Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali denied Saturday that Egypt receives directives from “anyone” on the work of NGOs in the country.
The statements were in turn met with denunciations and attacks from rights NGOs.
Wali, who is a part of Egypt’s delegation headed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that is partaking in the United Nations General Assembly, denied that the ministry received directives from any international, regional or local bodies on the work of NGOs in Egypt. She further stated that Egypt does not consult on the issue, state media reported.
The minister also defended the disputed NGOs law, denying accusations that the law cripples the work of the organisations, and claiming that since its issuance in 2002 some organisations “that work under its umbrella achieved large successes”. She also stated that the ministry drafted a new law that is under revision, to be applied with the assembly of the new parliament.
“This is the government’s response when it wants to refuse to honour its international commitments,” said Mohamed Zarea’, head of programmes at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).
He told Daily News Egypt Sunday that it is the state that obliged itself to commit to the international standards and recommendations it accepted in the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in issuing a NGOs law.
“In Egypt we have one of the worst NGOs laws in the world. In Egypt what the NGOs suffer is unprecedented in the last 30-40 years,” he stressed.
Under Law 84/2002, NGOs cannot receive foreign funding without permission from the Minister of Social Solidarity, and the government has the authority to dissolve NGOs without a court order.
The law is described by prominent rights organisations in Egypt as repressive and violating the constitution. Calls by the organisations to engage with the government in dialogue on the role of civil society organisations in Egypt and the government’s fears and apprehensions about these groups were not met with a response.
“The law is unconstitutional, how does she want to hold people accountable to that?” Director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) Gamal Eid said to Daily News Egypt.
Eid commented on the minister’s statements denying directives, saying: “It is like it hit a raw nerve of hers.”
“There is a siege on the civil society, and subsequently there is criticism,” he said.
The prominent rights lawyer claimed that the ministry accepts no intervention except for those of the Homeland Security apparatus, which managed, according to Eid, to turn the Ministry of Social Solidarity into one of its branches.
A part of the minister’s statements tackled banned and dissolved organisations, as she stated 1,100 NGOs have been banned and 571 dissolved.
“Here is the question, are the organisations she mentioned dissolved/banned by individual judicial rulings, or through administrative decrees?” Eid questioned. Meanwhile, Zarea’ concluded by saying: “She should be ashamed of the numbers she mentioned.”