The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expressed “deep concern” as the government’s deadline for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to register under law No 84 of 2002 passed on 10 November.
The law gives the Egyptian authorities the power to shut down, freeze assets, block funding, confiscate property, and reject the governing boards of any NGO.
NGOs have reiterated their requests to amend the law to being it in line with article 75 of the Egyptian constitution which states: “All citizens shall have the right to form non-governmental associations and foundations on democratic basis, which shall acquire legal personality upon notification.”
“Such associations and foundations shall have the right to practice their activities freely, and administrative agencies may not interfere in their affairs or dissolve them, or dissolve their boards of directors or boards of trustees save by a court judgment,” according to the constitutional article.
According to EOHR, the activation of this decision is “inconsistent with the international conventions and the Egyptian constitution”.
The registration deadline was extended by the Ministry of Social Solidarity in September to end on November 10 in response to demands by several rights groups
The issue was addressed during the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR), in which seven Egyptian rights groups decided against participating in it due to a fear of reprisals from the Egyptian authorities. These organisations include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).
The delegations of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, and Norway among others called for the withdrawal or amendment to the NGO law during the UPR.
However, the Deputy Minister of Social Solidarity Hani Muhanna stressed in the UPR that a new law is being prepared but they are waiting “to build consensus” before sending it to parliament for consideration. The date for Egypt’s parliamentary elections has not been announced yet. Muhanna stated that the ministry “has been listening to 800 NGOs, and listened carefully”.
Following the UPR, the United Nations Human Rights Council handed the Egyptian government 300 recommendations. At least 20 of them concerned the status of NGOs in Egypt. The recommendations called for a revision of the current law, to bring it in line with provisions set out in the constitution and “international norms”.
In October, the EIPR has stated that it will not register with the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s proposed law.