A group of 23 NGOs called on the government to “reconsider its policies towards NGOs” and criticised the government’s draft law on civil society organisations on Thursday.
Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) Bahy El-Din Hassan handed Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb a memo detailing the NGOs’ position on the draft law, following a meeting with him.
The meeting was held at Hassan’s request, after the “abrupt” announcement by the Ministry of Social Solidarity that it is drafting the new law, a statement by CIHRS said. In the statement, the NGOs described the draft law as being “oppressive” and said the law would turn the civil society into a “semi-governmental sector, subject to the absolute powers of the security apparatus”.
The memo handed in by the NGOs called on the government to take a set of “serious and immediate measures” to stop the continued decline in the state of human rights. Their demands include a return to dialogue over the draft law that was prepared at the end of 2013, under the tenure of former Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed El-Borai.
The NGOs stressed the importance of seeking technical advice from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights while drafting the law in order to ensure that it complies with Egypt’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The statement cited Mehleb as saying that this meeting is preliminary and that it will be followed by a larger meeting involving human rights organisations.
CIHRS said Egypt had vowed before the United Nations in 2010 to improve the environment in which NGOs operate and to amend the law under which they operate to make it comply with international standards. “But it has not yet fulfilled those commitments. Instead, the government has raided several local and international NGOs and referred some of their employees to trial, some of which were imprisoned,” the statement said.
In June, 2013 a court sentenced 43 NGO workers to varying sentences on charges of receiving foreign funding. The court also ordered the closure of five foreign NGOs and the seizure of their assets. This has attracted widespread international condemnation.