A coalition of 18 civil society organisatons (CSOs) has called on the Egyptian parliament to repeal the 2019 non-governmental organisation (NGO) law.
The coalition urged the lawmakers to adopt a new legislative framework that will uphold the right to freedom of association in Egypt.
The CSOs, which included Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch(HRW) and Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), said immediate international action was needed to protect Egypt’s independent human rights movement after the authorities threatened to dissolve NGOs not registered under the law.
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies (AITAS), Belady-An Island for Humanity (BIH), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), CNCD 11.11.11, Committee for Justice, Danish Institute Against Torture and Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR) were also among the coalition.
Others included Egyptian Human Rights Forum, EuroMed Rights, Global Focus, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), PEN International, People in Need, Sinai Foundation for Human Rights and the Freedom Initiative.
The CSOs were responding to reports that the Egyptian government has decided to delay by six months the deadline requiring NGOs to register under the 2019 NGO law by 11 January 2022 or face closure.
The Law on Regulating the Work of Civil Associations, also known as the NGO law, prohibits a wide range of activities, such as to ‘conduct opinion polls and publish or make their results available or conduct field researches or disclose their results’ without government approval.
It also prohibits cooperation with foreign organisations or experts, imposes a strict system of prior approval for foreign organisations to be able to work in the country, and allows for government surveillance and monitoring of organisations’ daily activities.
The coalition said that the 2019 NGO law strips CSOs of their independence and prevents them from monitoring human rights abuses and holding officials accountable.
‘The requirement for CSOs to register under this draconian law comes amid the Egyptian authorities’ broader crackdown on the human rights movement’, the CSOs said in a statement.
‘The authorities continue to arbitrarily detain human rights defenders and civil society workers in squalid and punitive conditions of detention and subject others to unjust prosecutions, including by emergency courts.
‘In light of these concerning developments and Egypt’s long standing and well documented pattern of reprisals against human rights defenders, urgent action is required to avert the Egyptian government’s attempts to annihilate the human rights movement in the country.
Human rights experts, including those with the United Nations (UN), had voiced their concerns over the law, noting its violation of the norms of basic human rights.
Freedom House rated the north African country as ‘not free’ in its 2021 Freedom in the World study of political rights and civil liberties worldwide, with the country earning 18 out of a possible 100 points.
Photo source: Pellufa