The Ministry of Social Solidarity has extended the registration deadline for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for 30 working days, starting 28 September 2014 until 10 November 2014, a ministry official confirmed Monday.
The extension came in response to demands from rights groups and will give NGOs more time to adjust their legal status.
The Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) issued a statement Monday, responding to the registration deadline extension, calling for the Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali “to prevent the disaster, not to postpone it”.
Academic, cultural and human rights centres are warned to be closed down in case they do not register under a controversial Mubarak-era law (Law 84/2002). The CIHRS statement read that “the disaster was just postponed”, and that this postponement disregarded the devastating effects the law might have on national and international levels.
The CIHRS calls for the minister to take the initiative to talk with civil society organisations on what was previously agreed with former minister of social solidarity, Ahmed Boraie. The group also calls for a complete freeze of, not postponement, the implementation of the warning.
A memorandum was sent to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi by the CIHRS demanding the Ministry of Social Solidarity to withdraw the issued warning. The memorandum also asked for the ministry to abide by the constitution that allows NGOs to be considered legal once they announce their existence without recourse to a legal process of registration.
The CIHRS said the draft law that will be presented in the next parliament to replace the previous law agreed upon with former minister Boraie in February 2014.
NGOs issued a joint statement on Saturday announcing their refusal to register under the law which allows the government to control NGOs.
The law gives the government the powers to shut down any group at will, freeze its assets, confiscate its property and block funding. The law also allows the government to deny requests to affiliate with international organisations, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) statement.
Egyptian organisations have been seeking to abolish the law since its enactment, with the government proposing several draft laws since then, but none have become binding until now.
The last proposal, made in July, was rejected by 29 NGOs who said it allowed the government to interfere in their affairs and pose “unconstitutional” restrictions.
Human rights lawyer Mohamed Zare said the ministry is aware that Law 84/2002 has to be modified. Most organisations and groups were against it and have been fighting it since its issuance, he said, “which highlights that the aim of the law is to prevent the civil societies to operate freely.”
Zare said that some of these entities are registered under other laws, such as the civil law or the advocacy law, meaning that Law 84/2002 should not apply to them.