CAIRO: Human rights organizations denounced the civil society law drafted by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, saying it sets strict regulations.
"This law sends out a negative message to civil society," said Head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Hafez Abou Saeda, at a press conference Sunday.
"We were expecting a law that reinforces civil society organizations but were surprised to find a law that places further restrictions," he added.
EOHR, along with other organizations, outlined principles to guide civil society in Egypt in order to have a law that reflects "a free vision." The principles have so far garnered the signatures of 55 organizations and have been proposed to political parties and movements to get their support.
These principles include eliminating all restrictions placed on establishing a civil society organizations as these are non-profit organizations and there should be guidelines for the finances to ensure transparency and accountability. In addition, the principles ban civil society members from any political activity.
The principles are also inclusive of international civil society organizations, as "they play an instrumental role and we are part of international alliances," Abou Saeda said.
The law was drafted by the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Chairman of the General Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), Abdel Aziz Hegazy.
"I am a member of General Federation of NGOs and I reject the law they have drafted because in order for the country to develop and for democracy to prevail we have to let go of any restrictions on civil society," said MP Mohamed Anwar Sadat, founder of the Reform and Development Party, who announced his support to the principles proposed by EOHR.
"We will propose and discuss [these principles] in parliament as soon as possible, [taking into account that] the state should organize and monitor the activities of civil society organizations," he said.
Sadat explained that we should work on "eliminating the culture of distrust and treason," which the government’s law is based on.
"These organizations have played a crucial role in raising political awareness, defending human rights and in social and economic development," he added.
MP Emad Gad, political analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and member of the Egyptian Democratic Party, said that the civil society organizations currently in place by the government was drafted "for political reasons and nothing else."
"Mubarak’s regime, which worked on criticizing and attacking civil society organizations, is still alive," said Gad, adding that the recent raids on civil society organizations with the allegation of foreign funding aims to smear their image.
"I don’t understand why the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Cabinet of Ministers are drafting and approving laws ignoring the fact that there is a legislative body in the country," said Ahmed Fawzy, from the NGO the Political Development and Participation.
"The main reason civil society organizations are attacked today is because they have been monitoring the violations carried out by SCAF since February 11 and defended citizens who were violated," he noted.