Amendments to Article 78 of the Egyptian Penal Code on foreign funding are raising concerns over a possible government crackdown on human rights organisations, said Ahmed Ezzat, human rights lawyer at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).
Ezzat said that the amendments provide harsh punishments for vague charges. “So called charges as violating the state’s interests and security, amid the lack of a clear legal definition in the constitution and the law, can have many interpretations. My understanding of the charges as a human rights lawyer will differ from that of a police officer,” he said.
Ezzat added that the recent amendments are alarming and can be considered as a clear message to all NGOs concerned with human rights not to practice freely. “It is clear that the law aims to put more restrictions on political participation, especially after the latest policies to ban political activism in universities, and the controversial Protest Law.”
The amendments were approved by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on 21 September and published in the country’s Official Gazette. The law now states that whoever receives foreign or local funding, monetary or logistically, in ways that aims to harm the country’s interests, security, or dependence, is to receive life imprisonment and a heavy fine.
The amendments also stipulates that if the offender is a governmental employee, they shall receive a death sentence
In February 2012, a number of foreign NGOs were shut down and their members were accused of receiving foreign funds, and given prison sentences.