention to conduct a free and fair presidential election in May.
The move, which was announced in Egyptian state media yesterday, comes on the heels of a six-month-long campaign against civil society that has included a state media smear campaign; the forced shutdown of several NGO offices and confiscation of equipment; and the intimidation and legal pursuit of NGO workers inside and outside the country, including Freedom House.
“The government of Egypt, by considering rejection of these organizations and by its introduction of a new law that places even tighter restrictions on civil society organizations than existed under Mubarak, appears intent on implementing one of the most restrictive NGO regimes in the world,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “This bill, if passed, would fall well short of meeting international standards on freedom of assembly and expression.”
In addition to denying registration for foreign NGOs, Egyptian authorities recently introduced new draft NGO legislation that would “nationalize” NGOs, making civil society organizations into institutions of the government and its workers civil servants. Interpol also received a request from Egypt to issue “red notices” on those indicted in the highly politicized criminal case against NGO workers; Interpol announced yesterday that it would not honor Egypt’s request on the basis that the case was political in nature. All of these actions have occurred since the U.S. waived certification on $1.3 billion in funding to Egypt on the basis of “national security.”
“As we strongly feared might happen, the U.S. government’s decision to waive restrictions on military aid, despite the recent crackdown, has only emboldened the campaign against civil society,” continued Kramer. “Yesterday’s announcement is particularly concerning as it appears to indicate an effort to eliminate international election monitors or witnesses, thereby casting a shadow over the legitimacy and the credibility of the presidential elections.”
Egypt recently announced that while international NGOs can request accreditation until May 2, they must be approved by a committee that is comprised of members of the government, including foreign and interior ministry, and the “national security agency.” Additionally, they must report their findings to the election committee and cannot reveal them publicly until the results have been announced. Under these conditions, no meaningful monitoring can be expected.
Egypt is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2011.
For more information on Egypt, visit:
Fact Sheet: Freedom House in Egypt
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