Press Statement:NGOs around the world Condemn Persistent Crackdowns on Egyptian Civil Society and reject disabling draft NGO Law
Johannesburg. 8 February 2012. Amid rising tension in Cairo, Egypt, violence against peaceful protestors is being intensified and non-governmental organisations are being openly attacked.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Arab NGO Network for Development and the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness condemn persistent and brutal crackdowns by Egyptian security forces and the attempt to control civil society activity through a draft Law on Associations and Foundations.
On 25 January 2012, thousands of members of Egyptian civil society flooded Tahrir Square to mark the first anniversary of the people's revolution and also to register their protest at the present turn of events. "What promised to be an uprising to end oppression in Egypt one year ago has been manipulated by the military to reinforce its control and severely repress legitimate civil society activities" said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary-General of CIVICUS.
On 17 January 2012 the Ministry of Social Affairs announced that it has completed a draft 'Law on Associations and Foundations' to replace existing Egyptian NGO Law 84 (2002), also known as the NGO Law. The existing NGO Law contains a number of restrictive elements including a requirement on civil society organisations to obtain a permit in order to operate. It also sets out complex legal regulations that were often selectively applied to prevent registration and arbitrarily shut down organisations that criticise the government's human rights record.
Under former President Mubarak's regime, many independent NGOs working on rights issues circumvented these restrictions by registering as 'civil companies', in order to work freely away from the repressive practices of the Ministry of Social Affairs and to be able to obtain funding from international sources. The proposed Law on Associations and Foundations will require NGOs to register as either a foundation or association, providing an opportunity for security and intelligence bodies to use their discretion to deny registration and impose criminal penalties on individuals that establish unregistered groups. Far from easing the existing restrictions, the proposed Law on Associations and Foundations further limits access to foreign funds for NGOs and requires official approval for maintaining affiliations with international organisations.
"This draft bill should be seen in light of a flow of legislation passed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the current government that further restricts and prohibits freedom of association, expression, assembly, right to strike, and social and economic rights," said Ziad Abdel Tawab, Deputy Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). "It's an attempt by remnants of the previous regime to take revenge on any and all voices that dared fight for democracy before, during, and after the revolution."