CAIRO: No modifications of the freedom of association law will be adopted by parliament in this session, said Minister Mufid Shehab, Minister of State for Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils in a meeting with heads of NGOs.
The forum of Independent Human Rights Organizations, along with representatives of other NGOs requested a meeting with Shehab to gauge the government’s plans to implement the recommendations accepted during the UN’s Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in February.
The meeting, which lasted four hours, was also attended by representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior as well as the National Council of Human Rights.
The Egyptian government responded to various recommendations by the NGOs, explained Moataz El-Fegiery, executive director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), but “a big part of the recommendations were written in very vague, broad and sometimes repetitive language, he added.
“In the meeting we also conveyed our concerns over the government’s position towards the recommendations that were rejected. In fact, some of these represent international legal obligations on the government of Egypt in the area of freedom of expression, non-discrimination and freedom of association.
According to El-Fegiery, the official Egyptian delegation to the UPR intended to mislead the international community by manipulating the procedures of the UPR to ensure receiving cosmetic questions and interventions from its allies and systematically providing false information and facts.
At the moment, NGOs in Egypt, are facing a restrictive, challenging work environment, in which state security systematically intervenes to impede the work of NGOs and human rights groups.
However, the active global and internal networking and advocacy of rights group have kept a margin of independence for many NGOs. The Egyptian human rights movement has been actively participating in the struggle for democracy in Egypt by utilizing all possible domestic and international means, El-Fegiery said.
But despite the international community’s intervention, a draft law curbing the independence of local NGOs was sent to parliament for endorsement in its current session. The bill would tighten the government s supervision over local NGOs.
The new bill gives the Minister of Social Solidarity the authority to appoint one-third of the members of the board of the regional and activity-specific federations. It is worth mentioning that the current law states that all members should be elected, explained El-Fegiery.
Under the bill, local NGOs that work beyond the governorate level must be licensed by a decree from the Minister of Social Solidarity. The bill requires funds of no less than LE100, 000 to establish an NGO, whereas the current law sets no minimum.
This will most certainly prove an obstacle for dozens of already registered NGOs, which, if the bill passes, will be required to meet these new requirements or suspend their activities, explained El-Fegiery.