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Egypt: Implementing regulations of NGO law intended to cripple civil society

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25 February 2021

The undersigned rights organizations strongly condemn the Egyptian government’s relentless closure of all outlets for civil society activity in the country, as demonstrated once again by the recent issuance, in January 2021, of implementing regulations for the NGO law, law no.149 of 2019 on civic associations. Tightening the restrictions found in the NGO law, the regulations impose greater limits on the work of civil society organizations, underscoring the security establishment’s eliminationist approach to civil society while undermining its humanitarian and developmental roles.

The NGO law and its implementing regulations contravene Article 75 of the Egyptian constitution and Egypt’s international obligations under human rights conventions. In this respect, the undersigned organizations refer to the critical issues and critiques of the law and regulations outlined in the legal analysis of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).

The regulations come as civil society, both development- and advocacy-oriented, are working under unprecedented constraints. Egypt’s security establishment has systematically strove to control all types of community initiatives aimed at improving the economic, development, and rights situation in the country.

The intransigence of the administrative body and security agencies over the past few years has crippled developmental and charitable associations. Organizations have been compelled to suspend activities, due to restrictions on the receipt of contributions, endowments, and donor funds and the obstinate refusal to greenlight community activities and events that do not adhere to the narrow guidelines of security officials or to their strict interpretation of social responsibility.

Rights organizations  are facing the most brutal crackdown since the human rights community’s emergence in the mid-1980s, battered by an arsenal of legislation enacted over the past six years limiting freedoms. The security establishment has harassed staff at these organizations with arbitrary travel bans and asset seizures for more than five years, while inflicting increasingly draconian reprisals, including the prosecution and imprisonment of rights defenders.

Recently, a court sentenced rights defender Bahey eldin Hassan, director of  CIHRS, to fifteen years in prison in absentia. Rights lawyer Mohammed al-Baqer, the founder of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, is currently held in pretrial detention and was added to the designated terrorist list in September. Ibrahim Ezz el-Din, a researcher with the Egyptian Commission on Rights and Freedoms, has been forcibly disappeared and tortured.

Other rights defenders currently imprisoned include Ibrahim Metwally

co-founder of the Association for the Families of the Forcibly Disappeared, detained since September 2017; lawyer Ezzat Ghoneim, director of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms; and Patrick George Zaki, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). These and other rights defenders are being held in connection with fabricated cases, and some have been ‘recycled’ into new cases.

Researcher and rights lawyer Islam Salama was forcibly disappeared for the third time after his release, and Gamal Eid, the director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, has been repeatedly physically assaulted with no serious investigation into the incidents. Leading human rights defenders in the EIPR were also recently arrested and released only after considerable foreign and domestic pressure; the organization’s assets were subsequently frozen. In addition, the media, directed by the security establishment, is engaged in a systematic campaign against any information published by rights organizations on grave human rights abuses in Egypt.

Click here to read CIHRS’s legal analysis of the most significant problems with the implementing regulations of Law 149 of 2019.

Signatory organizations

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

Committee for Justice (CFJ)

El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Violence and Torture Victims

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)

The Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)

The Freedom Initiative

Photo by: Reuters / Amr AbdAllah

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