Civil Society legistlation: The end of civil society in Egypt EOHR calls upon President Al Sisi not to ratify the new NGO Law
December 4th, 2016 by Editor
Civil Society legistlation: The end of civil society in Egypt
EOHR calls upon President Al Sisi not to ratify the new NGO Law
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expresses its deep concern regarding parliament’s decision to pass the controversial NGO law, and calls upon President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi not to ratify this unconstitutional law that contradicts Egypt’s international legal obligations.
EOHR views this law as a violation of international norms and principles that stiputlae the independence of civil society. EOHR also believes this law contradicts Egypt’s constitution and international obligations.
EOHR is also dismayed that despite the fact that the new law restricts the freedom of association, the state council approved it after making minor ammendments and changes.
Our reservations on the new proposed bills are as follows:
1) Article 3 of the law forces civil society organizations to draft their charters based on a model executive charter proposed by the draft, which is unconstitutional as the members have the right to freely create their own charter in accordance with Egyptian law.
2) The same article stipulated that the NGO has to have permenant headquarters, which is open to legal interpretation which might obstruct the founders ability to relocate if they wish to due to any circumstances.
3) Article 4 stipulates that founders of any given NGO have to be without any criminal records that have not been lifted by court order, which makes the establishment of an NGO subject to the criminal records of its founders.
4) Article 8 imposes a 10,000 LE registration fee on NGOs, which is an exagerated figure that cannot be afforded by certain socio-economic groups in society
5) Article 9 states that the entity seeking to be formed has to submit a reciept confirming the notification of the executive authorities with the exact date and time, and if the NGO fails to do so the authorities have the right to reject their application.
6) Article 9 stipulates that the executive authorities should examine the file of the proposal of establishment for up to 30 working days to make sure that the NGO will not pursue any illegal activities, and if the authorities deny the request, applicants have a right to appeal the decision in court, which places extra unnecessary burden on applicants.
7) Article 14 states that the NGOs should conduct activities in the fields of develpoment, and social welfare in accordance with the State’s plans and economic needs and priorities. It also says that the state may not ban an NGO’s acitivities unless they violate the conditions of establishment, and the goals of the given NGO like engaging in political, partisan or union acitivites. This means that the law limits the activities of civil society to certain fields and sectors.
8) Article 15 of the law subjects Chairmen, and board members of NGOs to the illicit profits law, which applies only to public funds, by that violating the constitution as funds belonging to NGOs are considered private.
9) Article 19 has an unconstitutional dimension as it stipulates that an NGO may cooperate or join in action that does not contradict its goals with another local or foriegn NGO after prior approval from the authorities.
10) Article 21 restricts an NGOs ability to open offices other than its headquarters, and subjects it to prior approval by authorities.
11) Article 23 prohibits NGOs from seeking or recieving donations without requesting approval from the government which may take up to 30 working days.
12) Article 14 puts huge constraints on recieving foriegn funding, as it requires approval from of the government represented in the minister related to the activity the funds are for. The process may take up to 30 working days, and an appeal in case of rejection may take up to 60 working day.
13) Article 27 contradicts atricle 4 of the law, as it sujects civil society organiztions to the executive branch of government.
14) The law says that a national agency will be established by the Egyptian President to regulate the affairs of international NGOs functioning in Egypt, and the agency will include representatives from the ministries of interior, defense, justice, foriegn affairs, international cooperation, as well representatives of the intellegence agency, the central bank, the money laundering unit, and the Administrative control agency.This presents a clear intervention of the State in the affairs of civil society.
15) Articles 87 and 88 stipulate imprisonment penalties that can reach up to 5 years in case of violation of this law, which is an exagerated penalty that will push people away from participating in civil society related activities.
EOHR calls upon the Egyptian president to not ratify this law; and demands that it should be replaced by a law that safeguards the independence of civil society, peaceful assembly and freedom of association so that the right of participation of public life and politics can be assured in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). EOHR sees also that a new law that reinforces the independence and freedom of civil society will come in line with Egypt’s commitment to the recommendations of Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council, as these recommendations included:
1- The gurantee of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, as well as the right to freely participate in public life in accordance with the ICCPR
2- The review of the NGO registration mechanisms and regulations, to make sure that they are transparent, expedient, and in accordance with international human rigths standards.
3- Act in accordance with the standards provided by the 1998 UN declaration on human rights defenders that stipulates serious cooperation with Human Rights organizations.
Abu Seada stressed that the draft proposed by the supreme committee for civil activism (formed July 2013 by then minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed Al Boraai) should be considered as an alernative, as this draft comes in accordance with the international human rights law
Abu Seada also fears that this new NGO law limits NGO activites to development only which leaves Human Rights out of the list of activites approved by this law
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